KC Star: AMC Theater in Times Square Will See Protest Over Carmike Merger
News story originally published at KansasCity.com
By Mark Davis
Protesters have targeted an AMC theater in New York’s Times Square on Friday, ahead of a scheduled vote next week on the company’s bid for rival Carmike Cinemas.
Friday’s protest is the idea of Washington, D.C. advocacy lawyer Richard Berman, who said his concerns stem from China-based Dalian Wanda Group’s controlling ownership of AMC Entertainment Holdings, based in Leawood.
Berman outlined his objections and concerns at ChinaOwnsUs.com. His fears include possible communist influence on American public opinion and government policy because of the China-based company’s ownership of America’s second-largest theater chain. Berman acknowledged that he has no examples of such influence since Wanda Group’s purchase of AMC in 2012.
In an emailed statement, AMC rejected such concerns, saying the company’s theaters are “run entirely by its American management team from its headquarters near Kansas City, where AMC has been located for all of its nearly 100-year history.”
It added that the company’s shares continue to trade publicly on the New York Stock Exchange and are held by U.S.-based institutional investors in addition to the Wanda Group.
“With regard to some silly or hysterical assertions we have just recently seen, Wanda does not participate in any of the day-to-day running of AMC. Nor does Wanda make any decisions related to which films play in AMC Theatres,” the statement said.
Wanda, it said, has been a beneficial owner by providing financial resources for renovations at AMC theaters.
“Any fearmongering assertions made to the contrary are mindless, ill-informed and simply wrong,” AMC’s statement said.
Earlier this month, AMC Entertainment agreed to buy Europe’s largest theater chain, London-based Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group, for $1.2 billion. It had agreed in March to pay $1.1 billion for Carmike Cinemas.
In January, Wanda Group, which operates China’s largest theater chain and many other businesses, paid $3.5 billion for Legendary Entertainment Group, the Hollywood movie production and finance company behind “Straight Out of Compton,” “The Dark Knight,” and other films.
Berman’s group will be handing out fliers and using a bullhorn to protest at the Times Square AMC theater.
A similar protest happened at a Carmike theater in the Atlanta area around the time of the original Carmike shareholders meeting in Columbus, Ga. Shareholders were to vote on the AMC deal until Carmike’s chief executive adjourned the meeting at AMC’s request until July 15. The meeting date was moved again to Monday.
Some Carmike investors have challenged the price AMC and Carmike’s board of directors agreed upon.
Foreign-based companies have made other investments in U.S. businesses. Pork producer Smithfield Foods Inc., with holdings that include Farmland Foods in Kansas City, was purchased by Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., based in Hong Kong. Shuanghui is now known as WH Group.
Similarly, Tokyo-based SoftBank Group Corp. purchased a controlling stake in Overland Park-based Sprint Corp.
All three deals received scrutiny from the federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The body reviews such purchases for their potential effect on national security. As in the Smithfield Foods and Sprint deals, the committee found no reason to block Wanda’s purchase of AMC.
“It bothers me. It bothers me a lot,” Berman said.