AMC Theatres' Elizabeth Frank Talks 'The Irishman' and the Netflix Debate

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox; Courtesy of AMC
AMC Theatres executive Elizabeth Frank will be honored Oct. 16.

The programming maestro, who will be honored Wednesday with ShowEast's inaugural Empowerment Award, reveals why she put 'Joker' out through AMC Artisan and her disappointment that the streamer's Robert De Niro starrer won't be shown in theaters.

On Oct. 16, AMC Theatres programming maestro Elizabeth Frank, one of the most powerful women in exhibition, will be honored with ShowEast's inaugural Empowerment Award during a breakfast event highlighting women in cinema. Frank's title is executive vp world­wide content and chief content officer; translated, she's the one who cuts deals with Hollywood studios and indie companies to program more than 11,000 AMC screens in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, overseeing teams in L.A., London and Kansas City, Missouri, where Wanda-owned AMC is headquartered. She began her career as a copywriter for a video distributor, moved into consulting for media and consumer clients, and joined AMC in 2010, first in corporate development.

How has business changed since 2010?

I've now been at the company almost 10 years, and in that time we as an industry have embraced more diversity and become more inclusive. We wouldn't have the robust business we do if we only focused on serving white men at the box office. We have to be listening for different points of view.

Is there a future for the theatrical business in the age of streaming?

We have to stay compelling. There is a necessity for the theatrical business to continue to evolve and be worthy of consumers' time and their money. Much of the streaming wars, however, is really the streamers versus the cable networks, broadcast networks and pay TV.

Netflix still won't honor the current theatrical window even after months of talks with AMC and others regarding playing Martin Scorsese's The Irishman. What are your thoughts?

We've been talking to them for, gosh, several years. Certainly they know better than we do, but I believe their business model is going to evolve as they see maturation of their core model and face more competition, and as they spend more and more money on big movies. It only makes sense that they would lean into the theatrical business.

Are you disappointed you won't be carrying The Irishman?

Yes, I think so. I haven't seen it, but certainly he's a phenomenal director, and I imagine he's made a movie to be shown in theaters.

What would it require for AMC to carry Netflix titles?

They would have to decide to release a movie in the way major studios do.

You are the architect of a new program, AMC Artisan, promoting specialty films and smaller indie titles that struggle in the shadow of tentpoles. Why did you start this?

Because some films weren't getting the traction we knew they should get. AMC is obviously the largest exhibitor in the U.S., and we're also the largest exhibitor of specialty film in the U.S. That's not well recognized. We hear from a lot of people asking things like, "Why aren't you playing more specialty films?" or, "Why do you only play superhero films?" or, "Why didn't I know that you were playing this movie?" AMC Artisan is telling a group of consumers who are interested in artist-driven, character-driven specialty films that we have something curated for you. There is more opportunity for us to connect filmmakers to fans and vice versa.

Why did you put Joker out through AMC Artisan?

It was especially important because otherwise the specialty film audience risks dismissing it as a DC superhero title.

What's one insider tip you have about how to handle a tough negotiation?

Not every negotiation has to happen over a steak.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

***

Screenings and Salutations

ShowEast attendees will see hot titles and kudos bestowed. 

KNIVES OUT

Many of the major distributors will tout their wares with a presentation. And a few films with awards buzz will be screened in full, including Lionsgate's Knives Out, Fox Searchlight's Jojo Rabbit and Fox's Ford v Ferrari.

AWARDS CEREMONY

The conference wraps with this Oct. 17 fete. Honorees include David Linde (pictured), CEO of Participant, the company behind Roma and Green Book; Bow Tie Cinemas' Joe Masher; and Promotion in Motion's Michael Rosenberg.

INTERNATIONAL AWARDS LUNCHEON

Among the honorees at the Oct. 14 event celebrating global talents in the exhibition space is Warner Bros.' Monique Esclavissat (pictured), who will receive the distributor of the year award.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.