Justice Dept. blocks Regal merger

Cinema chain proposed $210 million pact

WASHINGTON — The Justice Dept. has moved to block the proposed $210 million merger between Regal Cinemas and Consolidated Theaters, announcing that the deal could not proceed unless both companies divest movie theater assets in three North Carolina cities.

“The transaction, as originally proposed, would substantially lessen competition among firstrun commercial movie theaters in areas of Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville, N.C., resulting in higher ticket prices and a decreased quality viewing experience for moviegoers,” announcement said.

Antitrust regulators said Tuesday that if the two companies divested a total of four theaters between them — one each in Charlotte and Asheville, two in Raleigh — the merger could go through.

“The divestitures will ensure that moviegoers in the affected areas of Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville will continue to enjoy the benefits of competition,” said Thomas O. Barnett, chief of the DOJ antitrust division.

According to the DOJ, Regal, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., owns or operates 540 theaters containing more than 6,400 screens in 39 states and Washington, D.C. Regal reported revenues of about $2.6 billion in 2007.

Consolidated, headquartered in Charlotte, owns or operates 28 theaters containing 400 screens in Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It reported revenues of about $144 million last year.

Calls to both Regal and Consolidated for comment Tuesday afternoon were not returned.

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