Our Annual Survey of the Top 50 Exhibitors in the Domestic Market
It might not have been a record year, but few will complain that 2019 finished as the second-highest-grossing year on record at the domestic box office.
The North American market—constituting all screens in the United States, Canada, and associated territories—brought in $11.4 billion in a dramatic year marked by M&A across the distribution and exhibition landscapes.
Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox was completed in the year’s first quarter, helping catapult the studio to a historic $4.3 billion in North America, a figure adjusted to $3.7 billion excluding Fox titles. That adds up to a dominant market share, with Disney claiming over a third of total tickets sold at North American cinemas in 2019.
It was no less dramatic on the exhibition side. Marcus Theatres crossed the 1,000-screen benchmark with its acquisition of Movie Tavern from Southern Theatres, extending its influence from the Midwest to 17 states nationwide. Cinépolis’s U.S. presence increased with its own acquisition of a dine-in chain, adding six locations of Texas-based Moviehouse & Eatery to its growing fleet of cinemas in the United States. European giant Kinepolis, only a couple of years after first entering North America with its acquisition of Landmark Cinemas of Canada, made headlines with its acquisition of MJR Digital Cinemas—its first foray into the United States.
Meanwhile, Regal’s transformation under Cineworld introduced several changes to everything from branding to subscription plans, and even extending to vendors at the concession stand. The most high-profile acquisition of the year, however, didn’t come until December. The announcement of Cineworld’s intent to acquire Cineplex, Canada’s leading circuit, will have a major impact on next year’s edition of this list. The deal is expected to close in Q1 2020, so those results aren’t reflected in this year’s version of our Giants of Exhibition, which tallies domestic screen-count totals up to December 31, 2019.
As the fevered M&A activity redefines the playing field for global distribution and exhibition, our research into this year’s Giants revealed another crucial portent of success for the coming decade. The digital cinema revolution that ushered in the 2010s has given way to new viewing formats and amenities, with circuits large and small investing time and money to keep up with the expectations of a demanding audience. Regardless of the changes ahead, however, the industry’s commitment to innovation and the moviegoing experience will be the key to its future success.
Leawood, Kansas | Founded 1920
Screens: 8,043 | Locations: 634
Celebrating its centennial in 2020, AMC enters its second century as the largest exhibition circuit in the United States. The last five years have seen significant growth, both at home and abroad. Its domestic acquisition of Carmike Cinemas in 2016 solidified its place atop our Giants of Exhibition list, while foreign additions like Odeon (2016) and Nordic Cinema Group (2017) pushed its reach to over 1,000 locations and 11, 000 screens worldwide. In 2019 the circuit crossed the 900,000-subscriber mark for its Stubs A-List loyalty program, which includes a popular subscription plan for frequent users. The result has been an overwhelming success for AMC, which originally envisioned hitting the 500,000 mark by the same point last year.
The Stubs loyalty program is also at the center of the circuit’s biggest innovation of 2019, the launch of its very own home entertainment streaming platform: AMC Theatres On Demand, the first of its kind among U.S. exhibitors. Moviegoers now have the option of renting a movie at home through AMC’s streaming channel, provided they are members of its loyalty program. While the news of an exhibitor entering the streaming space caught some of the industry’s trade press by surprise, it is a strategy already adopted by the largest circuits in Canada (Cineplex) and Mexico (Cinépolis). The extension into home entertainment is a perfect example of how AMC has spread its points of contact with U.S. consumers, an effort that includes programming initiatives like AMC Artisan Films, meant to promote and highlight original and non-franchise films.
Knoxville, Tennessee | Founded 1989
Screens: 7,206 | Locations: 548
Acquired by the U.K.’s Cineworld circuit in 2018, Regal Cinemas continued to pursue initiatives adopted by its giant parent company.
