Astoria sells theaters to SF Bio

SF Bio snaps up nine Astoria theaters in Sweden

STOCKHOLM — Scandinavian exhib market leader SF Bio has saved Sweden’s second biggest theater chain Astoria Cinemas from bankruptcy.

According to a deal struck yesterday, Astoria will sell all its theaters in the provinces to SF Bio, in order to focus on its cinemas in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo.

The majority of Astoria’s theaters in nine towns across the country will gradually be shut down by SF Bio. The exceptions are the cinemas in Uppsala, Lund and Borlange, which SF Bio will keep running.

“I’m happy with the deal and feel relieved. It is adjusted to the current situation of the Swedish exhibition market. At the same time, the deal with SF Bio solves our very tough and acute financial situation,” said Mattias Nohrborg, CEO of Astoria Cinemas.

“Eighteen months ago, I thought there was space for two nationwide theater chains. I can only say that I was partly wrong,” he added.

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In May 2005, distribs Triangelfilm and Atlantic, and producer S/S Fladen stepped in to buy Sandrew Metro-nome’s exhibition chain — later rebranded Astoria Cinemas — after Swedish competition authorities had stopped SF Bio from buying the chain.

Recently, Astoria Cinemas has been fighting for survival. With a $11 million debt, inluding a $957,000 debt to the Swedish Film Institute, Astoria Cinemas cancelled its payments and applied for protection from creditors at the Stockholm District Court earlier this week.

“Astoria’s liquidation of its theaters in the country and its focus on the cities gives the Swedish exhib market a robust structure with good conditions for not only surviving, but also developing,” said SF Bio CEO Jan Bernhardsson, adding that the choice of films will be just as varied as before in the small towns after the deal.