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The Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain sold to Sony Pictures Entertainment: the Hollywood studio commits to maintaining the Drafthouse model – Screens

The Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain sold to Sony Pictures Entertainment: the Hollywood studio commits to maintaining the Drafthouse model – Screens
The Alamo Drafthouse cinema chain sold to Sony Pictures Entertainment: the Hollywood studio commits to maintaining the Drafthouse model – Screens

 


Under New Management: Sony Pictures Entertainment today announced the purchase of the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse movie theater chain. He will become a key part of the company's new Sony Pictures Experiences division, but Sony is committed to remaining based in Austin. (Photo by John Anderson)

A major change awaits Alamo Drafthouse: the Austin-based theater chain and its Fantastic Fest film festival have been acquired entirely and solely by Sony Pictures Entertainment and will become part of the new Sony Pictures Experiences division.

SPE is purchasing Drafthouse outright from the current owners: Altamont Capital Partners, Fortress Investment Group and League. The Drafthouse was represented by Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC in the negotiations.

League co-founded Alamo with his wife, Karrie, in 1997 as a single-screen repertory theater in downtown Austin, and participated throughout its growth to become the seventh largest movie theater chain in the United States. United. Currently executive chairman, League will remain an advisor. at the Alamo – just one of many signs of continuity from the new leadership. In a statement, he wrote: “We are beyond excited to join forces with Sony Pictures Entertainment to expand our company's vision to be the best cinema that has ever existed or will ever exist in a way we can only dream of. … They have a deep respect and understanding of the ability of movie theaters to both drive growth and create lasting cultural impact, which aligns perfectly with everything Alamo Drafthouse stands for.

Rumors of a sale began in March, just before the CinemaCon industry convention, with the interesting twist that Drafthouse was in negotiations with an unnamed Hollywood studio. Such a deal would have been impossible for most studios before 2020: over the previous 71 years, an antitrust agreement known as the Paramount Decrees had prevented distributors and studios from owning their own theaters. The fact that a federal judge agreed with the Justice Department to end this agreement opened the industry again to this type of cross-ownership. However, Sony and its subsidiary Columbia Pictures were not covered by the executive order and had previously dabbled in ownership of movie theaters, such as the Loews Theater chain, which it owned between 1988 and 2002. Yet even without the executive order, they remain the only studio to get back into the film business.

In this announcement, SPE committed to maintaining the blend of movie watching, movie appreciation and theater dining that Drafthouse offers. Ravi Ahuja, president and COO of SPE, also clarified that Drafthouse would not become a Sony exclusive, adding that it “will of course continue to host content from all studios and distributors.”

Additionally, SPE confirmed that all 35 Drafthouses currently operating will remain open and that the Drafthouse will remain based in Austin. Additionally, Fantastic Fest will remain under the Alamo umbrella.

Tom Rothman, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group, said: “Alamo Drafthouse has always held the craft of filmmaking and the theatrical experience in high regard, which are core values ​​shared between our companies. I'm glad our company is doing this.

As with many movie theater chains, it's been a tough few years for Drafthouse. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2021, when the current consortium acquired it, with League as a minority shareholder. However, the private equity era has not been without turmoil and controversy, as recently demonstrated by the closing of all five Drafthouse franchises in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area and one in Minnesota. However, Drafthouse has also rebounded better from the pandemic than the rest of the industry.

Sources close to Drafthouse are very optimistic about the deal, as Sony is considered by many in the industry to be the studio most committed to theatrical distribution. There is a particular sigh of relief that the chain is now out of the hands of private equity, which was often seen as a deal with the devil to get through the pandemic.

As for Sony, Ahuja highlighted its growing commitment to “engaging entertainment fans outside of the home,” as seen in the recent Wheel of Fortune LIVE! traveling tour and the opening of Wonderverse, a combination restaurant and entertainment venue in Chicago. Ahuja said, “Alamo Drafthouses’ differentiated movie experience, admired brand and dedicated community align well with this vision. …We look forward to building on the innovations that have made Alamo Drafthouse successful.”

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