Adam Aron has spent his career guiding airlines, cruise lines, hotels and even a professional basketball team, but AMC Entertainment’s newly appointed chief executive officer is a relative neophyte when it comes to the movie business.
However, Aron sees an important parallel between those past positions and his new job overseeing the country’s second-largest theater chain.
“I have sold a lot of tickets in my life,” Aron told Variety. “Right off the bat that sounds relevant.”
Just as they did with Aron’s predecessor Gerry Lopez, a former Starbucks executive who left the exhibitor last summer to become CEO of Extended Stay, AMC’s board reached outside of the entertainment industry to tap Aron. He offers a diverse resume that includes stints heading up the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, Vail Resorts, Norwegian Cruise Line, and most recently serving as CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts before its sale to Marriott.
Aron will assume the reins on Jan. 4, but he’s already figured out a few key areas of focus when it comes to AMC, pledging to do “more better” and be “innovative.”
Having helped popularize frequent flyer programs during a stint as senior vice president of marketing for United Airlines in the early 1990s, he is particularly intent on bolstering the theater chain’s loyalty rewards program, AMC Stubs.
“The real opportunity for AMC comes in marketing our theaters to current and potential guests,” he said. “A huge area of focus is going to be the way we talk to our customers through our website or social media or via smartphone apps… There’s great potential with AMC Stubs to enrich the content of what Stubs offers people who are in love with movies.”
Among the country’s major theater chains, AMC has been the most aggressive in overhauling its locations, ripping out old seating and replacing it with luxury recliners that can be offered at a higher ticket price. They’ve also modernized their menu, moving beyond popcorn and soda, and, in some cases, offering alcoholic beverages.
“We’re going to make our theaters even nicer than they are today,” said Aron. “Making the experience nicer has been the watchword at AMC for the last several years and it’s going to continue to be.”
Aron believes that improving those amenities will enable AMC to increase its market share, but he indicated that he would be willing to break out the checkbook if the right opportunity presented itself.
“We’re certainly open to acquisitions if and when they make sense,” said Aron.
AMC and other exhibitors have seen their share prices drop in recent weeks as analysts have lowered their quarterly projections. This year may be a record-breaking one for the North American box office, but many stock pickers now believe that ticket sales will fall in 2016 as the coming crop of blockbusters will be unable to match a slate that included “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Aron, however, insists he is not concerned about the long-term health of the industry.
“I didn’t take this job because of what will happen in 2016,” said Aron. “I’m hoping to guide the company for many years to come. My time horizon is far longer than what will happen next year.”