Cineworld Group, the second-largest theater operator in Europe, will soon own that title worldwide: The New York Times reports that the British company will buy Regal Entertainment Group for $3.6 billion. The merger will establish Cineworld-Regal as the de facto rival of AMC Entertainment, which itself was acquired by a foreign entity — China’s Dalian Wanda Group — five years ago. Discussions between Cineworld and Regal were first announced last week.
“Regal is a great business and provides Cineworld with the optimal platform on which we can continue our growth strategy,” Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger in a statement. Cineworld plans to pay $23 cash for each Regal share; shares were priced at $20.73 each when trading closed yesterday, and $22.62 as of press time. Currently, Regal is overseen by the Anschutz Corporation.
Regal Cinemas, United Artists, and Hollywood Theaters are all Regal Entertainment Group brands. Cineworld-Regal will support 9,500 screens in 10 nations, per The Times. According to the Regal Cinemas website, as of September 30 REG consisted of 7,315 screens in 43 states plus additional U.S. territories; in December 2015, Cineworld crossed the 2,000-screen threshold in a total of nine European countries.
Cineworld’s previous holdings include Picturehouse Cinemas, an arthouse chain in the United Kingdom. According to The Guardian, at the start of the BFI London Film Festival in early October, staffers from five Picturehouse Cinemas theaters protested for in Leicester Square for higher wages, sick pay, and the reinstatement of terminated union representatives. Picturehouse threatened to fire the strikers.
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Just over a year ago, AMC claimed the title of the world’s largest movie exhibitor after purchasing Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, Europe’s largest cinema operator; and Carmike Cinemas, a Georgia-headquartered outfit. At the time, its total numbered more than 10,400 screens internationally.
Still, as of late August, Summer 2017 produced the weakest U.S. box office returns in eight years, with ticket sales down 15 percent from the previous summer, as theater owners compete with streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix for viewer attention.