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Screenvision Completes Sale to Abry, Will Explore Gaming, E-Commerce Opportunities (EXCLUSIVE)

Abry Partners has closed its $380 million deal to buy Screenvision, Variety has learned. Last month, Screenvision announced that it had an agreement in place to sell a controlling stake to the private equity firm. That pact has now been finalized.

In an interview, Screenvision CEO John Partilla said the in-theater advertising company was attracted to Abry’s ability to fund the next stages of its growth. Partilla believes that the best opportunities for a company like Screenvision will come from broadening its suite of offerings, not from greatly increasing its screen count. In particular, Partilla wants to experiment with e-commerce opportunities and with gaming as ways to diversify its products beyond simply airing commercials and pre-show sponsored content while consumers wait for a movie to begin.

“The larger opportunities arise from bringing new forms of advertising into the space,” he said. “For instance, upon completing a movie, as people exit, we can help in creating a mobile transactional opportunity to purchase toys or collectibles related to a particular film. It allows us to capture that impulse purchase instinct in real time.”

Partilla said nothing is “on the immediate horizon,” but he’s interested in exploring hosting e-gaming in theaters on off-nights, such as the middle of the week, when attendance is low, as a means of driving additional revenue.

“We could play a role in finding organic advertising sponsors for those nights,” he said. “It helps with broadening what we see as the role of cinema exhibitors.”

More and more movie theaters are switching to reserved seating, allowing customers to arrive at theaters closer to showtimes. That means that audiences could theoretically skip the commercials that run before their movie starts to unspool. That could cause problems for companies such as Screenvision, because their pitch has been that they have a rapt consumer base that can’t fast-forward through commercials as they can by taping shows at home. Partilla downplayed the impact, noting that Screenvision was moving beyond just pre-show entertainment to enhance its presence in lobbies and other parts of the theater. Plus, he said studies show that people still like to be early to movies.

“We’re mindful of the trend, and we’re looking into it with exhibitors,” he said. “But even when people have reserved seats, they’re still showing up 10 to 15 minutes early. They like a buffer.”

Screenvision is currently in more than 2,400 locations. The company’s previous owners, Shamrock Capital and AMC Entertainment, will retain minority positions in the cinema advertising company.

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