EXCLUSIVE: Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger is in a bullish mood after this morning’s announcement that the exhibition giant is poised to acquire Canada’s Cineplex, creating North America’s largest movie theater circuit when combined with Cineworld’s Regal Cinemas.
The proposed $2.1 billion deal will add Cineplex’s 165 sites and 1,695 screens to Cineworld’s North American holdings and is expected to close within three to six months. Cineworld’s board of directors is unanimously supporting the acquisition of the leading Canadian exhibitor, which holds a 75% share of box office in the market.
Greidinger tells Deadline that the general reaction of shareholders and analysts is “positive.” He allows that the company’s debt will increase, but notes, “When we took over Cineworld it increased debt and then debt went down dramatically, and then up again with the acquisition of Regal and down at the end of this year. Each time you do an acquisition, it’s an effort on the debt. But we know how to handle it and we are positive this is a good deal and business decision for us.”
As with Regal, Cineworld will not rebrand the Canadian operations, maintaining the Cineplex name. Says Greidinger, “In general, Canada looked attractive to us for a long time. It’s a good business and a great circuit, but it wasn’t for sale. In the last couple of months we got into negotiations, made a deal and hope all goes well.”
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The exhibition veteran says, “We strongly believe in the theatrical business and we are starting to now see very early results of our refurbishments in the U.S. It’s very positive and we believe in creating the right experience.”
In general, Cineplex is in good condition and there are no plans to close cinemas. The circuit will in fact add three new sites in Canada in the next year, I’m told.
Meanwhile, there are plans for Cineworld’s movie ticket subscription service, Unlimited, to expand to Canada around the time the deal closes. Regal Unlimited launched in the U.S. this summer and Greidinger says it’s “doing extremely well. It’s over all of our expectations and has really been very well received by customers. We believe it’s really a solution for people who want to go to the movies a lot.” The exec is still on the fence about sharing subscriber numbers as it has not been Cineworld’s tradition to do so in its other markets that have such services.
Overall, Greidinger is also bullish on next year, following what he expects to be the “great” last weeks of 2019. “I’m very optimistic towards 2020. The lineup today is something like over 20 big movies that will do between $200 million and $500 million domestically. It should be a very solid year with 20 big movies instead of seven enormous movies.”
Although there’s no Avengers or Star Wars on deck, Greidinger points to pics like Marvel’s Black Widow; Pixar’s Soul and Onward; Disney’s live-action Mulan and Jungle Cruise and more Mouse titles. Outside Disney, he’s excited about the latest Bond movie, Wonder Woman 2, the next Fast & Furious, Minions: The Rise Of Gru, Trolls World Tour, Birds of Prey and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, among others.
Cineworld has been steadfast in its refusal to budge on showing Netflix titles, although Greidinger maintains he still hopes and “would be very happy if Netflix would decide to respect the window and really start sharing the movies with us.”
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