B&B Theatres Buys Dickinson to Become 9th Biggest U.S. Chain

B&B Theatres has acquired Dickinson Theatres for an undisclosed sum, making B&B the ninth largest exhibitor in the United States.

The purchase expands the family-owned theater chain by 15 locations and 169 screens across seven states. B&B now boasts 50 locations and 408 screens across eight states, principally in the Midwest.

Company president Bob Bagby said he was inspired to buy Dickinson after a meeting with his children, during which they told him they wanted to continue in the exhibition business and to keep running a company the family has controlled for nearly 100 years. They mark the fourth generation in Bagby’s wife’s family to be involved in the industry.

“The whole industry is going through a new phase with a lot of acquisitions,” said Bagby. “You either need to grow or sell.”

B&B plans to remodel some of the Dickinson locations, installing luxury seating and potentially adding alcohol to their concessions offerings. Those alterations will begin in 2015. Some staff cuts are expected as the two companies merge, Bagby said.

He also did not rule out additional purchases in the future, but stressed that his focus is on integrating Dickinson’s theaters into B&B’s existing network.

“Down the road, we’ll look at other opportunities,” said Bagby. “But this is a big opportunity for us and we’re going to concentrate on that.”

Theatrical exhibition is facing declines in attendance and box office this year. It has also been challenged by the emergence of streaming services, videogames and other forms of digital entertainment. Yet Bagby expressed confidence that the company will endure, noting that movie-going was also threatened by television and VCRs at various points in its lifespan.

“These changes hurt at first, but people want to get out of the house,” said Bagby. “There’s a kitchen in every house, but people still want to go out for dinner…Watching an incredible presentation on a grand screen in a plush recliner with a drink in your hand, that’s what’s going to drive the business and that’s what we’re providing our customers.”

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