AMC Entertainment CFO Says 2019 Box Office Record Will Come Down to 'Star Wars: Episode IX'

AMC Theater - Getty - H 2018
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Craig Ramsey told an investors conference the industry will need to stay up late Dec. 31 to see "if we nip over the $12 billion benchmark."

A bullish AMC Entertainment Holdings CFO Craig Ramsey on Tuesday predicted Hollywood box office could set another domestic record in 2019, but it may all come down to how fans across the galaxy embrace Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

After Ramsey, appearing at the Credit Suisse Annual Communications Conference, touted the continuing strength and "resilience" of the movie business, and of AMC, he touched on another possible record year for Hollywood box office after the domestic industry reached an all-time record of $11.85 billion in 2018.

The AMC exec pointed to the Marvel Studios title Avengers: Endgame powering through every record in its path, and The Lion King, Toy Story 4, It: Chapter Two, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all set to dominate the multiplex in 2019.

Ramsey then predicted how the final part of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars trilogy does as 2019 closes will likely determine if another record box office year for Hollywood is possible. "So you'll likely have to stay up late on Dec. 31 to not only welcome the New Year, but see if we nip over the $12 billion benchmark, because it will be the last couple weeks of the year and the contribution of the year-end product that makes the difference," he said.

At this stage of the year, Ramsey said the domestic box office is down 8 percent, compared with the year-ago mid-2018 performance. But he added: "It's catching up fast," thanks to Avengers: Endgame.

And Ramsey said improved theater attendance in the second half of the year would get moviegoers watching trailers to choose their next Hollywood tentpole to enjoy. "The best ads for movies are in the theater, when you see those trailers. You may get tired of looking at them. But many times people pick their next movie, one they might not hear about, because they're in the theater," he told investors.