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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » AMC Entertainment CEO Open to Allowing Texting in Some Theaters (Page 1)

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Author Topic: AMC Entertainment CEO Open to Allowing Texting in Some Theaters
Jason McMillan
Film Handler

Posts: 68
From: Houston, TX, USA
Registered: Dec 2009

 - posted 04-14-2016 08:44 AM      Profile for Jason McMillan   Email Jason McMillan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
So AMC is looking in to allowing either certain sections or certain auditoriums where Millennials can use their phone during the movie. What is wrong with Millennials that they can't put their phone away for 2 hours? I swear, if there ever were a major war, Millennials would try to win it with Twitter.

Adam Aron has been head of AMC Entertainment for less than four months, but in that short time he’s already orchestrated one of the most significant deals in the country’s history. In February, AMC announced that it has an agreement to buy Carmike, propelling it from being the second-biggest exhibitor in the country to the world’s top movie theater chain.

Aron has a diverse resume, having been head of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, CEO and co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts and president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line. But in an industry dominated by lifers, he is a newcomer to the exhibition space.

That’s giving him a willingness to experiment. He’s pushing to expand AMC’s food options, bolster its loyalty program and market more aggressively. Some moves may ruffle feathers. In a bid to attract younger, smartphone savvy consumers, Aron said he was open to making some theaters texting and mobile device-friendly.

That may make him unpopular. When Regal Entertainment CEO Amy Miles mused in 2012 that theaters should consider experimenting with relaxing cellphone bans, the blowback was intense.

Aron sat down with Variety during CinemaCon, the annual exhibition trade show unfolding this week in Las Vegas, to discuss the planned merger with Carmike, ticketing advances and Screening Room, the controversial start-up that wants to debut movies in the home the same day they hit theaters.

You’ve worked in a number of different industries, but you’re new to exhibition. What perspective do you bring?

Coming in fresh, it seems like there’s lots of opportunity to propel revenues or to give consumers better experiences. AMC has been a leader in that regard for a few years now, but I think we will pick up even more of a reputation for that going forward. Already, having been here a couple of months, I know we can step up our marketing activity in a big way. The food that we serve in our theaters can be much more exciting than the current stable of chicken tenders, hot dogs, pizza, in addition to the standard soda and popcorn and candy. A lot of change is possible in this industry for the betterment of our shareholders and our customers.

Marketing costs money. Why do you think it’s worth the expense?

Next year, assuming the Carmike acquisition is consummated, AMC is going to have in the neighborhood of $4 billion worth of revenue. It’s almost irresponsible for a company with $4 billion worth of revenue on the line not to aggressively market. That’s one of the things that can ensure that the $4 billion comes in, and that’s one of the things that can ensure that more than $4 billion comes in. We wouldn’t be spending for additional marketing if we didn’t think we’d be driving big revenue gains.

Are there particular demographics that you plan to target with your marketing?

We ought to be looking at three things. People who are already interested in movies and maybe in a big way, where if we up our game, we could get them to come to more movies. That’s one of the reasons to have a better loyalty program with bigger, broader participation, because loyalty programs work. We can convince people who think they are seeing the most movies they can possibly see to go to more movies.

The second is market share we can take from our competitors if we market AMC better than they market their theaters.

And third, there does seem to be a consensus that there are pockets of consumers who do not see as many movies as other segments of the population and that we can be doing more to attract those people. Millennials come to mind. We need to reshape our product in some concrete ways so that millennials go to movie theaters with the same degree of intensity as baby boomers went to movie theaters throughout their lives.

Would appealing to millennials involve allowing texting or cellphone use?

Yes. When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.

At the same time, though, we’re going to have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t disturb today’s audiences. There’s a reason there are ads up there saying turn off your phone, because today’s moviegoer doesn’t want somebody sitting next to them texting or having their phone on.

Would you have a certain section for texting?

That’s one possibility. What may be more likely is we take specific auditoriums and make them more texting friendly.

There are reports that you have signed a letter of intent to partner with Screening Room. What is your position on the company?

I’m not commenting publicly on Screening Room. I know it’s a topic of hot debate amongst my brethren and sister-en, and I prefer to keep our counsel private right now. Until such time as Screening Room is real, we don’t have to spend a lot of time talking about it publicly.

How open are you to different distribution strategies that might modify the theatrical window?

For all the talk of the Paramount test a year ago [Editor’s note: AMC signed a deal that allowed the studio to debut two films on home entertainment early] and all the talk of Screening Room now, you may be surprised to hear that I think windows are very important. There’s a lot of evidence that shorter windows put theatrical exhibitors at risk. Studios themselves benefit from posting big global box office numbers, which comes from theatrical distribution.

