Carmike Cinemas was founded when Carl L. Patrick acquired Martin Theaters from Fuqua Industries in 1982. The following year, Carmike acquired a theater chain called Video Independent Theaters, adding 85 screens in the process. In 1986 and 1989, Carmike added a total of 325 screens with its purchases of Essantee Theaters and Consolidated theaters, respectively. In 1991, Carmike formed a joint venture with Excellence Theaters, adding 353 screens in the process. Carmike also added hundreds of its own screens simultaneously.
In 2000, Carmike Cinemas declared bankruptcy. At the time, it was approximately $650 million in debt and was failing to make payments to its investors. Carmike was forced to reduce its footprint in the theater industry and cut the number of theaters it operated by about 33 percent. In 2002, Carmike finally emerged from bankruptcy in January. By 2005, the company was expanding and making acquisitions once again.
As of 2015, Carmike Cinemas' 278 locations are spread across 41 states and have a total of 2,917 screens. Over 250 of these theaters and over 1,000 screens are equipped with 3D capability. Carmike theaters are typically found in more rural areas; the company leaves urban areas to Regal Entertainment Group, AMC and other larger theater companies. According to its investor relations website, Carmike is the fourth largest U.S. exhibitor.