Cineworld May Have Sell Three Brit

Regulator says customers face high prices in three areas after exhib's acquisition of boutique chain Picturehouse

Cineworld may have to sell three U.K. cinemas in order to pacify competition regulators’ concerns of higher prices for customers.

In the wake of the European exhib’s £47.3 million ($74.1 million) acquisition of arthouse Brit chain Picturehouse, preliminary findings from the Competition Commission said the company could have to sell three cinemas in Aberdeen, Bury St. Edmunds and Cambridge, where “the acquisition could lead to a substantial lessening of competition.”

CC deputy chairman Alasdair Smith said: “We found that when setting the price of tickets, exhibitors take account of the prices of competing cinemas operating in their local areal. We will now look at ways we can restore competition and protect customers’ interests.”

Cineworld chief exec Stephen Wiener said: “We are disappointed that in these three locations we have been unable to convince the CC that Cineworld and Picturehouse are two fundamentally different businesses that could operate in the same area.

“Nevertheless, the combination of the two businesses will remain strategically compelling, as our recent results showed clearly, and we are committed to continuing the expansion and investment into both.”

Publicly listed chain Cineworld, which boasts the largest market share in Blighty with 79 cinemas, operates mass-market multiplexes that tend to attract younger auds interested in tentpole pics, areas while Picturehouse’s 21 cinemas typically  cater for an older and more highbrow audience.

Additionally, Cineworld’s multiplexes tend to be, for the most part, located out-of-town while Picturehouse sites are smaller, city-based sites.

The CC’s final report into the deal will be published by October 14.

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