Business

AMC Theatres Knows There’s No Place Like Home

Despite AMC’s controversial decision to relocate to Kansas, the theatre giant is settling nicely into its new headquarters.

While the Kansas City region has held a starring role as home base to cinema theater giant AMC, the company’s blockbuster position as a coveted corporate citizen has played out in the area as a dramatic story of regional rivalry between the two sides of the state line.

The story began several years ago when AMC Theatres -the second-largest cinema operator in the country – announced plans to relocate its downtown Kansas City, Mo., headquarters to a more modern and spacious facility. Although dozens of other cities around the country were likely viable, AMC ultimately moved just a few miles south into Leawood, Kan.

Breaking ground on the new headquarters in the spring of 2012 meant AMC could incorporate its cutting-edge digital technology and build to its own specifications. The customized space also meant more cohesion among its staff as well as the opportunity to incorporate amenities that serve to attract and retain top employees.

MODERN DIGS

As its name implies, AMC’s Theatre Support Center (TSC)—the headquarter’s moniker—is designed to navigate the technological network of the chain’s 342 theatres and 4,941 screens around the country. AMC Theatres occupies 95 percent of the four-story, $30 million facility, which totals 130,000 square feet of space. The new digs, which provide plenty of elbow room to the company’s 450 local employees and contractors, is located at 117th Street and Nall Avenue in the mixed-use Park Place development. It’s also just across the street from AMC Town Center 20.

The mix of factors going into the decision as to where to relocate was extensive, according to Sun Dee Mills Larson, AMC vice president of communications.

In addition to requirements such as a state-of-the-art digital command center in a facility big enough to house current employee head count, as well as close proximity to an operating theater, executives were also considering the company’s potential for growth. Continued development and deployment of products and services—primarily food and technology—were critical components in their decision-making process.

Besides built-in wireless and other essential technology tools, the new building at Park Place includes a test kitchen to try out new menu items, as concessions are so central to revenue, Larson says. And with AMC Theatres Town Center 20 so close by, items can be tested in real time. In other words, decision-makers’ observations about what concessions and other items moviegoers buy and which ones they pass on are easily observable.

AMC THEATRES ON EXITING KC

Kansas City is AMC’s 21st largest market. Its history, which dates back to the 1920s when it operated as Durwood Theatres, has been intimately linked to downtown Kansas City for decades. After operating from various downtown locations, the company moved into 97,000 square-feet of space at 10 Main Center in 2002, where employees were spread throughout seven floors and various smaller offices around the city.

In order to get everything the company needs to succeed, AMC executives were willing to be picky enough about its new facility that they considered leaving the region entirely. “We didn’t limit our search to Kansas City,” Larson admits.

But based on AMC’s strong history with Kansas City, consideration toward employees was a distinctly high priority in determining the new location. Using a giant map of the Kansas City region, executives pinpointed the locations of the headquarters staff’s homes. As it turns out, Larson says, the vast majority live in Johnson County on the Kansas side or in South Kansas City on the Missouri side, a definite advantage for the Leawood location.

AMC’S LIVE WELL PROGRAM THAT PROMOTES A HEALTHY STAFF

Making the daily commute to work shorter wasn’t the only advantage the cinema execs noticed. Leawood city planners have incorporated environmentally friendly spaces throughout its corporate offices. The green space translates to trails and bike paths readily available to workers who might want to stretch their legs at lunchtime. “Every day, I see someone who’s either coming off the trail or hopping on a bike,” Larson says.

The emphasis on movement plays into AMC’s Live Well program. The program encourages employees to make healthy lifestyle choices. The AMC Theatre Support Center was likewise built to accommodate this end.

With an eye focused on recruitment and retention benefits, AMC executives wanted to make sure employees have access to bikes and helmets, treadmill-like walk stations so employees can stroll while checking email or looping in conference calls, and a company kitchen where employees can purchase a sandwich or salad via thumbprint.

Still, having healthy lifestyle choices readily accessible takes some getting used to. At just over a month in its new offices, Larson says trails around the facility don’t yet face a daily stampede by AMC employees. As workers become more accustomed to their new environment, a likely uptick in use will occur. “You have to remember that you have them,” she says of the amenities.

CREATING A LOCAL STIR

Moving from its previous downtown Kansas City, Mo., location, AMC’s relocation into Kansas caused a local stir on a couple of fronts. First, AMC has always been considered central to downtown revitalization efforts—or was certainly the linchpin of the retail entertainment side of the equation.

In published reports, executives espouse their continued commitment to downtown, pointing to the AMC Mainstreet 6 and Midland By AMC operations in the Power & Light District. The company also has budgeted a $4 million renovation of the AMC Ward Parkway 14 complex. Secondly, AMC’s move across the state line included millions in state tax incentives. The lure highlights the perpetual competition between Kansas and Missouri played out so prevalently in Kansas City’s bi-state metro.

Although committed to seeing downtown revitalization through, it’s undeniable that the downtown employment and tax base took a hit with AMC’s exit from the area. Kansas political leadership, however, saw enough value in AMC’s residency to hammer out a deal to give the company $40 million in tax incentives.

In a press release covering AMC’s Park Place grand opening in August, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said, “It is wonderful to see this new state-of-the-art facility right here in Kansas. The new headquarters will continue making the Kansas economy strong and vibrant.”

GERRY LOPEZ ON SETTLING IN

AMC President and CEO Gerry Lopez

AMC’s downtown space, where employees were much more dispersed, meant it was “hard for teams to connect,” Larson explains. AMC chose to trade off the urban vibe— which included tight meeting space and a lack of spontaneity in the workflow process— for open space and efficiency. Obviously, gaining some 30,000 square feet of space has its advantages too. Teams that tend to collaborate with each other are now situated in the new office space to where they can achieve a fluid workflow process.

“The TSC was designed with an open floor plan to provide our associates with an efficient, collaborative environment and the most innovative amenities available,” AMC President and CEO Gerry Lopez said in a press release.

Lopez went on to describe the new corporate headquarters as a “thriving, productive space” where employees “provide superior support to our front lines —our theatres—so we can deliver the best possible experience to our guests.”

Larson is more succinct in her portrayal of the building and its open floor plan design.

“We worked to break down walls,” she says. “The new building is amazing.”

If team leads see an issue on the horizon, for instance, the new space offers enough space for informal powwows. In cases where whole departments need to check in with each other in a more formalized setting, scheduling a meeting room is no longer a project in and of itself, Larson remarks.

Last but not least, as a practice, she says, AMC facilities are located in high-volume retail and entertainment districts. And the Leawood location fit the bill. “We are where people are,” Larson says.

Story by Ramona Paden