A record-setting box office, one that nearly hit the $12 billion mark, was an ideal backdrop to a busy 2018 in the exhibition business. While dine-in cinemas and premium amenities expanded their footprints, the hottest trend continues to be consolidation. M&A remains a major topic in the industry, as the effects of consolidation continue to make their mark. Among the most notable recent acquisitions within the market are some familiar names: Cobb (CMX), Warren (Regal), Landmark Theatres (Cohen Media Group), Movie Tavern (Marcus) are all operating under new ownership. Other circuits, like Regal and Landmark Cinemas of Canada, are each now part of a larger European-based network of cinemas. This trend can be plainly seen throughout the North American market and makes for a more international industry. Eight of the market’s top 25 exhibition circuits have a multinational presence: AMC, Regal (Cineworld), Cinemark, CMX (Cinemex), Landmark Cinemas (Kinepolis), Caribbean Cinemas, Reading, and Cinépolis. As the industry continues to grow internationally, it is fitting to note that 2018 was a record year not only at the domestic box office but at the global box office as well.
All numbers are accurate as of January 15, 2018.
1. AMC Entertainment
2018 will be remembered as the year AMC launched its in-house subscription service, AMC Stubs A-List. With the impact it made, it’s hard to believe that its rollout didn’t take place until the second half of the year. First available to consumers on June 26, 2018, A-List went on to amass over 600,000 members in its first six months. The growth rate far exceeded the company’s own expectations; AMC admitted to setting a 500,000-subscriber benchmark for A-List’s first year. That benchmark was achieved in early November, less than five months into its launch.
A-List is a cinema subscription service integrated into AMC’s Stubs loyalty program as a premium tier at a recurring monthly cost of $20. By integrating the offering into its existing loyalty program, AMC Stubs, the circuit now counts over 17 million loyalty members—up from 2.5 million in 2016. A-List allows moviegoers to watch up to three films a week at any of its locations nationwide, with additional benefits like concessions upgrades and waived online-ticketing fees. What sets A-List apart from other cinema subscription services is having AMC’s full roster of premium theaters—with amenities such as 3-D, recliner seating, Dolby Cinema, and IMAX auditoriums—available to A-List members. A booking can therefore be upgraded to a premium experience at no extra cost. It comes at a time when the circuit has ramped up its investment on these premium offerings; over a third of all AMC locations already offer recliner seating. AMC will be increasing the monthly fee for A-List in select markets in 2019.
AMC continues leading the pack among domestic exhibitors in terms of screen count. The circuit operates more than 8,000 screens across the nation, occupying the no. 1 or 2 spot in 22 of the country’s 25 biggest metropolitan areas. – Daniel Loria
2. Regal Cinemas
2018 was a transition year for Regal, as it welcomed a new ownership group (the UK’s Cineworld) and a new team of executives in key positions. The year also brought on a major rebrand as well; the circuit introduced a new logo and brand identity in October, part of what it called “a larger strategy to commit $1 billion over 5 years.”
That investment will be felt well beyond Regal’s new corporate look. In what proved to be the year’s biggest cinema tech deal, Cineworld committed to installing an additional 145 4DX immersive-seating systems throughout its global network of cinemas. Seventy-nine of those new 4DX auditoriums will be Regal locations in the United States, drastically increasing Regal’s original commitment of 15 4DX auditoriums over the same time period. Regal’s partnership with 4DX parent company CJ 4DPLEX also introduced new ScreenX immersive screen auditoriums to the United States—with more installations expected throughout 2019.
“The entertainment industry is progressing further into the future, driven by cutting-edge technology and creativity,” said Regal CMO Ken Thewes in a press release announcing the new logo. “We are motivated to adapt and change for the better to make sure our guests have an incredible experience from the moment they walk through the door. Regal is an industry trendsetter, and our rebranding project is part of that. In order to deliver on its promise, Regal will invest in top technology, like IMAX, 4DX, ScreenX, and others, the best cinema design and service, all to ensure that our customers enjoy the ultimate cinema experience.”
