Edwards Theatres Circuit has agreed to a recapitalisation plan that will see Phillip Anschutz's Anschutz Corp and distressed debt investor Oaktree Capital Management assume a significant percentage of its equity, so that the ailing circuit can emerge from bankruptcy protection. Terms of the proposed transaction were not disclosed.

In past months, Anschutz, a Denver-based billionaire, has emerged as the pre-eminent stakeholder in North American exhibition. Anschutz acquired a large portion of the debt of United Artist Theatres last September and has since converted that into a 55% stake in the company. More recently, Anschutz, as well as Oaktree have acquired a percentage of the debt of Regal Cinemas - with more than 4,000 screens, the largest exhibitor in North America.

Edwards' president Stephen Coffey said that he expects a definitive agreement to be completed within the coming weeks. "The proposed recapitalisation, along with strategic restructuring initiatives completed by our company during the past six months, will allow Edwards to emerge from the Chapter 11 process as a more efficient operation with a realistic capital structure and a strong competitive future."

Edwards, which currently operates 63 theatres in Southern California, Idaho and Texas, filed for Chapter 11 protection in August 2000.