Battling exhibs split the difference

Reading, Village Roadshow pair up for venture

Warring exhibs U.S.-based Reading Intl. and Australia’s Village Roadshow have become partners in a cinema loop in New Zealand.

On Oct. 1, Reading paid $4.5 million for Rialto Entertainment, which has a 50% share in 22-screen, five-site, arthouse loop Rialto Cinemas. Village Roadshow and partner SkyCity Cinemas own the other 50%.

Rialto Cinemas was founded by Kelly Rogers and David Ross.

Reading and Village Roadshow have locked horns for the past 10 years over some of Readings’ proposed multiplex developments in Australia, with Village lobbying the government that the sites cannibalize its existing business.

In another set-to, the pair settled out of court after Reading claimed Roadshow Distribution failed to supply films to its Australian cinemas.

The acquisition sets the scene for Reading’s planned expansion into the arthouse biz in Australia.

“We’re at a stage where we need to have diversified operations. You have to have alternate ancillary revenue,” said Wayne Smith, Reading’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand.

Reading also acquired a 33% share in Rialto Distribution, Kelly Rogers’ arthouse distribution shingle, giving Reading a distribution presence and allowing Rialto to expand.

After recent success with “The Woodsman,” “Maria Full of Grace” and “The Machinist,” Rogers said, “we are now in a strong position to increase our position in the Australasian marketplace.”

This gives Reading a presence in both exhibition and distribution, a strategy used to good effect in Australia by Palace Cinemas and Distribution and the Becker Group, with its Dendy Cinemas and numerous distribution shingles.

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