Friday 16 November 2018

Omniplex buys €8m rival chain Gaiety Cinema Group

Movie Pitch Perfect
Movie Pitch Perfect

Sarah McCabe

Omniplex founder Kevin Anderson celebrated his 100th birthday on Thursday - with a deal that will continue to grow his cinema empire.

Omniplex is buying a smaller rival as the group pursues aggressive expansion following its split from IMC.

The company, which is owned by the multi-millionaire Anderson family, is paying €8m for the Gaiety Cinema Group. The deal is expected to close on June 19.

It adds another two cinemas to Omniplex's stable, bringing its total to 22 - 11 in the Republic and 11 in Northern Ireland. The new cinemas are in Sligo and Arklow. Omniplex, which said it couldn't comment on the deal, also recently opened two new cinemas in Carlow and Craigavon.

The company has spent €44m in the past three years on refurbishment and expansion, replacing standard cinema seats with leather rocking chairs in some cinemas and introducing new extra-large "Maxx" screens in others.

Omniplex emerged from the ashes of the Ward Anderson dynasty. Their cinema group was the largest in the country, but was split in two following a string of legal battles and boardroom rifts. The Andersons now run Omniplex, led by Kevin's son Paul, while the Ward wing operates IMC.

The cinema industry is enjoying what experts predict will be its biggest year ever. The 'year of the blockbuster' should push revenues into growth mode after four years of decline. A jam-packed schedule of upcoming blockbuster releases, from Magic Mike: XXL to Star Wars, means 2015 could be the most lucrative year on record for movie studios and cinemas, according to cinema advertiser Wide Eye Media.

Irish cinema admissions in the 12 months to the end of March were up 3pc compared with the year before, with 1.02 million moviegoers flooding through doors in the 12 months. Ireland still has the highest rate of cinema attendance per head in any European country.

The studios feeding cinemas with content, meanwhile, are changing. Amazon is to start making films for cinemas before releasing them on its own streaming service just weeks later, as it steps up a content war with rival Netflix.

The retail giant is planning to make and release 12 movies a year onto the big screen. Netflix is also trying to broaden its audience by moving away from just streaming content to tablets and laptops. It has signed a deal with Adam Sandler to produce his next four films.

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