Israel Theaters, Israel’s largest cinema group, and Empire Cinemas, the UK cinema chain, have reached the second round of bidding for the 21 UK cinemas put up for sale by Sumner Redstone, the US media magnate.
Israel Theaters, which is owned by the Greidinger Family, is also the largest owner of cinemas in Poland and a franchisee of Disney films and Sony Pictures in Israel.
The company’s international operations are run through its subsidiaries Cinema City International and International Theatres.
Up to seven parties are interested in Mr Redstone’s cinemas and second-round bids are due next month.
Empire Cinemas expanded its operations with the acquisition of cinema sites from private equity groups Terra Firma and Blackstone four years ago. These cinemas were rebranded as “Empire Cinemas”. The company’s flagship site is the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester square.
The UK assets of National Amusements, Mr Redstone’s cinema operator, were valued at $500m 18 months ago but the media mogul is unlikely to achieve this price.
First-round valuations are understood to be down amid falling property prices.
Other bidders at the second round include the UK’s three main cinema chains Cineworld, Vue and Odeon as well as Mike Ross, the former managing director of Ster Century Europe, the cinema chain.
An outright purchase by one of the three main UK cinema chains would face thorny UK competition issues but they are discussing how to divide up the assets between them. These groups may only be interested in acquiring the operating assets and not the property.
Mr Redstone has considered the possibility of a two-part deal involving the sale of the property and a separate sale of the operating assets.
Mr Redstone is selling the cinema chain in Britain to help pay down a $1.6bn debt pile and avoid having to sell shares in Viacom, the owner of cable channels MTV and CBS.
National Amusements breached banking covenants last October, but struck an agreement with lenders involving the sale of some of its cinemas.