UK Multiplex Chain Cineworld Purchase "Arthouse" Circuit Picturehouse Cinemas

Picturehouse Cinemas started life just a few minutes walk away from where I am writing when Tony Jones and Lyn Goleby took over the Phoenix cinema in Oxford during the mid 80s.

Their circuit now comprises twenty one sites – most of which, my experience has revealed, the locals consider to be “independent” cinemas. Of course, they’re nothing of the sort. They’re every bit as much of a chain as the Odeon or Vue circuits, they just work a different target audience in a slightly different way. They’re certainly the biggest vendors of “arthouse” cinema in the UK.

And as of today, they’re the property of Cineworld, the UK’s second-largest cinema chain. The ticket price was £47 million, inclusive of all sites and the small distribution label, Picturehouse Entertainment.

The Picturehouse sites are going to be kept distinct from Cineworld, and run as a separate entity by their existing management team. This should translate into the same sort of programming as they have been running, which is not a terrible outcome.

Or maybe it won’t – maybe Cineworld will mandate them to be bolder now, and stop with the Skyfalls and Pirates of the Caribbean, and maybe push out even further into giving “smaller” films bigger releases. Is there really much point in buying this small city-centre cinemas and working them in the same way as your ring-road box multiplexes?

It’s looking unlikely that Cineworld’s brilliant Unlimited subscription service would be rolled out to these new sites. Bad news for my wallet, really. All-you-can-eat cinema tickets for £14.99 a month really is an astonishing deal.

As it happens, the Phoenix here in Oxford will be showing Electric Man, a comedy-chase-drama-mystery set in and around a comic book shop, later today and I’ll be swinging by to check it out. I the staff know anything else that’s interesting about the Cineworld deal, I’ll pass it on.

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