AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., owned by China’s Dalian Wanda Group, agreed to buy Carmike Cinemas Inc. in an all-cash deal that would make it the largest cinema chain in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.
AMC will pay $30 a share for Carmike, which adds up to $1.1 billion. AMC, currently the country’s second-largest theater chain would pass Regal Entertainment Group to be the leader after absorbing No. 4 Carmike.
It’s the latest big splash made by a Chinese company in the U.S. entertainment industry — and second this year for Wanda Group, which paid $3.5 billion for a majority stake in “Jurassic World” production company Legendary Entertainment in January. “Hunger Games” studio Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. inked a co-production deal with broadcaster Hunan TV last year, and Perfect World Pictures invested $250 million in Universal Pictures’ production slate.
Wanda Group, whose chief executive, Wang Jianlin, is China’s richest man, has been actively collecting cinema chains in recent years. Wanda is the parent of China’s Wanda Cinema Line Corp., Asia’s largest theater operator, and bought AMC for $2.6 billion in 2012. Wanda also bought Hoyts Cinemas, Australia’s second-largest movie chain, in July for an undisclosed sum, which has been reported to be as much as $750 million.
Wanda is the world’s biggest customer of ultra-large Imax screens, which have surged in popularity as movies filmed in 3-D and other premium formats proliferate. Wanda also agreed to a partnership with Dolby Laboratories last month to open 100 high-end theaters in China. Incidentally, Carmike offers a competing premium-format product to AMC’s Imax, which AMC chief executive Adam Aron told the WSJ he plans to continue. The deal for Carmike, currently the country’s fourth-largest chain, is subject to antitrust review by the Justice Department.