In July 2019, Regal embraced the in-house subscription trend with the debut of its “Unlimited” offering. Sharing a name with Cineworld’s subscription plan, Regal’s offer was customized for the U.S. market. The plan is available in three tiers: Unlimited, priced at $18/month and available at 200 locations; Unlimited Plus at $21/month and available at 400 locations; and Unlimited All Access at $23.50/month, which is honored at over 550 locations nationwide. Additional surcharges apply to premium auditoriums like RPX (Regal’s private-label PLF), Imax, 4DX motion and effects seating, and ScreenX panoramic screens. There is no cap to the number of standard-format movies customers can attend each month, nor blackout dates for new releases. The plan also includes a 10 percent discount on all concessions and nonalcoholic beverages. Regal previously had a partnership with Atom Tickets.
This past year, Regal also opened eight new 4DX screens and six new ScreenX screens from technology provider CJ 4DPLEX. “The feedback we are receiving from moviegoers has been enormously positive, and as the only major exhibition partner where movie fans can enjoy these immersive experiences, we look forward to rapidly growing the number of 4DX and ScreenX locations at Regal in the years to come,” said Regal chief marketing officer Ken Thewes.
Plano, Texas | Founded 1989
Screens: 4,630 | Locations: 344
2019 was a year of continued growth for Cinemark, as the Texas-based chain continued to benefit from its investment in premium large-format luxury recliners, food and beverage, and the subscription model.
The chain entered 2018 with its Cinemark Movie Club subscription program, then several weeks old, boasting more than 500,000 active members; as of the end of Q3 2019, that number had expanded to 850,000, with Cinemark Movie Club subscribers accounting for approximately 15 percent of that quarter’s box office. Movie Club members visit a Cinemark theater three times more often than nonmembers, per data provided by the circuit, and are twice as likely as nonmembers to upgrade to the exhibitor’s premium large-format Cinemark XD offering.
Globally, Cinemark boasts 15 Imax screens, an increase from last year; in March of 2019, Cinemark renewed its 20-year partnership with the PLF provider. In December, Cinemark inked an exclusive 10-year agreement with Cinonic, under which Barco Series 4 laser projectors will be installed at more than 6,000 of its screens worldwide.
In-theater premium amenities remain a priority for Cinemark; as of the end of Q3 2019, 58 percent of Cinemark’s U.S. theaters boasted its proprietary Luxury Loungers recliner seats. In an investor earnings call, CEO Mark Zoradi noted that he expected that number to increase to 60 percent by the end of the year, representing “the highest recliner penetration among major players.”
The third quarter of 2019 also represented the 51st consecutive quarter of growth in per-patron F&B spend. Also, on the F&B front, 2019 saw Cinemark launch its CUT! by Cinemark brand of dine-in theaters. The first CUT! by Cinemark location is currently in operation in Frisco, Texas, with another planned for summer 2020.
Toronto, Ontario | Founded 2003
Screens: 1,695 | Locations: 165
In what might be remembered as the biggest exhibition story of 2019, Cineplex became the third domestic top 5 circuit to be acquired by another major since 2016. UK-based Cineworld had already made major headlines in December 2017 with its acquisition of Regal. It doubled down on that strategy two years later with the announcement of its intent to acquire Cineplex, Canada’s leading circuit and the fourth-largest in the domestic market. Once the acquisition closes (expected in Q1 2020), Cineworld will become the largest circuit in the North American market through its stewardship of the Cineplex and Regal brands.
Cineplex had already established itself as the dominant player in Canadian exhibition by the time Cineworld came into the picture. According to the company’s Q3 investor presentation, Cineplex claimed 75 percent of the market share in Canada’s box office through September 2019. Over 40 percent of the circuit’s revenue in the same period came from premium experiences such as premium large format (Imax, ScreenX, and its in-house UltraAVX), immersive seating (4DX and D-Box), and VIP auditoriums.
