Hoyts to buy out Barrie Everard's Berkeley cinemas

Australia’s Hoyts Corporation is beefing up its New Zealand cinema business with the purchase of Barrie Everard’s Berkeley Cinema Group.

The Auckland-based company is the fourth largest cinema circuit in this country and the second largest in Auckland, with 21 screens in four complexes at Botany Downs, Mission Bay, Takapuna and Hibiscus Coast.

The third-largest is the US-owned Reading, which has large complexes in Wellington and Christchurch and seven other locations. It was previously a co-owner with Mr Everard of Botany Downs.

While Hoyts has long had interests in New Zealand, it had fallen well behind its major Australian rival, Greater Union, which recently bought the Sky City Cinemas chain.

The Berkeley acquisition will lift Hoyts’ New Zealand cinema circuit from seven multiplexes and 49 screens to 11 multiplexes and 70 screens. One these, Wairau Park on Auckland's North Shore, is within a few kilometres of Berkeley's Takapuna four screen multiplex.

In the past few years, Hoyts opened a new complex at Sylvia Park, Auckland, and late last year expanded its Riccarton multiplex. Earlier, it closed its central Wellington cinemas.

Executive chairman David Kirk said the recent deployment of six 3D digital systems also demonstrated its commitment to the New Zealand market.

The agreement is conditional on certain matters being satisfied, including necessary regulatory approvals. The parties aim to complete the transaction by June 2010.

“Berkeley’s design and operations are highly complementary to our own,” Hoyts’ chief executive officer Delfin Fernandez said in the company’s announcement.

“We are particularly excited about the synergies that exist between our respective luxury concepts, La Premiere and Circle Lounge, as well as our big screen concepts, Xtremescreen and Sumo Screen. We also look forward to extending Hoyts’ digital and 3D experience to more New Zealanders.”

Hoyts has 40 multiplexes in Australia also owns and operates the Val Morgan cinema advertising business, a film distribution company, and is wholly owned by Pacific Equity Partners (PEP).

Earlier this month NBR 24/7 reported that PEP was considering a float of both Hoyts and its Australasian book business Redgroup Retail, which owns Whitcoulls and Borders.

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