AMC Entertainment Chief Executive Gerry Lopez said the Chinese conglomerate poised to take over the nation's second largest theater chain would provide needed debt relief and resources to upgrade many of its cinemas across the country.
"We're going from a group of five financial owners -- private equity funds -- to a single strategic, long-term buyer who happens to love this business and who is already in this business," Lopez said in an interview Thursday. "For us, this is nothing but great news."
After a year of talks, Dalian Wanda Group, China's largest theater operator, reached a deal last weekend to buy Kansas City, Mo.-based AMC Entertainment for $2.6 billion. The pairing, which is subject to regulatory approval, would create what the companies said would be the world's largest cinema operator, with 420 theaters and 5,800 screens in the world's two largest film markets.
"What you have when you put us together is a pretty unique combination," Lopez said.
The deal would significantly reduce AMC's debt load, currently about $1.9 billion. Wanda also has agreed to invest up to $500 million in AMC's circuit, which would enable the company to accelerate ongoing upgrades of its theaters with improved food and beverage offerings, extra wide screens and specialty programming such as Spanish language and Bollywood films, Lopez said.