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The Force was strong for AMC Entertainment Holdings (AMC) - Get AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc. Class A Report in the first quarter. Long-running monster hit Star Wars: The ForceAwakens helped power the nation's second-largest theater chain to a blockbuster first quarter, with record earnings of $28.3 million, compared with $6.1 million in the quarter a year ago.

The acquisition-minded exhibitor, controlled by China's Dalian Wanda Group, on Friday reported earnings per share of 29 cents that beat the 21 cents a share expected by analysts. Quarterly revenue increased by 17% to $766 million, however, just short of the Street's $769.3 million consensus, according to a survey of analysts by Thomson Reuters (TRI) - Get Thomson Reuters Corporation Report.

AMC said its results were driven by the box office success of The Force Awakens, the highest-grossing film of all time released in the prior quarter, as well as newer releases Deadpool,Zooptopia and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The films helped drive AMC's 15% hike in admission revenue, compared with the industry's 12.7% jump in overall box office, the company said.

Its earnings were helped by the company's recent focus on acquisitions. AMC, which has interests in 387 theaters and more than 5,400 screens, acquired the 33-theater Starplex Cinemas chain in December, adding 346 screens in primarily small and midsize markets in 12 states.

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On March 3, AMC announced a $1.1 billion acquisition of Carmike Cinemas (CKEC) , which would add another 2,954 screens in mostly midsize nonurban markets.

"The recently completed Starplex acquisition and the anticipated consummation of the announced purchase of Carmike Cinemas should further serve to significantly accelerate the pace of our growth," AMC chief executive and president Adam Aron said in a statement.

Despite the record earnings, however, AMC shares were down 4.5% Friday morning to $26.94. The stock is up 12.3% in 2016.

The Leawood, Kan., company on Friday said it spent $25.8 million after contributions from theater landlords in the first quarter to revamp its theaters in a bid to lure customers. Its rebuild program includes adding reclining seats, improving food service, opening dine-in theaters and providing advanced sound and digital equipment. Those improvements helped boost food and beverage revenue per patron by 6.3% to a record $4.76 per person. Overall, concession revenue increased by 21.8% to $244.2 million, according to AMC CFO Craig Ramsey.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.