At the concession stand, Cineplex has seen continued growth in food and beverage revenues since 2011, reaching a peak of $441 million (Canadian) in 2018. Its concessions per patron rate nearly doubled in the 10-year span between 2008 and 2018, going from $3.96 per patron to $6.36. An expanded concessions menu has been a key part of that growth, with fare such as pizza, poutine, and wraps available at select locations.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin | Founded 1935
Screens: 1,106 | Locations: 91
In February 2019, The Marcus Corporation closed its acquisition of dine-in cinema circuit Movie Tavern from VSS-Southern Theatres. The deal grew the Marcus Theatres division by 23 percent, adding 208 screens across 22 locations in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Movie Tavern was rebranded “Movie Tavern by Marcus.” The deal saw Marcus finish the decade above the 1,000-screen mark, growing its presence beyond the Midwest to the broader national market.
Following the acquisition, Marcus earmarked 15 of the 22 Movie Tavern sites for new amenities or plans for further upgrades. Eleven Movie Tavern auditoriums were converted into the circuit’s SuperScreen DLX private-label PLF offering, which includes Marcus’s branded DreamLounger recliners and Dolby Atmos immersive audio. The company also added 10 more SuperScreen auditoriums. The Movie Tavern locations also adopted Marcus’s Magical Movie Rewards customer loyalty program, which already hosts over 3.8 million members. Loyalty members have access to a series of different discounts, including the company’s famous $5 Movie Tuesday promotion, $6 matinees, and $6 student tickets on Thursdays.
Theater upgrades have occurred circuit-wide. Marcus counts recliner seating in three-quarters of all its screens and hosts a PLF auditorium at 69 percent of its theaters. On the digital side, Marcus made upgrades to its point-of-sale system, mobile app, and online ticketing engine in 2019. The circuit has at least one new opening planned for 2020, scheduled for the latter half of the year in Tacoma, Washington.
Scottsdale, Arizona | Founded 1933
Screens: 515 | Locations: 34
2018 was a year of growth for Harkins Theaters, the largest privately owned circuit in the United States, and 2019 has proven no different. The company announced a new $32 million headquarters and retail campus, which will nearly triple the size of the chain’s current space. The new development is planned to open later this year.
As the company moves into new digs in its home state of Arizona, it will also open a new multiplex in Northglenn, Colorado, and in Laveen, Arizona. Both theaters will feature a CINÉ1 premium large-format auditorium with Dolby Atmos sound and Ultimate Lounger recliners.
On the personnel side, in 2019 Harkins Theaters named executive vice president Tyler Cooper, who has worked for Harkins for two decades, its new CFO. Greta Newell, who has been with Harkins for 26 years, assumed the role of treasurer and vice president.
Kansas City, Missouri | Founded 1924
Screens: 418 | Locations: 48
An exciting year for B&B Theatres, 2019 saw the opening of additional locations and the expansion of innovative concepts throughout the circuit. Tech deals with panoramic screen provider ScreenX and immersive seating technology MX4D will bring more upgraded theaters to patrons nationwide, while expanded menus and alcohol service continues to spread across select locations. B&B Theatres has also begun expanding its screenPLAY! concept, which fuses design elements of a family play area with a premium cinema auditorium. The investment in new cinemas and renovated locations reflects the circuit’s ambitions of becoming a state-of-the-art circuit for audiences across the seven U.S. states it serves. Locations in Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas suggest that B&B could easily go from a regional circuit to a national one in the coming decade.
Miami, Florida | Founded 2016
Screens: 410 | Locations: 40
A subsidiary of Mexican circuit Cinemex, CMX Cinemas became one of the 10 biggest circuits in the North American market shortly after opening its first U.S. cinema in April 2017. The December 2017 acquisition of Cobb Theatres propelled CMX into the top 10 of our Giants of Exhibition list in 2018—and the company isn’t done growing. CMX has plans to open several new locations in 2020, including new sites in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina. CMX has introduced several concepts throughout its U.S. circuit, including luxury dine-in cinemas, expanded menu grab-and-go concessions concepts, and lobby sports bars.
