May 2, 2006

AMC to devote some screens to art-house films

By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - AMC Theatres, the U.S. movie
theater chain that introduced the megaplex, on Tuesday said it
would devote 72 screens in 39 domestic markets to art-house
fare in a nod to the growing influence of the genre and of the
over-40 movie fans who support it.

The move reflects a broad effort by U.S. theater owners to
find ways to attract patrons after an 8.7 percent drop in
domestic attendance across the industry last year.

AMC, the No. 2 U.S. movie theater chain, said at least one
screen in dedicated theaters would show only art house and
specialty films under a program dubbed "AMC Select" starting
this weekend.

Among the first titles to be offered are the Al Gore
documentary "An Inconvenient Truth"; "Little Miss Sunshine,"
starring Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear; and "A Prairie Home
Companion" with Lindsay Lohan.

The move places AMC in direct competition with Landmark
Theatres, the nation's largest art-house chain with 57 theaters
and 213 screens in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

AMC Chairman and Chief Executive Peter Brown told Reuters
the concept for showing independent films dates back to 1995,
when the company introduced the megaplex and planned "that at
some point this ... space would allow us to open up the depth
and breadth of product."

Between 1986 and 2005, the annual percentage of admissions
of 40-and-older moviegoers rose to 35 percent from 14 percent,
while 12- to 29-year-old ticket buyers fell to 49 percent from
66 percent, according to the Motion Picture Association of

AMC also benefited from its acquisition in January of the
largely urban Loews Cineplex chain, which has long supported
independent films.

The move was lauded by filmmakers at the Tribeca Film
Festival, which AMC co-sponsored for the first time this year
and used as a setting for the announcement.

Steve Rothenberg, president of domestic distribution for
Lionsgate Films, said Lionsgate was eyeing AMC Select theaters
as venues for several upcoming films, including the
documentaries "U.S. vs. John Lennon" and "Leonard Cohen I'm
Your Man" and the feature "Welcome to America."

Privately held AMC Entertainment Inc. has interests in
about 5,672 screens in 29 states and the District of Columbia
and 11 countries.