AMC Entertainment CFO Talks Flexible Movie Ticket Pricing

AMC Entertainment CFO Craig Ramsey - H 2016

AMC Entertainment CFO Craig Ramsey - H 2016

Craig Ramsey told an investors conference the circuit is ready to consider variable pricing after acquiring Odeon & UCI in Europe.

AMC Entertainment is ready to talk variable pricing for Hollywood tentpole movies on early release in its theaters after acquiring Odeon & UCI Cinemas, CFO Craig Ramsey said Thursday.

His comments came as AMC Theaters gets set to complete a $1.2 billion deal to acquire an European exhibitor that has experimented with flexible ticket prices, as airlines and hotels already do. "They [Odeon & UCI] are further advanced in variable pricing, where tentpole movies are priced up on release," Ramsey told the MKM Partners Entertainment, Leisure and Consumer Technology Conference during a session that was webcast.

"That's something we've talked about in the U.S. We expect to learn a lot with what they've done. We think it will position us to start having those conversations about pricing opportunities in the U.S.," he added. AMC just hired its first vice president of pricing to explore variable ticket pricing for blockbuster films on release.

Rival exhibitors also presenting at the MKM Partners conference on Thursday talked about boosting their own revenue streams, with Imax CEO Richard Gelfond expanding on the giant-screen chain's recent foray into TV with an investment in Marvel's Inhumans series for ABC.

"We're not betting the farm. But it's real money. And if the series works, we're going to make a lot of money," said Gelfond. Marvel is teaming with ABC Studios for an eight-episode live-action drama series set to debut in fall 2017.

The first two episodes of Inhumans will premiere in Imax theaters for two weeks in early September, before moving to ABC, where they will be followed by six subsequent new episodes. Gelfond also talked about Imax's diversification into virtual reality, where his company has raised $50 million for a VR fund to work with strategic investors to create at least 25 interactive VR content "experiences" over the next three years for the local multiplex and mall.

"It's still early, and that's one reason I'm not racing into it," the exec cautioned. He said Imax is building an out-of-home VR platform, but experimenting through its six pilot locations, including one in Los Angeles, with the headset technology and the content to ensure the concept works.

"I'm completely convinced that it will be a profitable and big space to be in. But whether our timing is right, we're about to find out," Gelfond told the investors.

Regal Entertainment CFO David Ownby told the MKN Partners conference his chain would continue to install luxury reclining seats, with reserved seating, through 2019 for improved concession-stand results.

"As we turn on reserved seating, and a customer has come to the theater and bought their ticket and they know they have a seat, and don't have to rush in to avoid sitting in the front row, they feel much freer to stop at the concession stand," he said.