Theater chain AMC explores NFTs after big screen return boosts sales

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An AMC theatre is pictured amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo/File Photo

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Nov 8 (Reuters) - AMC Entertainment's (AMC.N) chief said on Monday the theater chain was in talks with Hollywood studios to launch non-fungible tokens (NFTs), after the company handily beat estimates for quarterly revenue as moviegoers returned to the big screen.

The company, which is looking to accept bitcoin as a payment method, said it was also exploring launching its own cryptocurrency and selling its own brand of popcorn in grocery stores.

"This is the 21st century after all, and it would seem that there may be a real opportunity for AMC in these areas," CEO Adam Aron said in a post-earnings call, referring to its foray into NFTs, a type of digital asset which uses blockchain to record the ownership of items such as images and videos.

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But the talks were still preliminary and there was no assurance, he said.

The world's largest movie-theater company had struggled during the pandemic as attendance came to a standstill, but rising COVID-19 vaccinations, easing curbs and new titles such as "Shang-Chi" and "Black Widow" are helping fill up cinema halls again.

Still, Aron warned of more challenges ahead and said the company needed to sell more tickets as adjusted core earnings was below pandemic levels.

AMC's shares dropped nearly 5% in extended trading, but have risen over twenty times in value so far this year, largely driven by an army of retail investors coordinating their buying on forums such as Reddit's WallStreetBets.

On a per share basis, it lost 44 cents. Analysts were expecting a 53 cents loss, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue rose to $763.2 million from $119.5 million, beating estimates of $708.3 million.

"However ... no one should have any illusions that there is not more challenge ahead of us still to be met. The virus continues to be with us," Aron said.

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Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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