AMC Theatres was founded in 1920 by the Dubinsky Brothers (Maurice, Edward and Barney), who had been traveling the Midwest performing melodramas and tent shows with actress Jeanne Eagels. They purchased the Regent Theatre on 12th Street between Walnut and Grand in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The Dubinskys eventually changed their name to Durwood, and the company they formed was called Durwood Theatres.
In 1961, Edward's son Stanley took control of Durwood Theatres, then a small 10-theatre chain, when his father died. Stanley had attended Harvard University and served as a navigator in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He renamed Durwood Theatres as American Royal Cinema on October 1, 1968. During the incorporation process, the name was changed quickly thereafter to American Multi-Cinema, Inc., and Stanley began to apply military management and the insights of management science to revolutionize the movie theatre industry. As he later explained to Variety magazine, "We needed to define what our company was doing in the (exhibition) business. My dad wasn't that organized." It was structured under the belief that every customer was a "guest".
Under its new name, AMC opened the two-screen Parkway Twin theatre in a shopping center on Kansas City's Ward Parkway in 1963. This marked the company's first foray into using the multiplex model. According to Variety, Stanley Durwood later claimed in 1962 that he "was standing in the lobby of his 600-seat Roxy in Kansas City mulling over its poor grosses, when he realized he could double his box office by adding a second screen and still operate with the same size staff." The industry quickly embraced the multiplex concept, where additional screens meant very little difference in staff and operating costs, but resulted in a significant increase in profits. The concept also provided more film choices at one location, drawing bigger crowds. It also gave owners the flexibility to show big hits on more screens, and less reliance on any individual film that could turn out as a bust.
By the 1980s, the company was experiencing strong growth. AMC had built and was operating a number of ten-screen multiplex cinemas in the United Kingdom, including sites at locations such as Dudley and Tamworth. These were subsequently bought and taken over by UCI. In the later part of the decade, AMC MeyerPark in Houston, Texas opened with 14 screens, and became the largest theatre in the United States under one roof at the time. In 1995, AMC pioneered the first North American megaplex, a theater that could accommodate thousands, when it opened the AMC Grand 24 in Dallas, Texas; the first megaplex in the world had been built by European chain Kinepolis in 1988. AMC continued to open other megaplex theaters, such as the AMC Hampton Towne Center 24 in Hampton, Virginia, and the chain's busiest theater in the US, the AMC Empire 25 in New York City near Times Square. The largest theaters in the AMC chain have 30 screens, including the AMC Gulf Pointe 30 Houston, Texas, the AMC Ontario Mills 30 in Ontario, California, the AMC Orange 30 in Orange, California, (now owned by Regal Entertainment Group), the AMC Cantera 30 in Warrenville, IL, and the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
AMC's megaplexes were a success overseas as well. On December 20, 1996, AMC opened the AMC Arrábida 20 in Portugal. In January 2002, the 16-screen Great Northern theatre was opened in Manchester, which was later supplemented by the opening of a 12-screen cinema on the Broadway Plaza site in Birmingham in October 2003. AMC's United Kingdom outlets typically serve a dual function; in addition to the normal cinema functions, they also cater to companies' business conferences which can make use of their projectors for displaying presentations.
AMC was acquired by Marquee Holdings Inc. in 2004, an investment vehicle controlled by affiliates of J.P. Morgan Partners, LLC, the private equity arm of JPMorgan Chase, and Apollo Global Management, a private investment firm. At the time, AMC was publicly traded on AMEX under the code AEN.
In 2006, the company announced a new initial public offering (IPO), which was expected to be worth approximately $789 million; however, adverse market conditions convinced the company's management to withdraw from such an offering on May 3, 2007. The company filed for a $450 million IPO in its third such filing since 2006 on 14 July 2010.
Stanley Durwood died in 1999, and was succeeded by Peter Brown, the first non-Dubinsky/Durwood family member to head the company. Gerardo I. Lopez succeeded Brown as CEO and president on March 2, 2009. Previously, Lopez was the Executive Vice President of President Consumer Products Group, Seattle's Best Coffee and Foodservice at Starbucks. Under new leadership, one of the first major announcements came in March of the same year; the company announced that it would equip 1,500 of its screens with Real D projectors. In the same month, AMC announced that it had closed on a $315 million deal with Sony to replace all of its reel projectors with digital cinema projectors, starting in the second quarter of 2009 and completing in 2012.
The company used to have its headquarters in downtown Kansas City. In September 2011, AMC announced plans to move its headquarters to a new $30 million four-story building designed by 360 Architecture in the Park Place development at 117th Street and Nall Avenue in Leawood, Kansas in suburban Kansas City. The state of Kansas had offered $47 million in incentives to get the 400 jobs to move. The company continues to officially be headquartered in Kansas City, although it has moved its headquarters to the Ten Main Center, where it now leases space.
After reaching a settlement with the state of Illinois in April 2012 regarding complaints from a disability rights organization, AMC pledged to equip all of its theaters in the state with captioning and description services by 2014. The disability rights group had accused the company of only providing closed captioning or audio description systems at some of its locations in the state.
