US theatre circuit AMC has raised the stakes in the consolidation of North American exhibition, offering $62.5m for bankruptcy-bound rival General Cinemas.

The offer surpasses by $20m the cash portion of the latest offer submitted by Onex Corp. and Oaktree Capital Management, the investment firms behind the $247m buyout offer for Loews Cineplex. Oaktree is partnered with billionaire Philip Anschutz in a bid for Edwards Theaters. Anschutz brought United Artists Theatres out of bankruptcy in exchange for a 55% stake. AMC's dramatic offer increase suggest that old guard exhibitors are not about to let the newcomers grab all the booty.

The new bid saw General Cinemas' parent GC Companies agree to a delay in the bankruptcy auction while Onex and Oaktree consider their next move. General Cinemas creditors are known to be preparing their own restructuring plan.

A crippling combination of over-building of new theatres and too-gradual closing of old venues has brought 11 major circuits to bankruptcy courts in the US and Canada in the past 12 months. Missouri-based AMC staved off its own potential demise by cutting theatres and raising prices. Still, its debt hovered near $700m until another investment firm, Apollo Capital Management, acquired a $250m, 60% stake in April.