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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) _ Shares of Regal Entertainment Group, the nation's largest movie theater chain, gained almost 15 percent Thursday in their Wall Street trading debut.

The company, pieced together by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, raised $342 million after selling 18 million shares priced at $19 each Wednesday evening. Shares began trading Thursday under the symbol RGC on the New York Stock Exchange, and closed at $21.75.

The initial public offering was the second entertainment-related IPO this year after Lin TV Corp., said Kyle Huske, an analyst for IPO.com.

Lin TV shares gained 13 percent on their first day of trading last week, and memories of that response may have helped Regal. Huske said Regal also has good name recognition among investors who have been thinking positively about the movie business.

``Regal is a name people know,'' she said. ``With movies, prices are only going up, and people realize they're paying a fortune on popcorn and Coke.''

Anschutz formed the company last year after gaining control of Regal Cinemas Corp., United Artists Theater Co. and Edwards Theatres Inc. while all three were in bankruptcy proceedings.

Regal Entertainment operates 5,886 screens at 561 theaters in 36 states _ nearly one of every five theaters in the country.

Money raised from the initial public offering will be used to retire debt, to pay for additional acquisitions and to fund Regal CineMedia, a division that sells ads placed in theaters.

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On the Net:

http://www.regalcinemas.com