AMC, Cinemark fuel speculation of merge

Are AMC Entertainment and Cinemark cozying up for some sort of tie-up?

Recent exec shuffles at the two exhib chains have fueled speculation that some sort of marriage may be in the offing.

Both circuits have hired new head film buyers — and both used to work together at Loews Theaters. Their boss at Loews was Travis Reid … who now sits on the board of AMC.

Bob Lenihan, most recently at Century Theaters, will head up film buying at AMC under the circuit’s new chief, former Starbucks exec Gerry Lopez.

Cinemark, meanwhile, has hired Steve Bunnell, most recently prexy of distribution for the Weinstein Co., to replace the much-respected John Lundin. Bunnell is likewise respected, but Lundin’s exit nevertheless surprised studio distribution execs.

The theater biz has seen massive consolidation in recent years, and Regal, AMC and Cinemark are the three largest circuits, in that order. Regal controls about 20% of the market, AMC about 18% and Cinemark about 10%.

Lopez replaced AMC’s Peter Brown, who took the fall for the company’s failed IPO. The circuit is privately owned and controlled by JP Morgan Chase and Apollo.

The question now is whether the new alignments are mere coincidence, or a prelude to a larger linkup.

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