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AMC’s hiring spree preceded Carmike merger approval

By the end of June, most of the Carmike Cinemas theaters that AMC Entertainment bought will be getting Coke Freestyle machines like these in the AMC 20 Theatres in Town Center Plaza in Leawood.
By the end of June, most of the Carmike Cinemas theaters that AMC Entertainment bought will be getting Coke Freestyle machines like these in the AMC 20 Theatres in Town Center Plaza in Leawood. Special to The Star

In his first year as CEO of AMC Entertainment, Adam Aron has been on more than a merger spree. He’s been busy hiring.

The company’s Leawood headquarters quietly added about 125 employees since the start of this year, when Aron took the reins. Its home office head count grew to about 600 from 475, and Aron said an additional 25 to 50 jobs remain to be filled by June.

AMC needs more hands because it just got the final federal clearance to buy rival chain Carmike Cinemas for $1.2 billion.

“They’ve got several hundred people in Columbus, Ga., who were doing the work associated with putting movies into theaters, and selling tickets and the like. We’re going to do that work in Leawood, Kan., instead,” Aron said Wednesday.

AMC’s expansion means some employees have been working in conference rooms waiting for recently rented nearby office space to open next month.

Leawood’s gain is, of course, Columbus’ loss. Aron said the Carmike’s headquarters operations would “dwindle down pretty quickly.”

Federal anti-trust officials cleared AMC’s purchase of Carmike this week. Combined, the merged network of 661 theaters ranks as the largest in the United States, surpassing Regal Entertainment Group.

AMC also has bought Europe’s largest theater chain, Odeon & UCI, which added 244 theaters to make AMC the largest screen operator in the world.

Aron said AMC will retain Odeon’s London headquarters, and much of the work in Europe will remain there.

In the United States, however, AMC employees in Leawood will be managing more show times, programming movies on more screens and developing plans to renovate and upgrade more Carmike, AMC and Odeon theaters with leather recliners, expanded food menus, bars and other amenities.

AMC also plans to rebrand more than 150 of its own and Carmike theaters. Aron said more than 100 Carmike theaters will become AMC theaters. Carmike does not own any theaters in the Kansas City area.

Aron plans to announce a second brand, alongside AMC, in January. More than 50 AMC theaters will switch to that new brand, though none in the Kansas City area will change.

To win federal acceptance of the Carmike merger, AMC agreed to sell between 15 and 20 theaters in 15 markets. None are in Kansas City.

AMC also agreed to sell most of its stake in National CineMedia, which offers preshow advertising at theaters. AMC owns about 17 million shares, which traded Wednesday at $14.70, making the stake worth about $250 million. It agreed to own no more than 4.99 percent of National CineMedia.

China-based Dalian Wanda Group owns most of AMC Entertainment. A portion of AMC’s stock has traded publicly for three years.

Mark Davis: 816-234-4372, @mdkcstar

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