AMC Might Branch Out Into Booze

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Enticing people back into movie theater seats has been an ongoing struggle for the country's biggest cinema chains. A combination of slowly ebbing pandemic fears, the rise of on-demand streaming services, and the consolidation of Hollywood's resources into a small handful of mega-blockbusters means that attendance has dwindled and movie theaters have resorted to all kinds of tactics to win back customers, some of which don't even involve Nicole Kidman.

AMC continues to explore new ways to diversify its revenue streams and increase profits in a time of decreased theater attendance. The latest indication of where the chain might branch out comes straight from the Chief Executive Officer, and it sounds like it'll involve private-label booze.

On September 15, CEO Adam Aron posted a poll on X (formerly Twitter) asking what the company's private label wine should be called, were it to become an official part of the menu. Although Aron was speaking hypothetically, maybe even jokingly, the question was so detailed that it's safe to presume the tweet was more than just a passing notion.

"We launched our own brand of home popcorn, and soon will launch our own branded line of premium gourmet chocolate candies," reads Aron's post. "If we offered at our theatres our own branded wine, too, we might name it 'Chateau Simian' or 'Saint Simian' in honor of our retail investors. Your opinion?"

The use of "simian" here is a winking callout to so-called apes, or retail investors who treat AMC like a meme stock just like they did with GameStop. Interestingly, the final results of the poll, which had 18,300 votes, showed 32.7% of voters selected "Do other things"; in other words, they were against the company pursuing its own wine label and would prefer it to innovate elsewhere. Meanwhile, 30.9% of voters want the hypothetical wine to be named Saint Simian.

The tweet did not specify whether the wine would be sold in theaters or whether it's yet another AMC play for retail shelf space. Some AMC theater locations have a MacGuffins Bar, which offers specialty cocktails, beer, and wine, though the varieties of wine currently vary by location.

The wine poll might have purely been a joke about apes, however, because a few days later Aron posted another poll asking whether hypothetical AMC craft beer should be called Great Ape Ale. So far, 59.5% of votes are in favor of the name.  

Whether or not these products actually come to fruition, it's not the first time AMC has ventured into private label products. In March of this year, the movie theater company announced it would be bringing its own brand of popcorn to Walmart stores nationwide, in both pre-bagged and microwaveable formats.

The brand also revealed in 2023 its plans to sell its own private label candy. Part of the motivation behind this decision is that wholesale brand-name companies are allegedly charging AMC up to 33% more for their products due to supply chain shortages. Selling its own candy has the potential to net AMC a higher profit margin, so long as the quality of the candy is good enough for people to buy it.

As AMC figures out how to wring profits from a business model in flux, it has wisely set its sights on food and drink as an area in which to innovate. If they put Nicole Kidman on the bottle, the lines will be out the door.