So I start from a general premise that I’m a big fan of windows. Having said that, I’m also a big fan of experimenting and testing on everything that we do to see if there aren’t alternative ways of doing business. I generally look at our 385 theaters as laboratories where we can test lots of different concepts without being afraid that there’s going to be a cataclysmic, sky’s falling in, if we do. I believe in innovation and being imaginative and forward thinking. There are some bedrock principles though.

What are those bedrock principles?

I have two bedrock principles and only two bedrock principles. One is that it’s our burden as managers of the company that runs movie theaters to make sure that the moviegoing experience is as wonderful and spectacular as it possibly can be. The surest way to grow our business and protect it against erosion is to make sure that going to an AMC theater is a pleasing and memorable experience.

The second is the consumer is king. Giving the consumer more choices, more amenities and price points. If we put ourselves in the head of our customer and design our theatrical experience and marketing activity to make their lives better, we’ll have a successful company. Other than that we’ll be flexible and willing to experiment.

Where are you in terms of closing the Carmike acquisition?

There are really only two hurdles to go through. Carmike’s shareholders have to vote to approve the transaction. I expect that’s going to be some time in June. I don’t think they’ve set a date.

We need to get through the Justice Department approval, but we’re optimistic that we will get through both of these hurdles. The contract we have with Carmike requires that we get through this a year from the date of the merger transaction, so early in the first quarter of 2017. It would be nice if we could get it done before that.

What does the merger do for AMC?

By putting together the No. 2 and No. 4 players in the industry, we create a new No. 1 player. There’s extraordinary amounts of research that say that No. 1 players in industries are often the most successful players in their industries. If that turns out to be true, I’d rather be the No. 1 player than the No. 2 player.

Why did you recently sign a deal with ticketing app, Atom Tickets?

They’ve got a great social media platform where when you buy a ticket for a Wednesday night at 7:00 show, it sends a text message to all your friends asking if they want to go to the theater and sit next to you. They click a couple of buttons and your friend can buy a ticket at the same theater and showtime in a reserved seat. That’s a great concept and that’s one of the ways that we can make it easier for Millennials — who live on social media — to meet up with their friends in movie theaters.

Megan Fox delivered a pizza to your seat during Paramount’s CinemaCon presentation this week. What was that experience like?

They took the pizza away as quickly as they delivered it. It was warm, and I could smell it, but we didn’t get to eat it. I can’t tell you how it tasted, but in terms of who and how it was delivered, I can tell you that’s the best pizza delivery I’ve ever had.

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Mike Schulz
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 122
From: Los Angeles, CA
Registered: May 2007

 - posted 04-14-2016 10:24 AM      Profile for Mike Schulz   Email Mike Schulz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In regards to the pro-texting policies that might get enacted, I have no problem with this if they are completely segregated and have a listed auditorium and showtime that I can avoid. However, if they try to have a texting 'area' of any given auditorium, the experiment will be a disaster. Even in a fairly large 400-seater, you can still see a phone screen light up from somebody sitting 10 rows away from you. Once is it legalized it will also encourage chatting, giggling, having phones not on silent modes, etc.

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Tony Bandiera Jr
Film God

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From: Moreland Idaho
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 - posted 04-14-2016 10:43 AM      Profile for Tony Bandiera Jr   Email Tony Bandiera Jr   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
AMC/Carmike merged = Titanic
Adam Aron = Captain of Titanic
Allowing texting + playing around with exhib window = Iceburg

I think we all know how this is gonna end.... [Eek!] [Razz]

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10702
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001

 - posted 04-14-2016 10:48 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I won't set foot in a movie theater auditorium where texting or other phone activity is encouraged. AMC is in the process of monopolizing the movie-going market here in Lawton. If both first-run theaters here in town are made phone friendly I won't visit them at all. Then the only movie-watching I'll do is when I happen to be in the Oklahoma City or Dallas areas and have time to take in a movie.

Apparently the guy who runs AMC's parent company in China is a big wig in the Communist Party. They bought the Legendary Pictures production company recently. This is just another thing taking away the value of movies. Not only is Hollywood drunk on Sequel-itis, remakes, Save The Cat story templates, etc., but they're going to quietly get some institutionalized censorship in the mix as well. China is an oppressive country, but you're not going to see any more about that in any Hollywood movie.

I'm starting to think if America's movie industry goes bust it may be an industry that dies an un-mourned death.

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Martin McCaffery
Film God

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From: Montgomery, AL
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 04-14-2016 11:25 AM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Jason McMillan
Yes. When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.
First of all, YES, you can tell them to turn off their damn phones.
Secondly: We should be telling them to cut off their left arms above the elbows if they are not able to turn off their damn phones.
(just to be clear, that's AMC saying they can't tell kids, not Jason)

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Scott Norwood
Film God

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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 04-14-2016 12:09 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I could _maybe_ see this working if they restricted it to the back row of the auditorium and if the ushers kicked out anyone whose device made noises. But it's still a dumb idea, and will encourage this sort of obnoxious behavior from people seated in other areas of the theatre as well.

