PVR Cinemas has extended its lead as the largest multiplex operator in India by finally buying South Indian circuit SPI Cinemas. The purchase price is $127 million (INR8.5 billion).

SPI operates a total of 76 screens, at 17 properties, variously branded as Escape, Palazzo, S2 and the Sathyam Cinema in Chennai. They cover the states of Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, annd Kerala. SPI is also a distributor in Tamil Nadu.

A further 13 screens are to open in the next 12 months, in southern India, which PVR says shows the fastest audience growth in India. SPI cinemas claim an occupancy level of over 50%.

The deal expands PVR’s circuit to 706 screens at 152 complexes. In an investor presentation, PVR says that the deal will make it the world’s seventh largest cinema group, measured in terms of admissions, having overtaken the pan-European groups Cineworld and Vue International, though its screen count and revenues are far behind. The company says that the deal keeps it on track to hit the elusive target of 1,000 screens by 2020.

PVR will pay for the purchase with a mix of cash and new shares. The deal includes an earnings-related component, and is expected to close within 30 days. SPI principals Kiran Reddy and Swaroop Reddy are expected to stay with the company.