Regal is now part of the second-largest exhibition circuit in the world under Cineworld, occupying the same position in the domestic market with over 7,000 screens across more than 500 theaters nationwide. – Daniel Loria
Cinemark became the first major U.S. exhibitor to launch a cinema subscription plan, introducing Cinemark Movie Club in the final weeks of 2017. Movie Club grants subscribers one standard ticket per month for $8.99, and includes perks such as a 20 percent discount on concessions, waived online-booking fees, and companion tickets. The service more than doubled Cinemark’s initial projections, finishing 2018 with more than 500,000 active members. The circuit claims Movie Club members purchased over 10 million tickets in 2018, accounting for 8 percent of its Q3 domestic box office revenue. This success kick-started domestic exhibitors’ efforts to provide an alternative to MoviePass in the United States.
Cinemark gained traction through the first three quarters of 2018 (as of this writing, the only financial reporting publicly available), reporting year-over-year growth of 8.1 percent through the same period. With a presence in 41 states across the nation, Cinemark is a leader in recliner seating (covering approximately 55 percent of its domestic circuit). Its food and beverage operations have delivered 47 consecutive quarters of domestic concession-per-patron growth, a pace complemented by alcohol service across roughly 45 percent of its locations. The F&B performance is also driven by the presence of enhanced food and beverage options at approximately 75 percent of its domestic circuit.
Cinemark is a leading player when it comes to premium large-format theaters, boasting both a fleet of IMAX screens and its own PLF offering, Cinemark XD, on a global level. The circuit has also embraced immersive seating through its partnership with D-BOX. The latest addition to Cinemark’s domestic screen count came this past December with the opening of a five-screen theater in Hayward, California. The circuit plans to continue its growth with commitments to open 20 new theaters globally starting in 2019. – Daniel Loria
4. Cineplex Entertainment
Cineplex is by far Canada’s largest exhibition circuit: As of Sept. 30, 2018, its market share was 75.8 percent. The chain welcomes more than 70 million guests annually, with nearly 44 percent of its box office revenue derived from its variety of premium experiences. Cineplex’s UltraAVX premium large format, which includes Dolby Atmos immersive audio, is available at 90 auditoriums at 75 locations. The circuit also has 25 IMAX screens, 75 VIP rooms in 20 locations, and 89 D-BOX motion-seating theaters at 78 sites. And this past summer, Cineplex announced plans to grow its 4DX motion and effects seating locations from one to as many as 14 screens.
Cineplex reported $422.3 million in concessions revenue in 2017, while the third quarter of 2018 posted a record $6.25 concession sales per person, a 4 percent increase from the prior year’s period. Cineplex’s concessions include such popular brands as Tim Hortons, Outtakes, Pizza Pizza and YoYo’s frozen yogurt. Alcohol beverage service is now available at 20 locations in Ontario and Alberta, with plans to expand as provincial laws permit.
Online and mobile ticketing now accounts for 24.8 percent of total admissions. Cineplex recently launched a revamped mobile app, with enhancements including VIP guests’ ability to order food and beverages from their seats. Meanwhile, Cineplex’s SCENE loyalty program reached 9.4 million members on September 30.
Always on the cutting edge, Cineplex has an exclusive deal in Canada with The VOID, an immersive VR experience. The VOID’s “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire” attraction is open at Cineplex Rec Rooms in Toronto and West Edmonton, with five more locations in the works. In September, the company also announced a strategic deal with VRstudios, a major global provider of turnkey, location-based virtual reality systems. – Kevin Lally
5. Marcus Theatres
*Since publishing this year’s Giants of Exhibition, The Marcus Corporation has completed its acquisition of Movie Tavern from Southern Theatres, changing screen and location counts for both chains.
