Leawood-based AMC Entertainment moved another step closer to becoming the world’s dominant operator of movie screens.
European regulators on Wednesday gave AMC the go-ahead on its $1.2 billion deal to buy Europe’s largest cinema chain, Odeon & UCI Cinemas. The sale is expected to be completed on Nov. 30.
The deal will fold 2,251 movie screens across Europe into AMC’s operations that currently encompass 5,295 movie screens primarily across the United States.
It’s enough to push AMC’s screen count past its rival Regal Entertainment Group by a couple hundred screens. Regal is the biggest in the U.S. with 7,310 screens, and that total is the largest of any operator in the world.
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But AMC’s not done.
It is about a month away from gobbling up the fourth-largest cinema operator in the United States in its other $1.2 billion buyout. Shareholders of Carmike Cinemas approved that deal Tuesday, and AMC expects federal approval as early as December.
Once the Carmike deal closes, AMC will add 2,923 more movie screens to its fold, perhaps minus a few here and there that regulators require AMC to sell to win government approval. But few theaters will have to be sold because they operate mostly in different markets.
Doing the math, AMC winds up operating as many as 10,469 movie screens worldwide. That amounts to 43 percent more screens than Regal operates and 78 percent more than Cinemark Holdings Inc., which is No. 3 globally with 5,865 screens in the United States and internationally.
AMC’s new total doesn’t include an additional 2,557 screens operated by China-based Dalian Wanda Group, which has the biggest chain in China. Wanda Group owns more than 77 percent of AMC’s shares, but it will see that stake diluted somewhat by the two deals AMC is about to complete.
Sellers of Carmike and Odeon & UCI are getting some newly created shares of AMC Entertainment in the deals.