Cineplex Inc. cleared to buy 24 Atlantic Canada cinemas

Canada's Competition Bureau has paved the way for Cineplex Inc. to take over 24 movie theatres in Atlantic Canada owned by the Sobey family, an acquisition that will give the company close to three-quarters of the cinema business in the country.

Competition Bureau approves sale of Sobey-owned Empire Theatre cinemas

Cineplex Inc. has received approval to buy 24 movie theatres in Atlantic Canada from Empire Co. after it agreed not to acquire two other cinemas in Ontario. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Canada's Competition Bureau has paved the way for Cineplex Inc. to take over two dozen movie theatres in Atlantic Canada owned by the Sobey family, an acquisition that will give the company close to three-quarters of the cinema business in the country.

"The Competition Bureau announced today that it will not challenge the proposed acquisition by Cineplex Inc. of 24 movie theatres from Empire Theatres Ltd.," the federal competition enforcement agency said in a statement.

Cineplex originally also sought two Empire movieplexes in Ontario, but Competition Bureau concerns prompted the company to pass up those theatres.

"Following a three-month review, the bureau determined that the proposed acquisition of the Empire theatres in Whitby and Kanata would likely lead to a substantial lessening of competition in those markets," the bureau's statement said.

"After the bureau advised Cineplex and Empire of its concerns, the parties revised their transaction to exclude the two Ontario theatres. Empire subsequently found an alternative buyer."

The sale and closure of 50 Empire Theatres locations comes as the Nova Scotia-based Sobey family, which controls parent company Empire Co. Ltd., gets out of the movie-theatre business to focus on its grocery stores. Earlier this year, Sobey bought up more than 200 Safeway stores in Western Canada in a $5.8 billion deal

The Cineplex acquisition is valued at $194 million and will give the corporation 161 theatres across Canada.

Landmark Cinemas is buying 22 other Empire locations, in Ontario and Western Canada, and four more will be closed or sold.

With files from The Canadian Press

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