2018 was a big year for Marcus Theatres. With the acquisition of Movie Tavern from Southern Theatres, the Milwaukee-based chain announced that it will become the fifth active North American circuit to pass the 1,000-screen milestone in 2019. The deal brings Movie Tavern’s 22 locations and 208 screens into the Marcus fold, boosting that chain’s screen count by 23 percent and extending its reach to 17 states.
With the acquisition of Movie Tavern, expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year, Marcus Theatres doubles down on its commitment to the dine-in experience. Founded in 2001, Movie Tavern was one of the first North American chains to fully embrace the dine-in experience. Marcus has been no slouch on that front itself, offering a variety of premium food and beverage options through a handful of in-theater dining options—in-theater, casual dine-in, and lounge—across its locations.
In addition to expanding its footprint, Marcus spent 2018 improving many of its existing locations, adding amenities such as DreamLounger recliner seating, PLF screens (UltraScreen DLX and SuperScreen DLX, added to a combined total of 15 locations), and expanded food and beverage options. Per Marcus President and CEO Rolando Rodriguez, the amenities proved popular to summer moviegoers, many of whom “purchase[s] their tickets well in advance for films like Deadpool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story. They are eager to reserve their seats in our theaters that offer premier screens, seating, and terrific food and beverage!”
Marcus Theatres moviegoers like what they’re seeing—at least according to the chain’s loyalty program, Magical Movie Rewards, which hit 3 million subscribers in December of last year. – Rebecca Pahle
6. Harkins Theatres
Celebrating its 85 year anniversary, Harkins Theatres, the largest privately owned circuit in the United States, enjoyed a 2018 full of activity. It all began at the conclusion of Q1, when the company announced a $150 million initiative to enhance its existing cinemas nationwide. The amenities to take part in this rollout include electronic leather recliner seating, and a PLF offering labeled CINE1—featuring laser projection, Dolby ATMOS, and large screens, lobby bars and lounges, reserved seating, expanded concessions, and upgraded lobby renovations at several locations. Its commitment to improve the moviegoing experience expands beyond its locations; Harkins signed a deal with online-ticketing company Atom Tickets to complement its existing online-ticketing presence at third-party platforms like Fandango and MovieTickets.com.
Harkins also welcomed several new names to its executive leadership in 2018. Some of its marquee appointments include the promotions of Racheal Wilson to chief operating officer, Tyler Cooper to executive vice president, and the hiring of former AMC executive Heather Morgan as its new VP of content and programming.
Giving and community activism has been a long-standing part of Harkins’s corporate identity.
In September, Harkins partnered with STX Entertainment for its first annual Women’s Equality Film Series, a weeklong festival featuring 15 films focusing on the stories of trailblazing women. Tickets to the series were accessibly priced at $5 per film, or $30 for a series pass. The circuit donated a portion of the proceeds to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media. Later in the year, as communities across California became affected by wildfires, Harkins launched a campaign to donate $1 from every popcorn purchased at its theaters on Thanksgiving Day to the American Red Cross California Wildfires Relief. – Daniel Loria
7. Southern Theatres
New Orleans, LA
*Since publishing this year’s Giants of Exhibition, The Marcus Corporation has completed its acquisition of Movie Tavern from Southern Theatres, changing screen and location counts for both chains.