AMC was acquired by Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate headquartered in Dalian, in May 2012. Wanda group paid $2.6 billion to acquire AMC's 5,048 screens in 347 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. The deal was finalized on 4 September 2012 The acquisition made Wanda the world's largest cinema chain. Wang Jianlin, CEO of Dalian Wanda Group, announced that the company would plan to spend $500 million renovating AMC Theatres.
AMC had eight movie theatres in Canada. In July 2012, four locations were sold to Cineplex Entertainment and two more locations were sold to Empire Theatres and later acquired by Landmark Cinemas. The two remaining locations have since closed.
Gerry Lopez announced his resignation as CEO of AMC in August 2015. Craig Ramsey was appointed as the interim CEO by the company board. In December 2015, AMC announced that Adam M. Aron would be the company's president and chief executive officer beginning January 4, 2016. Aron will also be a member of the company's board of directors.
In March 2016, AMC announced it would acquire competitor Carmike Cinemas; in July 2016 Carmike's management accepted a revised offer, pending regulatory and shareholder approval. The deal was closed on December 21, 2016, making AMC the largest cinema chain in the United States.
AMC introduced stadium-style seating, in which the seats are placed on risers so that each person has an unobstructed view of the screen, and adjustable armrests that can be raised to create "Love Seat" style seating. Both of these features have become standard for nearly all movie theaters built today by all major chains.
In several markets, AMC offers Dine-In Theatres with "Cinema Suites" and "Fork & Screen", which offer the option to order full meals and alcoholic beverages. They also feature reserved seating with a button located by every seat to signal a server.
AMC also created the MovieWatcher program that rewarded frequent movie-goers similar to other rewards programs, but featuring innovative restrictions. It was based on points per movie ticket purchased, with rewards varying from concessions to movie passes based on point level. However, points were limited to a maximum of four points per three-hour time period - which is two tickets. For those AMC cinemas which were not part of the Loews Cineplex acquisition and therefore ticketed by MovieTickets.com, the website's surcharge was waived for MovieWatcher members.
On April 1, 2011, AMC started a new rewards program known as AMC Stubs. This program can be purchased for a fee of $12 for an entire year. For that initial fee each AMC Stubs member will receive $10 on every $100 spent between the box office and the concession stand at any AMC theatre nationwide. AMC Stubs members also receive a free size upgrade with every popcorn and drink they purchase (for example, an AMC Stubs member can get a large popcorn for the price of a medium). AMC Stubs members can also waive the ticketing fees for online ticketing sites such as MovieTickets.com and Fandango. Points expire after 90 days. Receipts or ticket stubs are required for manual adjustments. No more than four manual adjustments will be allowed per account in a single calendar month. Manual adjustments will be made for purchases made within 30 calendar days from date of original purchase. As of March 29, 2012, AMC Stubs had 3.2 million members, which represents approximately 18% of AMC attendance during fiscal 2012. In July 2016, AMC Stubs became two programs: AMC Stubs Insider, and AMC Stubs Premiere.
Several types of vouchers may be used at AMC.Black And Yellow tickets
AMC has Black and Yellow (formerly Red, Green, Gold and Silver) tickets, typically priced from $8.50 to $10.25, that can be purchased in bulk at many retailers, like Costco and Sam's Club, as well as at AMC locations. Both can be redeemed towards any movie. Regardless of the ticket used, surcharges apply for special presentations such as 3D or IMAX.Movie vouchers
AMC, at its discretion, will honor coupons and gift cards at face value. Gift cards are valued at $5 to $100 and can be purchased at AMC locations and at all retailers where gift cards are sold.Snack vouchers
AMC offers Show Snacks coupons. Some can be exchanged for a small popcorn, while others offer a small fountain drink. The chain also offers similar coupons via SMS or smartphone apps. Older coupons specially designed for the concession stand may be honored by AMC, at its discretion.
AMC adheres to its own Rated R policy. Slight differences exist per market, but nationwide, no person under age 17 is admitted into an R-rated film without a parent or guardian aged 21 or older purchasing their ticket and joining them in the theatre. Those who do meet or exceed the age of 17 and look under the age of 25 must present a photo ID with name and date of birth to be admitted to such movies.
AMC has also had some endeavors that did not prove as viable, such as experimenting with 16 mm film for projection and selling microwave popcorn at concession stands in the South several years ago. They also stumbled by agreeing to install the Sony Dynamic Digital Sound system in all their new locations, rather than the more popular Dolby Digital or DTS systems. While the majority of major releases have all three digital tracks, including SDDS, most independent and smaller-budget films only have Dolby Digital tracks, leaving many theatres in AMC's otherwise ultra-modern megaplexes showing films in analog sound. Recently, AMC has begun installing Dolby Digital in all new auditoriums, and in 2003 began upgrading selected older auditoriums. AMC announced an agreement on March 26, 2009 to convert 1,500 existing auditoriums to fully digital 3D screens using RealD technology. On March 30, 2009, AMC announced they will convert all 4500 screens in their chain to 4K digital projectors provided by Sony. In competition with IMAX, AMC had begun its conversion at select locations to the 'Enhanced Theatre Experience' (ETX), with the installation of larger screens, 12-channel surround sound, and digital projection (utilizing either Sony 4K projection or Christie DLP technology). AMC's ETX includes Dolby Atmos in some locations. As of 2016, some of these ETX locations have become Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime locations.
