New Vue houses SBC, Warner Village

Total cost of deal estimated at $480 mil

SBC Intl. Cinemas has completed its £250 million ($400 million) acquisition of the Warner Village U.K. circuit.

SBC will merge its six multiplexes with the 36 Warner Village sites to create a single 384-screen loop, under the new brand name Vue.

Boston Ventures, the U.S. private equity firm that founded SBC in 1998, has been joined in the acquisition by two new equal partners — Clarity Partners, an L.A.-based private equity house, and Legal & General Ventures.

Insiders say the total value of the deal is $480 million, with $400 million to buy the WV screens and the remainder to fund the further expansion of the Vue circuit.

J. Timothy Richards, president-CEO of Vue, says, “Warner Village did a great job in constructing a very high quality portfolio of multiplex cinemas. We will continue to expand and enhance this platform to ensure that we have the leading, most modern and best equipped cinema circuit in the U.K.

“The Vue brand will become synonymous with the best screens, the best sound and the best seating,” he says. “We will make sure this appeals to everyone by offering a greater variety and diverse range of films.”

Barry Baker, chairman of Vue, says, “Warner Village is the most modern circuit in the U.K., and we look for innovate further and build on this very strong base. With cinema attendance expected to rise in the U.K. year on year, we look forward to exceptional growth for Vue Cinemas.”

Millard Ochs, prexy of Warner Bros. Intl Cinemas, comments, “We are proud of the market-leading circuit we’ve built in the U.K. and are confident that under Vue’s experienced management team, the business will grow from strength to strength. Selling our interest at this time enables us to further our strategy of seeding new markets.”

Oz exhib Village Cinemas continues to own half a dozen U.K. sites not included in this sale.

The sale of the WV UK circuit follows that of Odeon Cinemas, the U.K.’s largest loop, two months ago. The ownership of three other leading U.K. chains — UCI, UGC Cinemas and Cineworld — is also reportedly up for grabs.

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