Village inks cinema deal

Oz co. to buy 25% stake in HK's Golden Harvest

SYDNEY — Australian entertainment major Village Roadshow has inked an agreement to buy Hong Kong-based Golden Harvest Entertainment’s 25% stake in a string of Thai and South Korean cinemas for about A$21 million ($13.6 million).

The deal would see Village lift its stake in the Thai and Korean ventures to 50%, while Village’s 41% interest in Golden Harvest may be diluted.

Harvest, which lost $3.3 million in the last financial year as its fiscal performance came under pressure from pirating, will concentrate on distribution, supported by cinemas in key territories.

At present, Harvest operates more than 330 screens in Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan. Harvest is also reportedly planning to sell its four cinemas in Hong Kong to City Entertainment Corp., a 50-50 joint venture between Harvest and Village.

The move is also part of a wider cinema consolidation plan by Village, which is apparently aiming to buy back many interests from partners — especially in Asia — and roll them into one company. For example, Village recently combined its half-owned New Zealand exhibition circuit with rival chain Hoyts.

“Village has a definite opportunity to expand its business organically and that’s in terms of acquiring the interests of our partners who don’t have a long-term interest in the exhibition business,” Village chairman John Kirby told reporters. “We’ve been in the exhibition business for over 50 years (while) most of our partners in exhibition are relative newcomers (so) it isn’t a fundamental business to them.”

Village has more than 1,452 screens at 227 sites worldwide, including 10 joint venture venues in Thailand and one in South Korea.

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