Macquarie consortium buys Megabox

Mediaplex sells theater chain for $157 million

South Korean studio Mediaplex announced on Wednesday that it has sold its third-ranked exhibition chain, Megabox, to a group of foreign investors led by Australian banking group Macquarie for $156.5 million.

Mediaplex will continue to operate the theater chain for two years for the newly formed Korea Multiplex Investment Corp. for $10.8 million plus up to $32.4 million in incentives.

The news has raised a certain degree of alarm in a country where large-scale foreign acquisitions are often greeted with suspicion. Megabox, which operates 19 venues and 155 screens, including South Korea’s most famous multiplex at the Coex Mall in Seoul, becomes the first exhibition chain to be fully owned by foreign interests.

In 2006, the loop turned a net profit of $9.4 million on revenues of $117 million.

Meanwhile, speculation is rife over the future of Mediaplex and its powerful distribution/investment arm Showbox.

Company announced Wednesday that it plans to increase the activities of its new production division, Motion 101, with four to five inhouse productions per year. Mediaplex also intends to assemble film financing for a variety of projects, including pics budgeted at $10 million and above.

Nonetheless, Showbox has been losing ground to rival distributor CJ Entertainment in securing high-profile projects. In an unusual move in late June, Showbox pulled out of director Kim Jee-woon’s high-profile Western “The Good, the Bad, and the Weird” in mid-production, with CJ taking over as pic’s local investor and distributor.

Showbox is preparing the launch of the massive English-language project “D-War,” which is rumored by some to have severely compromised the company’s finances.

Budgeted at $70 million, pic bows Aug. 1 in South Korea and will go out Stateside in mid-September via Freestyle Releasing.

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