Memphis, Tennessee | Founded 1915
Screens: 363 | Locations: 35
2020 marks the 105th year in operation for Malco Theatres, and the Memphis-based chain is still growing. Over the last year the chain introduced its own premium large-format brand, called MXT “Extreme” Cinema. A new theater in Memphis, the Powerhouse Cinema Grill, was the first theater to host an MXT screen. Some months later, the newly renovated Collierville Cinema Grill in Tennessee and Kentucky’s Owensboro Cinema Grill—which opened in the summer—got their own MXT auditoriums.
A chain with a long history, Malco has been a family business since its founding; that tradition was maintained this year when David Tashie, great-grandson of original founder M.A. Lightman Sr., was promoted to the position of president and COO.
Norwood, Massachusetts | Founded 1936
Screens: 362 | Locations: 27
National Amusements’ U.S. presence with Showcase Cinemas underwent a series of transformations in 2019. Theater upgrades included the expansion of recliner seating to additional locations, while communal spaces like lobbies and concession stands were similarly revitalized with modern and sleek finishes. At the same time, the circuit’s focus on expanded food and beverage menus has contributed to a new moviegoing experience for its patrons. A free-to-join loyalty program, Starpass, offers easily accessible rewards tiers and significant savings for members. Showcase was one of the first U.S. circuits to adopt an in-house subscription program; Showcase Subscribe starts at $11.95 per month for up to two films each month. 2020 should bring additional updates throughout its circuit—both at individual locations and to its digital presence on the web.
Dallas, Texas | Founded 2000
Screens: 353 | Locations: 34
Studio Movie Grill (SMG) announced an ambitious plan to expand its circuit in 2019, expanding the dine-in-cinema concept it helped pioneer to audiences nationwide. Known across the industry for its focus on charitable efforts and giving back to its local communities, SMG proudly features programs such as Special Needs Screenings, a Chefs for Children program, and a Movies+Meals initiative that helps underserved children and adults in need in its local communities. An early supporter of cinema subscription plans, the circuit also expanded its SMG Access plan in 2019. SMG’s approach to subscription is closely tied to its corporate identity; members not only benefit from rewards and discount pricing, but also help contribute to charity efforts with every cinema visit.
Calgary, Alberta | Founded 1965
Screens: 322 | Locations: 45
Landmark Cinemas is the second-largest theater chain in Canada, covering western Canada, Ontario, and the Yukon Territory. Acquired by Belgium’s Kinepolis circuit in December 2017, Landmark offers an array of special deals including Kids’ Sundays, Senior Mondays, and Wednesday bargain “Movie Twosomes.” The chain is also a national sponsor of The Walk So Kids Can Talk, which supports the mental health and well-being of youth. Landmark has begun expanding premium experiences across its circuit. The Marketplace, a grab-and-go concessions concept has helped diversity its food and beverage offerings, while traditional upgrades like PLF auditoriums and recliner seating have become more prevalent throughout its theaters. The circuit’s newest location, in Southeast Edmonton, is expected to open in summer 2020.
Austin, Texas | Founded 1997
Screens: 316 | Locations: 41
After opening in Brooklyn in 2016, the Alamo Drafthouse crossed another major urban hub off its bucket list in 2019. The Texas-based chain, known for pairing first-run films with fan-friendly retrospective screenings and a full food and beverage menu, opened its first L.A. location in July. The milestone cinema for the company wasn’t its only new build to debut in 2019; another location opened in Westminster, Colorado, and Drafthouse already has its second New York theater in the works. In 2019, the chain also expanded the beta release of its subscription program, Season Pass, to loyalty card members in a handful of key markets. Alamo Drafthouse enters the new decade as one of the best established brands in exhibition.
