US and international exhibitors AMC Entertainment and LoewsCineplex have agreed to merge, creating a cinema chain with 5,900 screens inthe US and 13 other territories, including the UK, France, Spain, Japan, SouthKorea and Mexico.

The merged entity, to be known as AMC Entertainment, willown, manage or have an interest in 450 cinemas. AMC is currently the second biggest US chain and Loews Cineplex the third. The new entity will rank a much closer second to Regal Entertainment, which has 553 cinemas and 6,264 screens.

The companies said they had not yet determined whether themerger, which expected to close within six to nine months, would result in anycinema closures (AMC and Loews Cineplex both have cinemas in Spain).

Besides its operations in major European and Asian markets,the merged company will also have cinemas in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile,Hong Kong, Portugal and Uruguay.

The combined operation will be headquartered in Kansas City,Missouri and will be headed by current AMC chairman, CEO and president Peter CBrown.

In a statement, Brown said the definitive merger agreementsigned by the companies "provides us with a unique opportunity to blend thebest practices of two remarkable organizations as we create an extraordinarycompany."

Both circuits changed hands last year after the round ofacquisitions and mergers in the US exhibition industry that helped PhilipAnschutz's Regal become the nation's largest cinema operator. AMC, whoseholding company Marquee Holdings is controlled by affiliates of JP MorganPartners and Apollo Management, was bought by private investors for about $2bn.Loews was acquired by Bain Capital, Carlyle Group and Spectrum Equity foraround $1.5bn.

Marquee will be the holding company for the mergedoperation, with Bain, Carlyle and Spectrum holding about 40% of the outstandingstock.

Currently, AMC operates 229 theatres with 3,546 screens inthe US, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Portugal, Spain and the UK.

Loews owns, operates or has an interest in 221 theatres with2,218 screens in the US, Mexico, South Korea and Spain.