Media mogul Sumner Redstone's family movie theater chain National Amusements Inc. has reached an agreement to sell 35 theaters to Dallas-based exhibitor Rave Motion Pictures, people close to the matter confirmed.
Details of the deal, which is believed to include Los Angeles' Bridge: Cinema de Lux multiplex, are still being worked out, but the transaction is expected to be finalized in the next two weeks.
Redstone would probably use the proceeds from the sale to retire a portion of National's debt, which was an onerous $1.46 billion until he announced plans in mid-October to sell nearly $1 billion in stock in the two media companies he controls, Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp.
It is unclear how much Rave is paying for the National Amusements theaters, which are outside National's core markets in New England and New York.
Headquartered in Norwood, Mass., and run by Redstone's daughter, Shari Redstone, National operates more than 1,500 screens worldwide, including the 17-screen Bridge complex in Westchester and others in Britain, Latin America and Russia. News of Rave's pending deal was first reported by the website Deadline Hollywood.
Privately held Rave, founded in 1999, is the 10th-largest theater owner in North America, with 475 screens in 30 locations in 14 states, including California, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas.
With the addition of the National screens, Rave will probably rank as the nation's fifth- or sixth-largest circuit behind behemoths Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Carmike.
Headed by Chief Executive Thomas Stephenson Jr., whose spokeswoman declined to comment, Rave has been on the forefront of digital cinema and, according to its website, is the largest U.S. chain to have 100% state-of-the-art digital projection.
According to those who know the industry, Stephenson has been a strong advocate of 3-D, pushing other theaters to adopt the technology. He is also considered to be a tough competitor, making some enemies along the way as he's aggressively expanded the chain and gone up against bigger rivals in some markets.
Rave has accrued a fair amount of debt because of its rapid expansion.