Cineworld agrees to acquire Regal movie chain to challenge AMC

The deal would greatly expand the scale and geographic footprint of British theater owner Cineworld, which primarily operates in Europe, and create the world’s second-largest movie-theater owner to better compete with AMC, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda.

LONDON — The two largest movie-theater chains in the United States will soon be owned by foreign companies.

British movie-theater owner Cineworld said Tuesday it had agreed to acquire Regal Entertainment Group, one of the biggest cinema operators in the United States, for $3.6 billion.

The deal would greatly expand the scale and geographic footprint of Cineworld, which primarily operates in Europe, and create the world’s second-largest movie-theater owner to better compete with AMC Entertainment, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda.

The Cineworld-Regal combination would create a company with more than 9,500 screens in 10 countries.

It comes at a time of flux for operators of movie theaters competing for attention and dollars in an increasingly saturated marketplace. At the same time, studios, such as The Walt Disney Co., are exerting more control over when and how their biggest films are shown, putting pressure on operators.

Despite higher average ticket prices, box-office revenue is down in the United States this year after a dismal summer.

The few standouts were the superhero flicks, “Wonder Woman,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” The latest adaptation of Stephen King’s “It” was also a bright spot this autumn, but “Justice League,” which brought together some of DC Comics’ biggest heroes, opened to disappointing results in North America last month.

Ticket sales are likely to be bolstered by the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” this month.

“Regal is a great business and provides Cineworld with the optimal platform on which we can continue our growth strategy,” Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld chief executive, said in a news release.

“Consolidation is an important move forward, and the best practice we have successfully rolled out across Europe will be the key driver to continued success.”

Regal is the second-biggest cinema operator in the United States behind AMC, with 7,315 screens at 561 cinemas. Regal is controlled by billionaire Philip F. Anschutz’s Anschutz Corp., which has agreed to support the deal.

Cineworld, which was founded in 1995 in…

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