Box office attendance in the U.S. has been trending downward for years. Meanwhile, the amount of movies released each year has fallen, yet the number of actual movie theater screens has increased. If you're a big movie studio, this isn't too big of a deal; fewer people may be going to the movies, but the chance that they're watching your movie increases. If you're a theater owner, on the other hand, the drop in attendance and the rise in more screens playing the same movie means less money all-around.
So, if you're a theater owner, what's the quickest fix? Cut out the middle man. Acquire and distribute your own films; that way the money from tickets sold stays in your own pocket. Some small theater chains have already been doing this. Landmark Theaters, owned by Mark Cuban, plays all of 2929 Entertainment's films (also owned by Mark Cuban) and just last year the Alamo Drafthouse founded Drafthouse Films to release its own acquisitions. But in the world of U.S. movie theaters, they're small-time players compared to AMC and Regal Entertainment, the two chains that control nearly a third of all movie screens in the country.
That's why news that AMC and Regal want to unite to compete in the film-ownership arena is a potentially big deal in the industry.