Kinepolis acquires Utopolis circuit

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European Update

Executing the sale of the four Utopolis cinemas in Belgium to UGC on Sept. 30, Kinepolis Group has completed the takeover process of Utopia SA. Last November, the pan-European exhibitor reached an agreement with Utopolis shareholders for a 66 million euro value for the acquisition of the entire circuit (US$58.9 mil.).

The deal included five locations in the Netherlands (Almere, Den Helder, Oss, Zoetermeer and Emmen), three in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (two in Luxembourg City and one in Esch-sur-Alzette), and one cinema in France (Longwy). The purchase of four cinemas in Belgium had remained subject to the approval of the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA). At the end of March, the latter conditionally approved the acquisition as long as the Utopolis complexes in Mechelen and Aarschot were resold.

Three weeks later, Kinepolis took over the four Belgian sites.

“These cinemas have continued to operate in accordance with the conditions imposed by the BCA,” the Group noted. Given these very conditions “and the interest shown by potential buyers,” Kinepolis then opted to sell the other two Utopolis sites in Lommel and Turnhout to UGC as well, with an enterprise value of 36.2 million euros (US$32.2 mil.).

“It’s no secret that we would have preferred to add the four Belgian cinemas to our network,” said Eddy Duquenne, chief executive officer of Kinepolis Group, predicting a “promising future under the auspices of UGC… I wish them every success in that regard.”

Much success seems guaranteed in his own Group as well, with the “latest addition to the Kinepolis family” officially inaugurated on Sept. 8 in Breda, The Netherlands. In the first four weeks since opening to the public, “countless film lovers have already visited the cinema,” with the 50,000th visitor having been “put in the spotlight” at the 10-plex featuring more than 1,700 seats.

Not only because of its technological bells and all-laser whistles including the country-first Laser ULTRA combo of Barco and Dolby Atmos (see our September column), Duquenne called this project special. “Back then it was our first step into the Dutch market, even before we took over the Wolff Bioscopen cinema chain.” Meanwhile, Kinepolis operates 15 multiplexes across the Netherlands, four of which he designated “true Kinepolis” cinemas. “I am proud of the fact that we can now offer our unique film experience in Breda as well, with the best-quality image and sound, comfortable seats, free parking space, a customer-friendly experience and a great film for every target group.” Located in the “Breepark” event area, Breda is the second new cinema for Kinepolis this year after Kinepolis Dordrecht last February. And with an early 2017 target for Kinepolis Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, “the next opening in the Netherlands is not too far into the future,” the company assured.

European Film Goes Back to School

The European Film Academy (EFA) and Filmfest Hamburg (FFHH, Sept. 29-Oct. 8, check out the hosting cinemas at www.filmfesthamburg.de/en/information/venues.php) have launched a new award. The goals behind the European University Film Award (EUFA) are “to involve a younger audience, to spread the ‘European Idea’ and to transport the spirit of European cinema to an audience of university students.”

Scanning the 50 feature films and 15 documentaries from the official EFA Selections 2016 (listed here), a committee of five experts chose five EUFA nominees. In the subsequent voting process, students from 13 universities in as many countries are invited to judge what they deem the best. Nominated titles will be viewed and discussed in the respective university classes and each institution will select its favorite film. The films will be made available on the EFA VOD platform for this special purpose. In early December, one student representative from each university will attend a two-day meeting of the minds to decide on the overall winner. The announcement of the winning film will take place during the week of the European Film Awards on Dec. 10 in Wroclaw, Poland, European Capital of Culture 2016.

BFI London Fest Courts Pros

At the BFI London Film Festival (Oct. 5-16), “we believe that the future of film and the success of the film industry depend on three key factors: diversity, new talent and innovation,” says director Clare Stewart. “The industry program is integral to the Festival and to delivering on that future.”

New additions to this year’s industry events program include:

* Business as Usual: The UK after the EU Referendum

* Driving Diversity: Towards an Inclusive Film Industry

* A Filmmaker’s Guide to Virtual Reality

* The Road to the Documentary Oscar, hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

* Reinventing the Soundtrack

* The Greenlighters: Leading film executives discuss a film they love from the Festival with the director

* Producing with Germany: Exploring creative compatibility

* The Micro Market, a returning partnership with the Film London Production Finance Market

* Experimenta: A series of Artists’ Moving Image professional development events

CinemaxX Mannheim Listens to Alcons

With 700 seats, CinemaxX Kino 10 is among the largest cinemas in the German state of Baden Württemberg. At almost 280 square meters (3,014 sq. ft.), its screen is definitely the largest. The entire complex offers 2,636 seats across ten auditoriums. After installing Cinemarray pro-ribbon speakers by Dutch manufacturer Alcons in 2012, Filmtheaterbetriebe Spickert Entertainment decided to extend their system. “With the Alcons sound system, we have created…one of the most modern cinemas in Europe,” said Spickert CEO Frank Noreiks. “The professionalism and quality of Alcons have convinced us from the start.”

As part of the Dolby Atmos upgrade, another 32 Alcons surround systems—and more—were added. It takes nine Sentinel3 four-channel amplified loudspeaker controllers with 36 channels to control and drive the system, Alcons noted. The speaker systems were installed as top surrounds and wall surrounds, according to the Dolby-calculated design. For both loudspeaker installations, the Filmtheaterbetriebe contracted with Fours GmbH from Heidelberg, under the project and installation management of Florian Iser.

Noreiks stated, “Moviegoers specifically look for upgraded cinemas. To that extent the conversion to the latest technologies offers us a clear competitive advantage. Dolby Atmos for us is the logical development of the already existing Dolby systems in our cinemas such as Dolby 7.1… Our Kino 10 is a cinema of the future—more cinema is not possible!”