AMC also formed a short-lived partnership with Planet Hollywood which failed due to Planet Hollywood's bankruptcy. The Planet Movies by AMC venture planned to open complexes worldwide with the objective of having icon locations in major metropolitan and other select areas. Initially, seven existing, unnamed AMC megaplex theatres with more than 150 combined screens were to be re-branded under a license arrangement to incorporate certain elements of the new concept. The initial seven re-branded locations were to include markets such as Orlando, Florida. The AMC Pleasure Island 24 megaplex in Orlando, situated directly across from Planet Hollywood's most successful restaurant and retail unit and adjacent to Disney's Pleasure Island was to be the first Planet Movies location. After the initial seven, the joint-venture planned to own and operate all subsequent units including 8 to 10 complexes with 200 to 250 screens planned to open over the next 18 to 24 months. Over the longer term, the venture anticipated rolling out units at the rate of 5 to 10 per year. From almost the very start, the well-publicized financial strains on Planet Hollywood hindered the project. The only Planet Movies location to actually open, a 30 screen megaplex, did so in the summer of 1999 at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. The location was also located alongside an Official All Star Café and Planet Hollywood restaurant. The continued poor financial performance of Planet Hollywood led the company to declare bankruptcy in December 1998, and even before the first location had opened to state that, "the joint venture has no definitive plans to expand this concept once the Columbus site is completed". As Planet Hollywood was preparing to emerge from bankruptcy in October 1999 their re-organization plan emphasized focus back on their core restaurant business and away from side-ventures like Planet Movies and their Cool Planet ice cream chain. The Planet Hollywood restaurant and All Star Café in Columbus were closed in late 2000, and the film memorabilia were also removed from the theater as it was rebranded AMC Easton 30, and continues to operate. The Planet Movies by AMC joint venture was formally dissolved on January 9, 2001.
AMC has acquired multiple other theatre chains, resulting in a total of 385 theaters with 5,128 screens in six countries:
In March 2002, AMC bought General Cinema Corporation, which added 66 theatres with 621 screens to the company assets, as well as Gulf States Theaters, which had five theatres with 68 screens in the greater New Orleans area. In late 2003, AMC acquired MegaStar Theatres, adding the Atlanta and Minneapolis–St. Paul markets. On January 26, 2006, AMC merged with Loews Cineplex Entertainment to form AMC Entertainment; the deal brought into AMC's fold the entire Loews and Cineplex chain, including Magic Theatres (named after basketball player Magic Johnson) and Star Theatres, based in Metro Detroit. In 2010, AMC acquired Chicago-based Kerasotes Showplace Theatres, LLC for $275 million, combining the nation's second and sixth largest movie theater chains, except for the Showplace 14 in New Jersey and the Showplace ICON theatres.
In December 2015, Starplex Cinemas was sold to AMC for approximately $175 million. On March 3, 2016, AMC announced its intent to acquire Carmike Cinemas in a $1.1 billion deal, pending regulatory and shareholder approval, which would allow it to overtake Regal as the United States' largest movie theater chain. The merger was expected to officially take place by the end of 2016.
In July 2016, UCI & Odeon Cinema Group has been sold to AMC for approximately $1.21 billion, subject to European Commission approval. On November 17, 2016, the acquisition was approved by the EU, and is expected to close by the end of the month.
In January 2017, Nordic Cinema Group, the leading movie theatre operator in the Nordic and Baltic area, was sold to AMC for approximately $929 million. The deal is expected to be finalized during the first half of 2017 upon clearance from the European Commission.
The early versions of stadium-style seating as built in 1995 had auditoriums configured with an entrance to a flat area in front of the screen for wheelchair users; persons sitting there had to either lean back or look up at an uncomfortable angle to see the screen. Able-bodied guests had to ascend the stairs to sit in the middle of the risers in order to have a comfortable line-of-sight with the screen. Since some wheelchair users may have limited neck movement range, this configuration made AMC a popular target for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits.
AMC subsequently solved the problem in newer theaters by building full-stadium auditoriums where the main entrance is through a ramp that emerges onto a platform in the middle of the risers, so that wheelchair users can enjoy optimal line-of-sight. However, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the company and obtained an order requiring AMC to retrofit over 1,990 screens in 95 multiplexes and megaplexes across the United States. The company successfully appealed the order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled on December 5, 2008, that the order was grossly overboard and violated AMC's due process rights under the Constitution of the United States. AMC won by pointing out that the United States Access Board had not yet amended its guidelines for movie theaters to specifically require theaters to provide wheelchair guests sightlines that were as good as those from elevated risers, versus merely providing an unobstructed view of the screen. Therefore, the court ruled that it was unfair to AMC to retroactively hold it to a standard which did not exist at the time it began building stadium-style theaters.Regal Entertainment Group