Independent UK exhibitor SBC International Cinemas has acquired Warner Village Cinemas, the UK exhibition joint venture between Warner Bros International Theatres and Village Roadshow, for $402m (£250m).
At the same time, SBC is rumoured to be eyeing another local circuit, Cine-UK, which, with a current estate of 30 sites and 329 screens, has plans to build six further cinemas throughout the UK.
The current acquisition already creates the second largest cinema circuit in the UK behind Odeon Cinemas: adding 36 Warner Village sites to SBC's existing four, creating a chain of nearly 400 screens. SBC also has one site in Portugal, and one in Taiwan.
Under a new company called Vue (pronounced "View") the entire circuit will be re-branded over the next six months.
Private equity firm Boston Ventures, which founded SBC in 1998, is providing significant additional funding for the acquisition and has been joined as equal partners by private equity firms Clarity Partners and Legal & General Ventures. CIBC World Markets provided the debt financing for the acquisition.
"Warner Village did a great job in constructing a very high quality portfolio of multiplex cinemas," J.Timothy Richards, president & CEO of Vue, said in a statement. "We will continue to expand and enhance this platform to ensure that we have the leading, most modern and best equipped cinema circuit in the UK. The Vue brand will become synonymous with the best screens, the best sound and the best seating, to create the best possible cinematic experience. We will make sure this appeals to everyone by offering a greater variety and diverse range of films".
Millard Ochs, president of WBIT, said: "We are proud of the market-leading circuit we've built in the UK and are confident that under Vue's experienced management team, the business will grow from strength to strength. Selling our interest at this time enables us to further our strategy of seeding new markets."
SBC's acquisition of Warner Village comes hot on the heels of Cinven's $690m sale of Odeon Cinemas in March this year, to a consortium of investors comprising German investment bank WestLB, the UK's Entertainment Film Distributors and the private property group Rotch, owned by brothers Robert and Vincent Tchenguiz.