New popcorn business won’t be a ‘gamechanger’ for AMC, says rival movie theater CEO

A Cinemark employee serves popcorn to a customer at a concession stand at Cinemark’s Century 16 at the South Point Hotel & Casino on August 14, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Popcorn may be a staple at the movie theater, but selling it at retail locations won’t be a “gamechanger” for AMC Entertainment, said Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi on Friday.

On Thursday, AMC announced it would begin selling its popcorn at around a dozen mall kiosks and would bring prepackaged and microwaveable popcorn to supermarkets and convenience stores in 2022. It is the latest attempt by the cinema chain to diversify its revenue in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Shares of the company were up around 3.4% during midday trading Friday.

“I don’t think it is necessarily a gamechanger for anyone, because popcorn is very important to all of us,” Zoradi told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin in an exclusive interview on “The Exchange” Friday.

He said Cinemark has been selling prepackaged popcorn at its movie theaters for four years and has been testing kiosks in malls in Brazil.

Zoradi said it’s more important for Cinemark to create a “great cinematic experience” for guests in order to continue to drive strong ticket sales in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Popcorn and concessions [are] a big part of that,” he said. “But, the movie drives them back in the first place.”

Representatives for AMC did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Zoradi noted that around 65% of Cinemark’s more than 500 theaters have been outfitted with luxury reclining and headed seats and the company recently launched an online ordering service which allows customers to have food and drinks delivered to their seats.

Shares of Cinemark jumped more than 5% Friday after the company reported a narrowed loss for the third quarter compared to the year ago period. Like many movie theater chains, Cinemark was hit hard by shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the box office has been buoyed by increased consumer confidence and a string of popular blockbusters.

October posted the highest ticket sales haul of any month so far in 2021. It’s estimated that moviegoers spent around $637.9 million on tickets over the last 31 days, as they ventured out to theaters to see “No Time to Die,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” “Halloween Kills” and “Dune.”

Cinemark said October was the company’s highest-grossing box office performance month in the Covid-19 era. The month’s results were more than double the receipts of May 2021.

In November and December, movie theaters will benefit from the release of a number of films that were previously postponed. “Eternals,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” and “Encanto” are slated for November and “West Side Story,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Matrix Resurrections” are due out in December.

AMC is slated to report its third-quarter earnings on Monday.