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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 16:30 GMT
Odeon cinema chain sold

Odeon West End Odeon is the UK's biggest cinema estate


Rank Group has announced it is to sell the Odeon chain for 280m to Cinven, the venture capital group that owns ABC cinemas.

Under the deal - which marks Rank's exit from the cinema business - the chains will merge but keep the name of Odeon, the UK's biggest cinema estate.

The enlarged business will have a 26.5% share of all UK box office takings, giving it a clear lead over the second place UCI cinemas which have a 16.5% share.

Odeon already operates 75 sites and 464 screens, including the flagship site in London's Leicester Square.

The smaller ABC owns 57 cinemas with 174 screens, all of which will be rebranded in a multi-million pound refurbishment programme.

Dick Munton, a director at Cinven, said: "We've earmarked 60m for refurbishment and openings, but that should be considered the limit on our investment."

'Pinewood to go'

Rank, which has been in the cinema business since 1941, will use proceeds from the sale to reduce its group debts.

The group will now concentrate on its other businesses which range from the Hard Rock Cafe chain to bingo halls and holiday camps.

Rank is also thought to be close to selling its Pinewood Studios business, to a consortium headed by former Channel 4 head Michael Grade.

Cinven said it was open to more acquisitions in the cinema market, 14% of which is still owned by small operators.

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See also:
19 Oct 99 |  The Company File
Virgin sells cinemas
10 May 99 |  Tom Brook
Will digital be the death of cinema?
05 Aug 98 |  Entertainment
New adaptation for London's best-known cinema

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