Size doesn’t always matter. That’s what Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin is finding out — eight years after buying the majority stake in AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion, in what was the biggest acquisition of an American company by a Chinese one. The Dalian Wanda group founder had big plans and AMC became the largest screen owner in the world. But all its heft meant zilch as it continued to bleed. In CY19, it reported a loss of $149 million and debt of $4.9 billion. Add a pandemic to that carnage. Today, there are rumours of the chain facing bankruptcy and Jianlin’s 50% stake is valued at $261 million — less than one-tenth of its original price.
AMC’s Indian counterpart finds itself in the same boat, even if not on that large a scale. The biggest theatre chain in India, PVR, is one-tenth the size of AMC in terms of screens and revenue (Rs.34.52 billion), but the pain it is experiencing is similar to that of the Chinese behemoth. Since pulling the shutters down across the country on March 11, the multiplex chain has not made a single penny in revenue. As a result, the stock hit a 52-week low of Rs.711 in May after having hit an all-time high of Rs.2,100 in February. Since then, it has recovered to Rs.1,070 on news that multiplexes can reopen and operate at 50% capacity.
But, here comes the real twist.
Fading lure of the silver screen
While the no-show is drying up coffers, what is agonising for exhibitors is to watch new movies finding their way direct to home. In the US, AMC after taking a decision to ban Universal Pictures from its theatres patched up