Big Spring, Texas | Founded 1993
Screens: 301 | Locations: 28
Staying true to its roots as an entertainment destination, Premiere Cinema Corp. is tackling competition from home entertainment by providing patrons with unique experiences at its locations. The circuit opened its first Premiere Lux Cine, Bowl & Pizza Pub in Pell City, Alabama, in January 2019. The complex features 800 power-recliner seats, a bowling alley, a ropes course, an arcade, and a gourmet kitchen. New Lux Cine & Pizza Pub locations followed this past fall in Birmingham, Alabama, and Plant City, Florida. The circuit is one of several major circuits at the forefront of the cinema entertainment center trend. These complexes are known for incorporating different out-of-home concepts and expanded food and beverage menus into the moviegoing experience, creating an ultimate entertainment destination for patrons. Premiere has theaters in Texas, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, and South Carolina.
San Juan, Puerto Rico | Founded 1968
Screens: 295 | Locations: 34
Puerto Rico’s leading cinema chain, Caribbean Cinemas operates throughout the Caribbean region, with additional locations in the Dominican Republic, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Antigua, Aruba, and Trinidad. The circuit is therefore no stranger to inclement weather during hurricane season, but still suffered serious setbacks with Hurricane Maria in 2017. Its management was undeterred by the challenges in the hurricane’s aftermath, working tirelessly with local staff to keep cinemas open as much as possible as Puerto Rico recovered from the storm. Caribbean’s role in supporting local communities during the recovery will hardly be forgotten in the coming years, with the company establishing itself as a true business leader in the region.
Grand Rapids, Michigan | Founded 1930
Screens: 281 | Locations: 30
Founded in 1930 with a single screen in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, Goodrich Quality Theaters has expanded to Indiana, Illinois, Florida, and Missouri. The all-digital circuit includes five Imax theaters and five GDX premium locations with Dolby Atmos sound. Goodrich also offers Screen Taps bars in 13 of its locations, serving mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, fried mac and cheese bites, beer, wine, daiquiris, and margaritas.
New Orleans, Louisiana | Founded 2003
Screens: 266 | Locations: 18
Operated by private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS), Southern Theatres encompasses the Grand Theatres and AmStar Cinemas brands; Movie Tavern, previously a part of Southern Theatres, was officially acquired by The Marcus Corporation in February 2019. A former Grand Theatres location was reopened in December 2019 as the Amstar Cinemas 18 Four Seasons Station; the newly renovated location features a Grand Premium Experience premium large-format auditorium.
Dallas, Texas | Founded 1971
Screens: 263 | Locations: 28
The U.S. division of the giant Mexican circuit Cinépolis, Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas opened its first location in Del Mar, California, in 2011 and now also operates in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Texas, Ohio, and Maryland. Select locations include kid-friendly Cinépolis Jr. auditoriums and 4DX motion and effects theaters. Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas acquired Moviehouse & Eatery’s six theaters in July 2019.
St. Simons Island, Georgia | Founded 1992
Screens: 263 | Locations: 25
The fourth-generation, family-owned circuit Georgia Theatre Company (GTC) launched a new mobile app in 2019. The app is part of a digital strategy looking to maximize ticketing sales on its own platform, which includes a new ticketing capability on its website. Recent GTC innovations include a loyalty program (Reel Rewards), its own premium large-format auditoriums (GTX), and an expanded food and beverage menu (Outtakes Kitchen & Bar).
Owosso, Michigan | Founded 1983
Screens: 263 | Locations: 27
Neighborhood Cinemas Group (NCG)—which was founded in Michigan and has since expanded to Illinois, Indiana, and states throughout the Southeast—opened its first theater in New York state in 2019, renovating and reopening what used to be a Regal location in the town of Kingston. 2019 also saw NCG partner with Atom Tickets to sell digital tickets on the Atom platform.
