Cinema City sets sights on Cineworld


“After nearly four decades in the cinema industry building a business from one country to seven,” Cinema City International’s co-founder and chief executive officer Moshe “Mooky” Greidinger is intent on joining forces with Cineworld. “I see an impressive company…and a good fit,” he said upon announcing the “proposed combination” of the largest chain in Israel, Central and Eastern Europe with the leader in the U.K. and Ireland market.

The £500 million deal (€602.56 mil., US$823.6 mil.), to be financed with a cash payment of £272 million to Cinema City in conjunction with a rights issue by Cineworld valued at £110 million, will result in a combined 201 cinema locations with 1,852 screens. Cinema City will hold close to a quarter of the merged company. Greidinger spoke of bringing together “two equals in size, both leading players in their respective countries,” on their quest for “continuing growth, innovation and dedication to the best possible customer experience.” And indeed, Cinema City has plans and signed agreements for 36 more multiplexes with almost 380 new screens, whereas Cineworld holds leases for an additional 169 screens planned to open through 2017.

In view of “enhanced growth prospects and attractive returns via exposure to some of the most promising cinema markets in Europe,” including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia, “this is an exciting and unique opportunity,” noted Anthony Bloom, chairman of Cineworld. Throughout 2012, the two circuits sold 84.3 million tickets, generating combined revenues of £595.9 million (€718.13 mil., US$981.57 mil.).

MEDIA Salles Celebrates 100th Informer
Milan, Italy-based cinema promotion agency MEDIA Salles announced its 100th DGT Online Informer in eight years. In celebration of this accomplishment, secretary general Elisabetta Brunella has introduced a new column about cinemas that have not made the switch to digital, with the goal of drawing “the attention of industry and institutions to the risk these cinemas are facing should they not continue their activity.”

Appropriately headlined “Not One Less,” the inaugural entry describes Le Grazie in the 4,000-soul town of Bobbio, Italy. Operated 52 weeks a year by Stefano Bernardi and his wife, this 196-seat “Cinema Paradiso” is located in an old annex to the abbey of San Colombano, which was the inspiration for Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Brunella writes. Also featured in the anniversary Informer—albeit under the heading “All Different, All Digital”—is the six/screen, 1,200-seat IMG Piazza Candiani in Mestre near Venice, Italy, a proud member of FJI’s “Class of 2013.”

Berlinale: Welcome Back, Zoo Palast

Prior to the big press conference on Jan. 28 announcing all the films of the coming Berlinale other than previously released highlights such as the uncensored Nymphomaniac and George Clooney’s Monuments Men, organizers confirmed the return of the legendary Zoo Palast. The original venue of the Berlin Film Festival and its home for decades was lovingly restored as a premium cinema by Joachim Flebbe of Astor Film Lounge and CinemaxX fame. The European Film Market (EFM) is expanding its capacities with five screens at this “lovingly restored” classic including the Lola@Berlinale series showcasing the 45 films pre-selected for the German Film Award. The Zoo Palast will be featured in our March issue.

Searchlight Cultivates More Marigold
As the Berlinale checked into Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel for its opening attraction, filming began in India for the sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Joining original British cast members Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel are Richard Gere, David Strathairn and Tamsin Greig. After a global gross of US$135 million. it is not surprising that Fox Searchlight, otherwise known for discovering and nurturing original films, has booked into adjoining rooms. This time around, Patel’s Sonny must actually run the hotel and deal even more with his senior guests as he prepares for his (monsoon) wedding.

Silent Picturehouses Celebrated
While in the former British Empire, let’s have a look at film and travel history. Under the heading of “Silent Picturehouse,” British Airways helped commemorate 100 years of Indian cinema. In a unique set-up, the three-day event at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mumbai arranged to have its guests “travel the world from their seats.”

The screenings showcased scenes from Bollywood blockbusters on three different screens, “playing simultaneously in a space to recreate the in-flight entertainment experience with the traditional cinema-viewing environment.” To do so, organizers had the audience tune in to pre-selected movies of their choice using wireless headphones, all the while enjoying what the airline’s South Asia regional commercial manager, Christopher Fordyce, called “delectable menu options from the comfort of their seat.”

The “Silent Picturehouse” is an original concept by British Airways launched globally in 2010 to mark the airline’s partnership with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. For more information, click here.

Gravity Leads BAFTA Race
Talk about the best of both worlds. By being openmindedly international in its consideration of annual accomplishments, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts manages to remain connected to its former colonies—at least to the glitz and glamour that the nominated likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lawrence and Oprah Winfrey provide. That said, with her 26th nomination for Philomena, Dame Judi Dench becomes BAFTA’s most-nominated actor in history. (Woody Allen is the most-named director.)

Nominated as both best film and best British film—a feat also achieved by Philomena with a total of four nominations—Gravity leads the BAFTA Awards with 11 categories. While 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle follow very closely with 10 nominations each, Captain Phillips scored nine mentions and Behind the Candelabra and Saving Mr. Banks five apiece. Rounding out the rear are Rush, including a nod for German Daniel Brühl, and The Wolf of Wall Street (four), Blue Jasmine, The Great Gatsby, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska (three); and The Act of Killing, Lee Daniel’s The Butler and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (two nominations each).