AMC theater chain names Starwood boss Aron as new CEO

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. is naming Starwood Hotels and Resorts' interim CEO Adam Aron as its new chief executive, replacing interim CEO Craig Ramsey. Aron starts Jan. 4.

Aron, 61, headed Starwood as interim boss since February. He is also the former CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers and has been chief executive of Vail Resorts Inc. and Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd.

Ramsey will remain chief financial officer and report to Aron.

Leawood, Kansas-based AMC, the nation's second largest movie theater chain, has been publicly traded since December 2013. It is controlled by Chinese theater giant Dalian Wanda Group Co. Ltd., which bought it in September 2012 in a $2.6 billion deal.

Shares in AMC rose $1.22, or 5.3 percent, to close Tuesday at $24.13.

Aron said in a statement he'll aim to "raise the bar" on the movie-going experience and bolster its AMC Stubs rewards program. He said in an interview that he has successfully invested in loyalty programs throughout his career in the hospitality business, and he'd look to refresh AMC's presence on social media platforms.

"I'd like to reach out to people interested in motion pictures long before they come to our theaters and after they leave," he said in a joint interview with Ramsey.

AMC is the largest exhibitor using Imax's giant screens in the U.S. and parent Wanda is the biggest Imax distributor in China. Their combined presence makes Imax deployment more profitable than if they operated separately, Ramsey said. Aron said the companies' combined size makes technology upgrades more efficient.

The executives also said they'd look to bring upscale amenities such as plush reclining chairs, full bars and expanded food options to more markets, including theaters owned by Starplex Cinemas, a 33-theater chain that AMC agreed to acquire for $172 million in July. That deal is expected to close before the end of the year.

The Justice Department said Tuesday it reached a settlement with AMC and Starplex that calls for them to divest theaters in Berlin, Connecticut, and East Windsor, New Jersey, in order for the deal to be completed.

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