Cross-country bid

Century, Muvico team for General Cinemas

A surprise partnering of exhibs Century Theaters and Muvico Theaters figured among at least three offers filed with the bankruptcy court by Wednesday’s auction deadline to acquire General Cinemas.

Exhib AMC Entertainment also filed a bid by the 2 p.m. deadline, and it’s believed that a partnership involving Canadian conglom Onex and L.A. buyout firm Oaktree Capital made an offer as well.

AMC and the Onex-Oaktree group also advanced proposals in an earlier, nonbinding round of offers for the Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based circuit. General Cinemas, which operates 677 screens nationwide, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last October, and the court has been fielding offers for the circuit almost ever since.

Anschutz absent

Sitting out the auction has been entertainment entrepreneur Philip Anschutz, who has been hyper-acquisitive elsewhere in exhibition. Having nabbed United Artists Theaters, he is currently angling for Edwards Theater Circuit and Regal Cinemas. But he is said to believe General Cinemas is still saddled with too many older properties.

Also absent at the deadline was an expected offer from a group of former GC execs. Led by former CEO-prexy Richard Smith and son Robert Smith, the one-time management team had secured court permission to advance an offer but ultimately placed no bid, sources said.

The Onex-Oaktree group was the first GC suitor to surface, advancing a $42.5 million proposal later topped by a $62.5 million cash offer from AMC, the Kansas City, Mo.-based circuit with 2,800 screens. Century then signaled it also planned to join the GC sweepstakes (Daily Variety, July 25).

The joint bid by San Rafael-based Century and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-headquartered Muvico may signal the partners’ intent to divide General Cinemas geographically. Century operates 827 screens, most situated well west of the Mississippi, and Muvico has about three dozen screens in Florida, Maryland and Tennessee.

Though it has nationwide reach, including several theaters in the Los Angeles area, General Cinemas’ highest concentration of theaters lies in the Northeast and Midwest.

GC also operates some 180 foreign screens in a joint venture with Oz-based Hoyts Cinemas, and those properties have drawn interest from exhib Cinemark. It wasn’t immediately clear if Dallas-based Cinemark placed an offer prior to the auction deadline. Speculation also had Hoyts making a bid to buy out the foreign screens from GC.

Both AMC and the Onex group are believed to have adjusted their original offers, based on information gleaned during a recent round of due diligence that allowed suitors to comb through GC financial records. Bids were submitted both to the court and a GC creditors committee, with court and committee reps expected to meet early next week to discuss the various offers.

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