Bury St Edmunds: Cineworld confirms plans to sell Abbeygate Picturehouse

The Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds

The Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds

Cinema group Cineworld today confirmed that it plans to sell the Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds following a ruling by the Competition Commission.

The commission (CC) has told Cineworld to sell cinemas in Bury, Cambridge and Aberdeen following the group’s acquisition of City Screen Ltd, which owned the Picturehouse chain, on the ground’s that limited local competition would result in higher prices for customers.

Supporters of the Abbeygate who are concerned about its future should a sale go ahead launched a petition urging the CC to reconsider and Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley also wrote to the commission questioning its ruling.

Earlier this month, however, the CC confirmed its original decision and in a trading update today, Cineworld said it would be going ahead with a sale of the Picturehouse sites in Bury and Aberdeen.

“On October 8, 2013, the Competition Commission published their final decision on the acquisition of Picturehouse resulting in the requirement to dispose of one cinema in each of Aberdeen, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge,” said the group.

“A decision has been made to dispose of the Picturehouse cinemas in Aberdeen and Bury St Edmunds. No decision has yet been made in respect of Cambridge.”

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In the trading update, Cineworld said that total revenues for the 16 weeks to October 17 were up 11% on the same period last year, with Cineworld revenues 1.7% ahead and Picturehouse 30.6% up on a proforma basis.

“In the 16 weeks, Cineworld Cinemas’ box office increased by 1.4% driven by admissions which increased by 2.3%,” the group said.

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“The higher proportion of lower-priced family orientated films over the summer period, (most notably Despicable Me 2 which is the highest grossing film of the year so far) resulted in average ticket price declining by 0.9%.

“Retail promotional activities over the summer months helped drive volume and resulted in overall growth against the corresponding 16 week period last year, albeit at a slightly lower spend per person.”

And it added: “Picturehouse continues to trade well and posted increased box office and retail revenues.”

The latest figures mean that group revenues for the first 42 weeks of its current financial year are now 17.7% higher compared with the same state in 2011-12, with Cineworld 7.1% up and Picturehouse 10.2% ahead.

A petition has been launched to save the Picturehouse.

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