business

Odeon cinema chain bought by AMC for £921m

Group founded in Perry Barr in 1930 by Oscar Deutsch has come under foreign ownership for the first time in major deal

Odeon at Broadway Plaza will now be owned by AMC which previously operated a cinema there

A cinema chain founded in Birmingham almost a century ago is now under foreign ownership for the first time.

Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group has been bought out by US chain AMC Entertainment, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda, in a deal worth £921 million.

Odeon can trace its roots back to the 1930 when Oscar Deutsch opened the first Odeon cinema in Perry Barr, having previously launched the Brierley Hill Picture House two years earlier.

It mirrors the deal in 2010 which saw Cadbury taken over by US firm Kraft, although in slightly less controversial circumstances.

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Odeon's chief executive Paul Donovan said: "With our shared vision for creating a world-class cinema experience, we are delighted to be joining the AMC family.

"As an innovator in guest experiences, AMC is the ideal partner for the next stage of our long-term growth in Europe, and this is very exciting news for our guests, our colleagues and the wider film industry."

Despite opening several sites in the UK during the 1980s, AMC sold them to the then UCI chain only to return the brand in the early 2000s by launching in Manchester and at Broadway Plaza in Birmingham.

Ironically, Odeon took over the AMC at Five Ways in 2012 but not before the Office of Fair Trading carried out an investigation into the deal over a possible monopoly because of its existing cinema in New Street.

Guy Hands, chairman of private equity firm Terra Firma which brought together Odeon and UCI to form the newly combined chain in 2004, said: "We are delighted to realise our investment after 12 years of ownership.

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"In that time, over £600 million was invested in growing the business and delivering our long-term transformational strategy.

"Under Terra Firma, the number of Odeon & UCI screens increased from 1,453 in 2004 to 2,236 today."

The Odeon group, which has 242 cinemas across Europe and is the number on operator in the UK, will continue to trade under its various current brands once the deal has been completed.

In the West Midlands, it operates cinemas in West Bromwich, Coventry, intu Merry Hill shopping centre and Tamworth.

Law firm Pinsent Masons advised AMC on the acquisition.

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