Southern Theatres enjoyed a busy 2018, capping off the year with the biggest M&A headline of the domestic market. The New Orleans–based circuit announced the sale of the Movie Tavern brand and locations to Marcus Theatres in Q4, a deal expected to be completed within the coming months and will be reflected in next year’s Giants of Exhibition list. Southern had originally acquired the dine-in circuit in 2013 and was influential in growing and expanding the brand ahead of its sale this past November. The deal reinforces the growing value of dine-in cinemas in the United States. Once considered a niche offering, dine-in proved to be a valuable commodity for Southern Theatres, which will count more than 200 screens in its nationwide network once the sale is completed. Southern will continue to appeal to its audience through new initiatives, such as its recently launched Reel Rewards loyalty program. – Daniel Loria
8. B&B Theatres
Kansas City, MO
It was an exciting year for family-owned B&B Theatres. B&B kicked off the year with full-scale remodels of existing locations in Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Leavenworth, Kansas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The company went on to unveil 85 screens across eight of its sites through remodels or new builds, including new flagship location in Liberty, Missouri, site of the world’s largest ScreenX immersive-screen auditorium. B&B capped off the year in December with the opening of its latest theater, a 12-screen complex in Ankeny, Iowa. The theater boasts signature B&B amenities like family-friendly screenPLAY! auditoriums, MX4D immersive seating, Grand Screen PLF auditoriums, and heated recliners—not to mention a 12-lane bowling alley. The circuit will continue its commitment to “Bring Hollywood to the Heartland” in 2019 with the opening of a new nine-screen cinema in Topeka, Kansas. – Daniel Loria
9. CMX Cinemas
After a busy 2017 that saw the opening of its first U.S. location in April and the acquisition of Cobb Theatres in October, CMX settled into its second year in the market by further increasing its screen count and bolstering its executive roster. CMX named José Leonardo Martí, formerly the head of Mexico’s national cinema council, as its new U.S.-based CEO in September. Among the year’s most high-profile announcements by the U.S. arm of the Mexican circuit were expansion plans in cities like Tallahassee and Chicago, along with the opening of its first NYC location on the Upper East Side. The New York site welcomed new patrons in December with complimentary hot chocolate during the holiday season. A new player in the U.S. dine-in cinema space, CMX introduced its grab-and-go market concept in 2018, a new spin on expanded concessions at the movies. – Daniel Loria
10. National Amusements
In November, National Amusements’ Showcase Cinemas brand launched its first subscription service, Showcase Subscribe. Starting at $16.95 for three movies a month, the program offers advance reserved tickets via the app. Movie fans can sign up for either the 2D or the Premier plan, which includes 3-D and the premium XPLUS and IMAX formats. Showcase SuperLux, LuxLevels, and Showcase MX4D are not part of the subscription offering. Showcase Cinemas also recently renovated three of its New York State theaters: Showcase Cinema de Lux Cross County (10 screens) in Yonkers, Showcase Cinema de Lux City Center 15 in White Plains, and College Point Multiplex Cinemas (12 screens) in Whitestone. All three locations feature power-operated, fully reclining chairs, swivel tables, and the ability to reserve in advance. – Kevin Lally
11. Malco Theatres
The Memphis-based chain has its eye toward upgrades as the new year gets under way. Upcoming renovations to their Jonesboro, Arkansas, Hollywood Cinema will transition all the multiplex’s auditorium’s to luxury seating, with select auditoriums getting Dolby ATMOS sound as well. The theater’s Malco Grill will offer moviegoers expanded food and beverage options. – Rebecca Pahle
12. Landmark Cinemas (Canada)
Kinepolis, one of Europe’s major circuits, made a splash in its acquisition of Landmark Canada in December 2017. The Canadian circuit is the first for Kinepolis outside EMEA, joining Cineworld as the second leading European exhibitor to ramp up its North American presence through M&A. – Daniel Loria
13. Studio Movie Grill
Always on the cutting edge of innovation, SMG launched its own cinema subscription service in January 2019. The plan, SMG Access Subscription, is available for $14.99 per month and is currently accepting users on an invite-only basis and is tied into the circuit’s loyalty program. – Daniel Loria
