Amazon Is Reportedly Looking to Buy a Movie Theater Chain

The company's potential move to acquire Landmark Theatres offers another way to leverage data, experts say

Amazon's next brick-and-mortar move could be acquiring movie theaters.
Amazon Studios

Amazon—coming soon to a big screen near you.

According to sources who spoke with Bloomberg, Amazon is reportedly looking to acquire Landmark Theatres, a 44-year-old movie theater chain, with 52 locations across the country. Bloomberg further reported that the owners are working with investment bank Stephens Inc. to close the deal. Deadline, however, reported that no, Amazon is not buying Landmark.

Amazon declined to comment.

Unlike the $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, this potential move by Amazon aligns more with the company’s strategy and established goals of entering the media and entertainment space, said a number of experts in the space.

“Amazon is already in the entertainment industry,” said Rebecca Lieb, cofounder and media analyst at Kaleido Insights. “It’s an additional source of customer data.”

Amazon’s ability to leverage data is key; the company can take consumer data into a whole new direction by owning a movie theater chain. Lieb said Amazon can target offers or products to consumers who watch movies; Robert Thompson, a professor of TV and pop culture at Syracuse University, said Amazon could use its own app and website to promote the movies showing at its theaters and sell tickets.

“The whole advantage of continuing to expand the empire of Amazon is to roll all this stuff into the synergistic efficiency that Amazon is able to deliver,” Thompson said.

A possible roadblock in the company’s potential acquisition would be the 1948 Supreme Court case of United States v. Paramount Pictures, in which the court decided film studios couldn’t also own theaters. However, the Department of Justice announced on Aug. 2 that it was looking into whether to change or eliminate these “Paramount Consent Decrees,” a series of regulations that came out of the Supreme Court decision.

Lieb said that Amazon would not be alone in facing any cooperation issues and that various conflicts of interests already exist in the current landscape.

Brad Adgate, an independent media consultant, on the other hand could see some people suing Amazon over the acquisition and bringing up a lot of questions about what content Amazon would play in its movie theaters, what ads it should show and how the company would then work with Disney or Universal.

“This is just another example of Amazon being a frenemy with these companies,” Adgate said.

For Amazon, getting into the movie theater business could also be a play for legitimacy, Lieb said, and would give films from Amazon Studios a bigger chance of receiving Academy Award nominations.

“Theatrical distribution is still relevant,” Thompson said. “[This] kind of diversification makes sense.”

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