NEW YORK — Changing gears back to independent status, United Artists Theater Group promoted its chief operating officer, Kurt Hall, to CEO/president Friday, just weeks after Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst backed out of plans to buy the circuit and merge it into Act III Cinemas and Regal Cinemas.
UATC also named as chairman John W. Boyle, a former chairman of May Department Stores who was appointed to the board in February of last year, and Trent Carmen as CFO.
The role of chairman had been filled informally by an exec from Stonington Partners, which is affiliated with the Merrill Lynch investment funds that control UATC.
Hall has been running UATC since Stewart Blair quit as CEO in December 1996, although Hall’s title until Friday was chief operating officer. Hall, 38, joined UATC in 1988 and rose to CFO in 1992.
Since taking over day-to-day management of the circuit, Hall has revamped the company’s strategy, withdrawing from its overseas ventures and narrowing the focus of its U.S. strategy to concentrate on its major markets like New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
UATC announced last August plans to build 450 new screens over the next three years in its core markets, financing the $175 million cost partly through the sale or closure of 70 theaters with 280 screens.
“Over the last year we have successfully restructured and refocused our corporate overhead, cutting those expenses by over 30%, successfully redeployed our capital spending towards our U.S. core markets and reduced our outstanding indebtedness,” Hall said in a statement.
He noted that UATC had sold or closed 44 theaters with 170 screens in the past year and opened 13 new plexes with 132 screens. It plans to open another 10 new stadium complexes with 117 screens this year, and rebuild six theaters with 70 screens, while closing or selling about 150 screens.
He added that he was pleased Boyle had agreed to “increase his involvement in the company. His financial background and many years of experience in the retail business will be a very valuable resource as we move ahead and execute our strategic plan.”