Cineworld UK cinemas set to be put up for sale

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The Cineworld chain of over 100 cinemas in the UK seems to be in up in the air again, as its American parent group explores a sale.

In the US, it’s pretty well known that Cineworld was having a torrid time over the last year or two. The company owns the Regal chain of cinemas in America, and it was in bankruptcy protection last year while Cineworld restructured its business.

It seems to have now done so, but as part of the restructure of its operations, the Cineworld group is now looking at the firm’s UK chain of cinemas. As reported by Sky news, the group is now looking at ‘a potential disposal of its UK operations’, something that’ll affect over 100 multiplexes around the country.

It’s not a done deal that Cineworld will sell its UK business, but it’s now undergoing a strategic review where that appears to be one of the key outcomes. Sky reports that it’s also got to the stage where the company is sounding out possible bidders for its cinemas.

What’s unclear at this stage is whether this affects the other chain that it runs in this country, Picturehouse Cinemas.

The prime obvious candidate for the Cineworld chain in Britain is Vue, which had been sniffing around a potential purchase last year. Vue has had its fair share of problems, but has been more successful at getting its business back on an even footing.

Last year, the Empire chain was sold to Omniplex Cinemas, which has expanded its operation as a result from Ireland to England. Whether a purchase of more than 100 further sites is feasible for that particular chain is unknown. We spoke to Omniplex bosses earlier this year, and the impression we got was that the much smaller Empire acquisition was very much a case of Omniplex biting off only what it could metaphorically chew.

The fate of Cineworld in the UK for the minute remains up in the air, though. Most cinema chains are working on the idea of getting through an undoubtedly tricky 2024 – given the paucity of big films are last year’s strikes – and hoping that 2025 turns out a lot better.

We’ll keep you posted as we hear more.

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