Cineplex to be acquired by Cineworld Group

The $2.8-billion deal is expected to close in the first half of 2020, giving the company access to "global opportunities."

U.K.-based cinema operator Cineworld Group is to acquire Toronto-based Cineplex in a deal valued at around $2.8 billion.

Under the deal, Cineworld has agreed to acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Cineplex for $34 per share in cash. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the first half of 2020.

The agreement includes a seven week “go-shop period” in which Cineplex can actively solicit and enter negotiations with other potential buyers. That window ends on Feb. 2, 2020, with Cineplex noting that it does not intend to provide updates unless its board of directors determines it is necessary.

Cineplex, which went public in 2003, operates a chain of 165 movie theatres across the country. In a press release issued Monday, the Canadian company said the deal will ensure it “has access to the global opportunities required to compete effectively in an evolving entertainment landscape,” adding that the proposed transaction “creates a new partner for the Canadian film industry to collaborate with, as Cineworld Group has extensive distribution and exhibition businesses outside of Canada.”

Cineworld, soon to be the biggest operator of movie theatres in North America, is already among the largest cinema chain companies in the world. Before the transaction, Cineworld says it operates 9,498 screens across 786 sites in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Israel.

The company made a major play in the North American market two years ago when it acquired Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment for around USD$3.6 billion. That deal brought more than 7,300 Regal screens under the Cineworld umbrella.

With the addition of Cineplex, Cineworld says it will own more than 11,200 screens.

“Cineworld Group shares our passion for entertainment and mirrors our commitment to delivering exceptional guest experiences through state-of-the-art technology. The entertainment industry continues to transform and we are pleased that through this agreement we are ensuring Cineplex is part of the next era of global entertainment,” said Cineplex president and CEO Ellis Jacob in a statement.

Scotiabank is acting as Cineplex’s exclusive financial advisor, while its legal advisors are Goodmans LLP (Canada), Herbert Smith Freehills LLP (U.K.) and Baker & McKenzie (U.S.).

In recent years, Cineplex has diversified its business model – helped in recent months by the new chief digital and technology officer role – so it is not so reliant on box office revenue, which has become increasingly dictated by the theatrical success of Hollywood franchises. Those include Rec Room and Playdium arcade centres, bringing TopGolf to the Canadian market and the continuing expansion of its Scene loyalty program. On the theatre side of its business, its has been expanding features that “enhance the movie-going experience,” such as food service with VIP, motion and sensory effects during the movie with D-BOX and The Void virtual reality games, as well as new theatre concepts that include live events spaces. Last week, it added food from its theatres and Rec Room concepts to food delivery service SkipTheDishes. And, finally, it has continued to expand the reach of its digital advertising business.

In its most recent financial filing, Cineplex reported Q3 revenues of $418.4 million, up from $386.4 million the year prior. Cineplex employs around 13,000 people across Canada and the U.S. and says around 70 million guests use its theatres and location-based entertainment venues annually across Canada.

With files from Josh Kolm. A version of this story original appeared on Playback.