21. EMAGINE ENTERTAINMENT
Troy, Michigan | Founded 1997
Screens: 254 | Locations: 21
Michigan-based Emagine Entertainment continued to bring luxury theatrical amenities to Midwest audiences throughout 2019. In December, the chain opened the region’s largest CinemaScope screen—branded as Super Emax—in its Canton Township location in time for the release of Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Recent investments in upgrading the theatrical experience have also included recliner seating, expanded concessions menus, reserved seating, dine-in service, and even valet parking at select locations.
Los Angeles, California | Founded 1974
Screens: 251 | Locations: 51
Just before the ball dropped on 2019, the industry learned that Landmark Theatres would be acquired by independent film producer and distributor Cohen Media Group. Over the subsequent year, Landmark found a new president and COO in exhibition veteran Paul Serwitz, who for 17 years served as the vice president of film at Regal.
Culver City, California
Screens: 238 | Locations: 24
Reading Cinemas International operates in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand; in the U.S., its brands include Reading Cinemas, Consolidated Theatres, Angelika Film Centers, and City Cinemas. Reading expanded its premium screen, luxury recliner seating, and food and beverage options in 2019 and plans to continue doing so over the coming years.
Los Angeles, California | Founded 1993
Screens: 234 | Locations: 17
Pacific/Arclight continued to service California—as well as Chicago, Boston, and the D.C. area—in 2019. In February, Arclight’s Cinerama Dome was updated with dual-head Christie 6P laser projectors and Dolby 3-D, pairing cutting-edge technology with one of America’s most historic theaters.
Ridgefield, Connecticut | Founded 1900
Screens: 220 | Locations: 32
In 2019 Bow Tie Cinemas embarked on major renovations of its two locations in Stamford, Connecticut. The Connecticut-based chain also announced its development with The Ashforth Company of the Bow Tie Cinemas Ultimate complex, set to include a full bar and restaurant menu and luxury recliner seating in all auditoriums.
Stratford, Connecticut |Founded 2016
Screens: 205 | Locations: 19
Agoura Hills, California | Founded 1996
Screens: 196 | Locations: 28
Maple Grove, Minnesota | Founded 1993
Screens: 191 | Locations: 22
Sandy, Utah | Founded 1999
Screens: 182 | Locations: 16
Beckley, West Virginia | Founded 1979
Screens: 175 | Location: 17
Sherman Oaks, California | Founded 1998
Screens: 171 | Locations: 15
Petaluma, California | Founded 1984
Screens: 168 | Locations: 17
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan | Founded 1980
Screens: 164 | Locations: 10
Grand Rapids, Michigan | Founded 1944
Screens: 163 | Locations: 12
Waite Park, Minnesota | Founded 1964
Screens: 160 | Locations: 20
Cambridge, Massachusetts | Founded 1996
Screens: 160 | Locations: 20
Ashland, Oregon | Founded 1985
Screens: 153 | Locations: 18
Deltona, Florida | Founded 2003
Screens: 144 | Locations: 12
Terrebonne, Quebec | Founded 2003
Screens: 133 | Locations: 9
Downers Grove, Illinois | Founded 1978
Screens: 121 | Locations: 15
Reisterstown, Maryland | Founded 1932
Screens: 119 | Locations: 13
Boca Raton, Florida | Founded 2007
Screens: 117 | Locations: 15
Las Cruces, New Mexico | Founded 1912
Screens: 116 | Locations: 17
Knoxville, Tennessee | Founded 2001
Screens: 116 | Locations: 13
San Antonio, Texas | Founded 1948
Screens: 115 | Locations: 9
New Albany, Indiana | Founded 2013
Screens: 108 | Locations: 8
Elkhart, Kansas | Founded 2005
Screens: 107 | Locations: 15
Charlotte, North Carolina
Screens: 104 | Locations: 9
Dallas, Texas | Founded 2007
Screens: 99 | Locations: 10
Des Moines, Iowa | Founded 1972
Screens: 98 | Locations: 19