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AMC, Loews toast merger completion

New company will retain Kansas City co.'s name

AMC Entertainment and Loews Cineplex have made it official, completing their merger to form the nation’s second-largest exhib chain.

New company, based in Kansas City and retaining the AMC Entertainment name, operates 4,431 screens in the U.S. and 1,241 in 11 foreign countries.

While the merger was seen as a signpost in the wave of consolidation sweeping exhibition, AMC chief exec Peter Brown, who will lead the new company, said, “We’ve never been fixated on the bigger concept as much as we’ve been fixated on the better concept.”

Brown said current Loews theaters will continue to operate under their current name, but added, “Over time, we’ll end up with just one brand.”

Travis Reid, the former chief exec at Loews, is taking a seat on the board of the exhib’s holding company, Marquee Holdings, and will work as a consultant to assist in transition and integration.

Eventually, the Gotham-based Loews offices are expected to shutter as operations move to K.C. Recently, Steve Bunnell ankled as head film buyer for Loews rather than relocate to Missouri.

Brown said that other matters would have to wait to be untangled. AMC is a stakeholder with Regal and Cinemark in the in-theater advertising venture National Cinemedia, while Loews’ pre-show ads are programmed by rival Screenvision. In online ticketing, AMC is co-founder of Movietickets.com while Loews started Fandango.com with other exhibs.

“We will honor all our contracts,” Brown said. “We’ll sort that out over time.”

In the face of three straight years of declining theater attendance, Brown said he remains bullish on what he considers “a very durable business.” He said the three areas he is targeting for growth in the merged enterprise are pricing, programming and place.

The rising price of tickets, concessions and parking have been identified in several marketing studies as customers’ leading complaints about going to the movies.

Exhibs, though, have historically been reluctant to drop prices in order to goose attendance. “We’ve always looked at the value side of the price-value equation, and we’re looking to see what we can do to raise the value” of the moviegoing experience, Brown said.

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