14. Premiere Cinema Corp.
Big Spring, TX
Premiere Cinema Corp. just opened its new Premiere Cinertainment LUX Cine, Bowl & Pizza Pub in Pell City, Alabama, with 800 power-recliner seats, a bowling alley, ropes course, arcade, and gourmet kitchen. A new Lux Cine opens in Birmingham this spring. – Kevin Lally
15. Caribbean Cinemas
San Juan, PR
Caribbean Cinemas bounced back after a difficult 2017, working tirelessly to get its circuit back to full force after withstanding the effects of natural disasters. The efforts of the Caribbean team didn’t go unnoticed, with circuit President Robert Carrady receiving special honors at CinemaCon and ShowEast 2018. – Daniel Loria
16. Goodrich Quality Theaters
Grand Rapids, MI
Last year saw Goodrich Quality Theaters continue a legacy of, well, quality that’s been part of the chain since its 1930 founding as a single-screen operation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their screen and location counts have remained steady since they were included in last year’s Giants of Exhibition. – Rebecca Pahle
17. Alamo Drafthouse
It’s been a year of growth for the Alamo Drafthouse, as the ever-hip chain upped its theater count from 29 in 2017, with a handful of new locations on the way. Over the last year, Alamo also installed the U.S.’s first Sony 4K laser projection system (at Dallas, Texas, Lake Highlands location) and began experimenting with a subscription-based ticket service. – Rebecca Pahle
18. Georgia Theatre Company
Saint Simons Island, GA
Georgia Theatre Company is proud to host an annual “Cinema for a Cause” event, during which 100 percent of all admission ticket and concession purchases are donated to 35 local charities. Total donations in the past 15 years have surpassed $1.5 million. GTC also programs a popular “Flashback Cinema” series of film classics. – Kevin Lally
19. Landmark Theatres
Los Angeles, CA
The largest art house circuit in the United States was acquired by Cohen Media Group in December 2018. The new ownership won’t be too much of an adjustment for Landmark; Cohen, a specialty distributor with an existing art house cinema in New York, keeps the circuit’s indie roots intact. – Daniel Loria
20. Bow Tie Cinemas
The oldest theater circuit in America—founded all the way back in 1900 as a nickelodeon—Bow Tie Cinemas kept going strong in 2018. The chain continues a string of renovations, branded Bow Tie Ultimate, that bring premium food and drink options and luxury seating to preexisting locations. – Rebecca Pahle
20. Reading Cinemas USA
Culver City, CA
Reading Cinemas USA, a division of Australia’s Reading International, reported that 38 percent of its screens would have luxury recliner seating by the end of 2018, and 26 percent would feature a premium auditorium (its own Titan Luxe and Titan XC brands or IMAX). – Kevin Lally
Rank / Circuit >> Screens/Locations
22. Neighborhood Cinemas Group >> 244/25
23. Emagine Entertainment, Inc. >> 237/20
24. Pacific Theatres/Arclight Cinemas >> 219/17
25. Cinépolis USA >> 211/21
26. New Vision Entertainment Group >> 205/19
27. Regency Theatres, Inc. >> 194/29
28. Larry H. Miller Theatres/Megaplex Theatres >> 182/21
29. United Entertainment Corp. >> 180/21
30. Marquee Cinemas, Inc. >> 175/17
31. MJR Theatres >> 169/11
32. Cinema Entertainment Corp. >> 160/20
33. Galaxy Theatres, LLC >> 159/14
34. FP Cinemas >> 157/20
35. Celebration Cinema by Studio C >> 154/11
36. Cinema West >> 149/15
36. Coming Attractions Theatres >> 149/18
38. Cinémas Guzzo >> 141/10
38. Frank Theatres >> 141/15
40. Epic Theatres/Theatre Management Inc. >> 132/11
40. Allen Theatres, Inc. >> 132/11
42. iPic Entertainment >> 115/15
43. Classic Cinemas/Tivoli Enterprises, Inc. >> 111/14
44. Mitchell Theatres >> 107/15
44. Phoenix Theatres Entertainment >> 107/12
46. Southeast Cinema Entertainment >> 104/9
47. Santikos Entertainment >> 102/8
48. R.J. Fridley Theatres >> 100/20
49. Your Neighborhood Theatre/Belmont Capital LLC >> 100/11
50. R/C Theatres Management Corp. >> 98/11