AMC Hires Stephen Colanero as Its First CMO

Movie Theater Chain Plans to Focus Marketing on Customer Experience, Loyalty Programs, Technology

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- AMC Entertainment has hired Stephen Colanero as its first chief marketing officer. Mr. Colanero, who previously was VP-marketing at RadioShack,* will take over marketing at AMC, which operates 304 theaters and more than 4,500 screens in five countries. He will report directly to President-CEO Gerry Lopez.

AMC wants to "bring the focus that we bring to the guest experience to a brand-new level," Mr. Lopez said in an exclusive interview with Ad Age explaining the decision to add a CMO. "In order to do that, we thought the functional area that could use some extra horsepower was marketing."

The degree to which movies are changing because of technological innovations like 3-D and Imax made Mr. Colanero a particularly good fit, said Mr. Lopez, who himself is a relative newcomer to AMC, having taken the reins in March. Mr. Lopez most recently headed Starbucks' consumer package-goods business, overseeing the brand's investments in everything from bottled Frappuccino to Hershey's chocolates.

"Part of what Starbucks taught me was no matter what you're doing, you can always improve your relevance to your customer," Mr. Lopez said. "Where at Starbucks it was day in and day out, here it's week in and week out. It's not a daily drink of coffee, but the point of relevancy should matter to all marketers equally."

One of Mr. Colanero's first orders of business will be spearheading a revamp of AMC Moviewatcher, the company's loyalty program. He will also manage VPs and directors in charge of marketing, corporate communications, national sales, internet strategies and creative services.

Blockbuster vet
Mr. Colanero is no stranger to the movies. Prior to RadioShack, where he oversaw the company's brand positioning and customer-marketing initiatives, he held several marketing and business development roles at Blockbuster. There he developed Blockbuster's rewards program and the overwhelmingly popular "End Late Fees" program.

"I look forward to leading the AMC marketing and communications team as we explore ways to drive guest loyalty and reinvigorate the excitement of going to the movies," Mr. Colanero said in a statement. "AMC is an industry leader in providing an unparalleled entertainment experience to guests, and I'm excited to help develop new marketing programs around the enhanced content now available to guests through digital projection systems, 3-D technology and Imax."

Though AMC's revenue was about flat for the six months ended Oct. 1, according to the company's most recent SEC filing, the theater chain lost $8 million during the quarter ended Oct. 1. The company made only $636,000 for the 26 weeks ended Oct. 1, down from $11.7 million during the year-earlier period. Net earnings for the six months ended Oct. 1 were reduced by $11.3 million for expense related to refinancing debt.

For the full year, however, Mr. Lopez said box office receipts are still up at AMC in the high single digits. And according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, year-to-date domestic box office for the industry is up 8% over last year, to $9.7 billion. A big reason is technology, as 3-D and Imax experiences command higher ticket prices. A number of the year's big films, such as "Up," "Ice Age" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," were all in 3-D. That's particularly helpful at a time when consumers have been cutting back on everything from vacations to meals at restaurants.

"I don't care how nice your TV is at home or how nice your home stereo is," Mr. Lopez said. "My screen is the only one that can do 3-D." And that's a big reason why, he said, "technology is kind of riding to the rescue" for movie theaters.

AMC isn't a big-time ad spender, with only under $26 million spent mostly in newspapers during 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Mr. Lopez conceded that much of the brand's marketing potential is with the in-theater experience, and the quality of movies being produced. AMC has also looked for ancillary revenues, such as event-based showings. Mr. Lopez said screenings of Metropolitan Opera productions in recent years "have been a runaway success." AMC will be looking for similar opportunities moving forward.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Mr. Colanero was RadioShack's CMO. He was VP-marketing.

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