Curzon Cinemas & Artificial Eye, UK’s Flagship Arthouse Film Group, Acquired By Cohen Media Group


The Curzon group, the UK’s flagship arthouse film company, has been acquired by U.S. indie distributor and exhibitor Cohen Media Group.

The deal, whose financial terms were not disclosed, comprises Curzon Cinemas, distributor Artificial Eye and the Curzon Home Cinema streaming platform. The UK chain currently operates 20 theaters and 46 screens in and around London.

Curzon’s chairman Roger Wingate will be stepping down, thus ending an almost 80-year family association with the group. Cohen Media Group owner Charles S. Cohen will assume the position of chairman.

Given that Cohen Media Group releases many of the same films as Curzon, Cohen said he believes the deal can herald “a new powerhouse in international distribution.”

According to the real estate developer, whose fortune is estimated to be $3.4BN, Curzon will expand in a “thoughtful and measured way”. Curzon CEO Philip Knatchbull added that Curzon “is easily transportable and scalable outside the U.K.” and there are “opportunities to grow a unified platform” with Cohen’s other film businesses. One year ago, the U.S group acquired American arthouse theater chain Landmark.

The two parties didn’t disclose whether there will be an impact on staff numbers, though Cohen said he is “looking forward to working with Philip and Curzon’s highly experienced senior management team.”

Curzon is known to have been on the block for some time. At Cannes this year, there were rumors that Netflix was in the mix to buy the revered UK staple. We were told Netflix never put in a bid.

Curzon Cinemas was first launched in 1934. Since the mid 1970s, Artificial Eye has released hundreds of arthouse classics and has picked up the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar winner in seven of the last eight years: A Separation, Amour, The Great BeautyIda, Son of Saul, The Salesman and A Fantastic Woman. Curzon acquired Artificial Eye in 2006.

Consolidation has been the name of the game in the film business in recent years with firms the world over looking to shore up against the streamers and shifting content consumption habits. U.S. companies from all sectors have been increasingly looking to the UK and international markets for that consolidation. The deregulated UK film sector has been quick to open its doors to ‘inward investment’, as the UK has more generally in other sectors.

Charles S. Cohen said, “Among exhibitors and distributors of great films, there are few names in the international marketplace as important as Curzon and Curzon’s Artificial Eye. We are thrilled to unite with this honored brand and I look forward to working with Philip and Curzon’s highly experienced senior management team. Together, we will carry forward the Curzon brand with plans to expand it in a thoughtful and measured way.”

Curzon’s CEO Philip Knatchbull commented, “The Curzon brand is uniquely placed to take advantage of the rapidly changing landscape in film and is easily transportable and scalable outside the U.K. With Charles Cohen’s proven dedication and track record for quality film together with his recent acquisition of the Landmark theatre chain and now the addition of Curzon he has created an important group of companies with opportunities to grow a unified platform for an ever-increasing demand for filmed content. I look forward to helping Charles fulfill that potential”

Roger Wingate added, “Curzon has been present throughout my entire life. I will miss it but am confident that its future is in good hands.”

The deal was negotiated by Lisbeth Savill, partner in the London office of Latham & Watkins and David Fogel acting on behalf of Charles S. Cohen. Jonathan Goodwin and Julian Culhane of Alvarium Investments were Curzon’s financial advisers in the transaction. Latham & Watkins served as legal advisers to Cohen Media Group; Fox Williams represented Curzon sellers.

Curzon’s UK arthouse rival Picturehouse was acquired by Cineworld in 2012.

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