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AMC Theatres CFO: There Is a ‘Day of Reckoning’ for MoviePass Strategy

Craig Ramsey also weighs in on the summer box office slump and AMC’s transatlantic plans

AMC Entertainment’s stock is down 31 percent since Aug. 1 amid a brutal box office slump, but the company sees plenty of upside in a relatively under-tapped European market and a solid fall slate. One area it does not see upside: the $10/month unlimited movie subscription service, MoviePass.

AMC blasted the service last month, calling it “not in the best interest of moviegoers, movie theaters and movie studios,” and Chief Financial Officer Craig Ramsey said it’s still not a good deal for the cinema chain at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference conference in Beverly Hills on Thursday.

“We believe in subscription and we believe it has relevance in theatrical exhibition,” Ramsey said, citing programs at AMC’s Odeon theaters in the U.K. and Germany.

“But it needs to be approached sensibly and priced right — that’s probably the biggest issue we have is the pricing and how that might set up some unrealistic expectations,” he said. “There is a day of reckoning for that type of strategy.”

Ramsey also hit the brakes on premium video on demand, as studios including Fox have expressed interest in delivering films to home consumers earlier — for a higher price.

“There’s some things we’re willing to do around windowing and there’s some things we’re probably less cooperative on,” he said. “We want to ensure our downside is protected.”

AMC, which is owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, sees some better opportunities in the Old World. Over the last 12 months, AMC has acquired European chains Odeon and Nordic, and Ramsey said there are opportunities to apply its premium features in the U.S., like recliners and large format screens, to a European market that is relatively underserved.

“Screens per million is about half in those European markets as it is in the U.S.,” he said.

Ramsey chalked down this summer’s box office slump to “a six month phenomenon,” and waved off concerns that it might be more of a secular than cyclical effect.

“Sometimes you get fatigue a little bit and then you get that movie that brings you back to the theater.”