Took a few days, but last night I finally got a call back from John Weis, head of investor relations at Kansas City-based Entertainment Properties Trust, which owns the building that has, since May 1995, housed the AMC Grand 24. On Thursday, AMC said it's outta there by no later than November, as it opted not to renew its lease for reasons that remain unspecified outside of EPT offered an "untenable" lease renewal option. Which left one other big question: What does EPT intend to do with the massive theater, once the largest in the world?
"Find another theater operator," Weis tells Unfair Park. Simple as that. "It's a good location and among the Top 20 highest-grossing theaters in the Dallas metro, so we'll move forward and look to release the property. AMC is just closing up shop -- they don't own the property or the land. Tenants come and go, and we'll attempt further negotiations if they're interested in staying, or we'll find another theater operator."
Weis wouldn't get specific about why AMC had decided to leave; he wouldn't say how long EPT and the exhibitor had been in lease-extension negotiations or why they broke down, leading to last week's announcement. He'll just say it was their "corporate decision" and leave it at that. But, of course, he thinks it's a mistake: "Dallas is a very, very strong exhibition market," he says. And, again, he mentions that the AMC is still pulling in decent dollars.
I asked him if he was surprised by last week's announcement. He says no, since it came after an extended back-and-forth. But he will not get into a war with AMC. Because, who knows, maybe it'll decide to stay. But, probably not: "AMC is a great operator and a great tenant, but it's their choice," he says.
So, then, since the announcement, have any other exhibitors stepped up to say they're interested? Again, Weis refuses to be specific.
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"One, it's a great location, and it has historically done well," he says. "It's a Top 20-grossing theater in the market. When we've got something to tell our investors and the public about, we'll let everyone know. But AMC is still there till the end of the year. The lease has a specific end date. If they leave early, rent's still due. And on our side we'll talk to other theater operators. Others know it grosses well, it's a good location. This is a decision by AMC -- it doesn't fit in their corporate strategy. That appears to be what has happened."