Movie theatres, live theatres, and restaurants really need to get together to ensure that the use of devices that light up and/or make noise does not become socially acceptable in these spaces; otherwise, all of those industries are doomed.

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Jim Cassedy
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1553
From: San Francisco, CA
Registered: Dec 2006

 - posted 04-14-2016 01:47 PM      Profile for Jim Cassedy   Email Jim Cassedy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I didn't catch the reporter's name, but one guy on CNN
compared having a 'texting section' in an auditorium to
like having a 'peeing section' in a pool.

I intend to keep out of both.

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Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 864
From: St. Joseph MO, USA
Registered: Sep 2010

 - posted 04-14-2016 01:50 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 

But seriously, what a dumb idea. A big point of a movie is to escape the outside world, and that includes your phone. But one can't enjoy escapes like a movie when they have a serious ADDICTION...


quote: derp
There’s extraordinary amounts of research that say that No. 1 players in industries are often the most successful players in their industries.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 04-15-2016 12:22 AM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I wish I had a way to spin this story as the following sample headline:


If the media spun it that way, AMC would back off that notion pretty fast. No way would the #1 movie theater company in the world want to come off as being needy.

But seriously....have they given ANY THOUGHT AT ALL to the legions of moviegoers this new "initiative" of theirs will piss off?? That new CEO must be a cellphone addict himself who was once told to shut off his stupid phone in a theater.

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John Wilson
Film God

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From: Sydney, Australia.
Registered: Dec 1999

 - posted 04-15-2016 01:09 AM      Profile for John Wilson   Email John Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 

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David Stambaugh
Film God

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From: Eugene, Oregon
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 - posted 04-15-2016 10:20 AM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post

AMC Theatres is changing the script on plans to allow moviegoers to text in the theater.

The movie theater chain said Friday it will scrap plans to allow some theater patrons to text during movies, a move its CEO had said it considered to attract more millennials.

"We have heard loud and clear this is a concept our audience does not want," said AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron said in a statement.

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Lyle Romer
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Davie, FL, USA
Registered: May 2002

 - posted 04-15-2016 11:37 AM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I just got an email from AMC stating that they have listened to their customers and will not be allowing the use of phones for the foreseeable future.

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Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 864
From: St. Joseph MO, USA
Registered: Sep 2010

 - posted 04-15-2016 12:50 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Email text:


To our AMC Guests,
At AMC, we are committed to innovation and to being imaginative in our efforts to deliver you the best. We strive every single day to make your movie going experience at AMC Theatres simply amazing. You love the magic of movies, and we love doing all we can to make them all the more magical for you.
During the past few days, you may have heard media reports about another idea AMC Theatres was considering, testing whether some movie goers might want texting allowed in a small selection of our theatres. Unlike the many AMC advancements that you have applauded, we have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want. In this age of social media, we get feedback from you almost instantaneously and as such, we are constantly listening. Accordingly, just as instantaneously, this is an idea that we have relegated to the cutting room floor.
With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theatres. Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.
Instead, we'll focus on our other ideas to delight and entertain you. In the next few years, we intend to invest more than $1 billion to continuously enhance our theatres and systems. At AMC, you'll feel our commitment to providing you with the absolute best in sight and sound technology, a significant increase to the number of our large screens including the incomparable experiences created by IMAX and Dolby Cinema, much more comfortable seating including our hugely popular recliners, new sumptuous food and beverage offerings, a more engaging AMC Stubs program, as well as dramatically richer content in an enhanced web site and more functional smartphone app. These are all in our immediate future- and yours -- across the country at AMC.
We'll continue to be as creative as we can to elevate the AMC experience, doing so in partnership with you, our guests, and never in a way that will compromise your love of coming out to the movies.
So, as always, we invite you to join us in sharing the excitement of seeing stories told well. However, when the lights dim, we'll remember your advice that your fellow moviegoers should turn off their phones.
Adam Aron
AMC Theatres

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Jonathan M. Crist
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Hershey, PA, USA
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 - posted 04-15-2016 01:09 PM      Profile for Jonathan M. Crist   Email Jonathan M. Crist   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Adam Aron comes from the hospitality industry. He was previously the head of Norwegian Cruise Lines, then Vail Resorts and most recently the Philadelphia 76ers. Aron has little background or understanding of theatre exhibition.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 04-15-2016 03:47 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Like most here, I have a personal objection to the idea of allowing people to use their phones during a movie. I'm glad this idea was shut down. However, I can kind of see the point of this.

People under the age of about 25 have grown up or come of age in a world of technology. Having constant access to social media and texting is something that has always been part of their world. It shapes how they live and how they consume. There is something to be said about the idea of adapting to our customers, rather than forcing our customers to adapt to us. At least if we want to attract that segment of the population. Plus, trying to force people to put their phones away creates an adversarial relationship with our customers.

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