Exhibber Anschutz on synergy kick

Select soccer games to be aired in high-def

HOLLYWOOD — Among the various companies from which Denver businessman Philip Anschutz might have sought to eke out a bit of business synergy, a less than obvious combo emerged Wednesday: his soccer teams and his movie theaters.

Regal Entertainment cinemas in four cities will show selected high-definition broadcasts of Major League Soccer games involving Anschutz-controlled teams. The reclusive billionaire operates six of the MSL’s 10 franchises.

“For soccer fans, viewing the competitions in high-definition on a 40-foot screen is almost like being there in person,” said Ray Nutt, exec VP of biz development at Regal CineMedia, a digital cinema unit.

Matches will be presented in Gotham, Chicago, Denver and Irvine, Calif., on June 11 and 18 and July 9 and 30. Three of the games will be hosted by Anschutz’s Los Angeles Galaxy and the other by his Colorado Rapids, with opponents including Anschutz’s San Jose Earthquakes and D.C. United clubs. (He also has teams in Chicago and northern New Jersey.)

$100 mil investment

Technically, the soccer league itself owns all of its franchises and grants only exclusive operating rights to “operator-investors.” Still, it’s estimated Anschutz’s investment in the various franchises runs well north of $100 million.

Anschutz’s investments have been both a boon and embarrassment for the MSL. The money has helped the 8-year-old org outlast a string of previous U.S. soccer leagues, but some question whether Anschutz’s dominance will hamper its flourishing over the longer haul.

‘Incredible experience’

“We are elated to partner with Regal CineMedia to deliver this incredible high-def viewing experience,” MLS exec veep Mark Noonan said. “In addition to the enhanced picture quality of high-def, the enormous widescreen format is sure to provide an unbelievable experience for our fans in a fun-filled, cutting-edge atmosphere.”

Regal CineMedia programs about two-thirds of Regal’s 6,000 U.S. screens with digitally distribbed commercials and other advertising before movie showtimes. As a sideline, the unit also supervises the occasional bit of “alternative programming,” such as sporting events and musical concerts.

Because Anschutz also owns several major arenas and operates a big concert-productions company, it’s expected the shows selected for broadcast to Regal multiplexes will regularly offer obvious biz synergies. But execs at all Anschutz companies insist they operate independently of one another to maximize their individual profits.

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