Century Theatres Inc., a San Rafael, Calif.-based chain with multiplexes throughout California and 11 other Western states, has agreed to be acquired by Cinemark USA Inc. for an undisclosed price.
The deal, announced Tuesday, would continue a consolidation of the movie theater industry and make Cinemark, based in Plano, Texas, comparable in size to the nation's second-largest chain, AMC Entertainment Inc. Cinemark is now a distant No. 3.
The acquisition, if approved by federal regulators, would boost Cinemark's screen count by almost 1,000, to a total of 4,395. AMC, which bought Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. this year, operates 4,437 screens in the U.S. Regal Entertainment Group's 6,383 screens make it the nation's largest theater owner.
Century was courted by Cinemark when it was up for auction last summer, but the two sides could not agree on a price.
The deal comes at a time of uncertainty for the movie exhibition business. Attendance in the U.S. fell for three straight years after peaking in 2002. So far this year attendance has rebounded 3.7%.
"Our business is cyclical, more than most any business," said Terrell Falk, vice president of marketing and communications at Cinemark. "We're dependent on the quality of the films."
Falk said the deal would help Cinemark, which operates in 34 states, expand its California presence. Century's Southern California locations include North Hollywood, Huntington Beach, Orange and Ventura.
Century was founded in 1941 by Raymond J. Syufy and is now led by his sons, Raymond W. Syufy and Joseph Syufy.
Cinemark, founded in 1987, is majority owned by Chicago-based private equity investment firm Madison Dearborn Capital Partners, which bought a controlling stake in 2004.