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AMC Theatres isn’t known for arthouse fare, but the world’s largest exhibitor has started to heavily promote indie movies. In June, the company unveiled AMC Artisan Films, a programming and marketing initiative, that has spotlighted quirkier, more adult-oriented fare that arrives without the benefit of a Marvel superhero in the title. Since kicking off the brand, AMC has put more promotional muscle behind nearly 20 films, including the likes of “The Peanut Butter Falcon” and “The Farewell.”

“We’re a large circuit that’s known for event films and blockbusters, but the reality is we’ve been trying to diversify our content and play specialized and foreign films for years,” said Nikkole Denson-Randolph, vice president, content strategy and inclusive programming. “By launching this we’re showing a corporate commitment to shining a light on these kinds of films.”

Adds Elizabeth Frank, AMC’s EVP of worldwide programming and chief content officer, “Nikkole and her team have been programming specialty films for years, but some of that effort got lost along the way.”

The hope is that by having this programming exist under a sort of sub-brand they can inspire greater loyalty among their customers and get them more accustomed to seeking out artist-driven cinema at their local AMC. The company has used its social-media channels on Facebook and Twitter, as well as its email appeals, to tout the new offering. AMC didn’t disclose numbers, but said that since launching the brand it has noticed its share of ticket sales on indie releases has increased.

What’s unique is that theater chains don’t usually play a part in promoting movies. They leave that to the studios that make them. But this is intended to be a joint effort between the companies that make the movies and the theaters that play them in order to drive attendance. It’s a sign that distributors and exhibitors may form a closer alliance moving forward — something that could help both weather the challenge from increasingly popular streaming services.

The move also comes as AMC continues to put more resources behind its new subscription service, A-List. The exhibitor’s answer to MoviePass has more than 800,000 members. The company knows it needs to offer a greater variety of moviegoing options to keep its subscribers coming back for more.

“A lot of members of our loyalty program are going to see a lot more movies and some of the the feedback that we’re getting is they want AMC to be playing more movies period,” Frank said.

Both executives say that data suggests that a broader range of people are interested in indie movies than conventional wisdom would suggest. The rap on arthouse films is that they appeal to well-off audiences, who are primarily female.

“Roughly a third of moviegoers are in the marketing for these films,” Frank said.

Going forward the hope is to bolster that number by offering more in-theater question and answer sessions with filmmakers and talent or live-streamed discussions.

“We hope that ultimately guests will see the Artisan brand as something they can rely on and keep checking in with every week to get ideas about what to see,” said Denson-Randolph. “We want to be like that roommate you had in college with the best record collection. If we’re saying it’s cool than you know it is.”

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