AMC Cinemas CEO Plays Contrarian Forecasting Great Box Office

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(Bloomberg) -- By the time the curtain drops on 2018 for movie theater owners, Adam Aron will be either the sage who predicted the rebound or the rube who was taken in by his own enthusiasm.

The chief executive officer of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., Aron is convinced 2018 will be a “glorious” year for his company, the biggest U.S. theater chain.

In an interview Tuesday at an annual gathering of cinema owners in Las Vegas, Aron called worries about last summer’s dismal box office “hysteria.” Since last year’s CinemaCon convention, he said, the industry has marked its best-ever September, December and February, thanks to films like Walt Disney Co.’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Black Panther.”

“Our conclusion is that the movie industry and the movie theater industry right now are booming,” he said. “The facts are quite different than the conventional wisdom of seven months ago.”

The numbers don’t support his enthusiasm. North American box-office sales were down 2.3 percent to $3.5 billion for the year to date through last weekend, according to data from researcher ComScore Inc. Analyst Leo Kulp of RBC Capital Markets predicts flat revenue of $11.2 billion for the year.

Aron pins his hopes on movies like “Avengers: Infinity War,” another Disney film. Opening this weekend, the picture will be “considerably larger” than “Black Panther,” he said.

AMC’s CEO says the last two lackluster years should be followed by a rebound, based on historical trends. He also has confidence in the slate of films major studios plan to release this year, which includes “Deadpool 2” from 21st Century Fox Inc., a new “Star Wars” spinoff from Disney and a new “Jurassic World” from Universal Pictures.

“I think people’s heads will be spinning,” Aron said.

The executive also forecasts “dramatically higher” profit for Leawood, Kansas City-based AMC, whose shares fell 55 percent in 2017. The chain is controlled by China’s Dalian Wanda Group Corp.

“When we look back, we will be very pleased with the industry box office for the full year,” he said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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