IPO for Movie Theater Chain AMC Gets Three Stars

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The initial public offering (IPO) for AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. (NYSE: AMC) priced 18.4 million shares at the low end of its expected range of $18 to $20 after markets closed Tuesday night, and the stock began trading Wednesday morning. The theater chain, which is controlled by one of China’s richest men, raised about $314 million in the IPO, after expenses. The company plans to use the proceeds to reduce debt and for capital spending.

Dalian Wanda Group bought the chain last year for $2.6 billion, and at the IPO price, the AMC chain is now valued at $3.45 billion, including debt. Dalian Wanda will hold an 80% stake in AMC following the IPO. Competing chains Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC), Cinemark Holdings Inc. (NYSE: CNK) and National CineMedia Inc. (NASDAQ: NCMI) carry market values of $2.99 billion, $3.75 billion and $1.1 billion, respectively.

In a unique move, AMC allowed members of its loyalty program to purchase $100 to $2,500 work of IPO stock without paying fees. The loyalty program has about 2.5 million members.

The average ticket price for a movie this year is just over $8, according to Box Office Mojo, and gross receipts are running a bit lower than last year when the total of $10.84 billion set an all-time high. There are still two weeks left in 2013 and several movies are scheduled to open around Christmas, but the $600 million difference between the current total for 2013 and 2012′s full-year total is unlikely to be completely closed.

AMC shares opened at $19.18, about 6.5% above the IPO price, and rose further to $19.58 in the first 45 minutes of trading. Not a blockbuster or even a four-star rating, but three stars seems fair.

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