Vue

90, including 2 closed, 4 sold and 1 lease terminated

On 13 May 2003, SBC International Cinemas, backed by Legal & General Ventures and Clarity Partners, announced its £250m acquisition of the Warner Village circuit in a deal that also saw the creation of a new company, Vue Entertainment Holdings (UK) Ltd. (SBC had been formed in 1998 by Canadian born lawyer Tim Richards, backed by US-based Boston Ventures for the creation of multiplex cinemas outside of North America. Also involved had been a Scot, Stewart Blair, who had lived in America for 25 years. The company was originally called Spean Bridge, derived from the Highland location of Mr Blair’s wedding.

The company’s first cinema opened in Livingston, Scotland, in October 2000. By October 2002 the circuit had six cinemas: four in the UK and one each in Taiwan and Portugal. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. International Theatres had been formed in September 1988 to construct multiplexes worldwide.

In 1996 the company had merged with Australian exhibitor Village Roadshow to become Warner Village Cinemas.)

In February 2004 Vue began re-branding its cinemas “to create a more upscale, adult ambience”, according to Cinema Business (April 2004). On 30 April 2004 Vue acquired multiplexes at Northampton and Scunthorpe from Texas-based Cinemark International. These had been branded since opening as UCI, and managed by that company on behalf of Cinemark.

On 31 May 2005 all seven Ster Century sites (including one in Dublin that had opened first, in August 1999) were purchased for an estimated £50m from A3 Cinemas Ltd, the holding company of Ster Century (UK) Ltd. (Originally the international arm of Ster-Kinekor, co-owned by South African-based companies Primedia and Royale Resorts, Ster Century was purchased by the UK management team, as Aurora Holdings, in July 2003 when all non-South African cinemas were sold.) On 25 April 2006 Vue purchased the Ozone multiplex in Oxford. (Originally a Warner Village project, this had been taken over and opened by the Firoka group, headed by Firoz Kassam, Oxford United chairman, as part of his Ozone Leisure & Entertainment Park.)

On 21 June 2006 Vue acquired five multiplexes from Village Roadshow Ltd, UK subsidiary of Village Cinemas International, a division of Australian media group Village Roadshow, founded in Melbourne in 1954. (Village sites also included multiplexes at Nottingham, sold to UGC in October 2003, and Belfast, leased to Storm Cinemas in May 2006, but now operated directly by Village Cinemas - see entry under that operator.) These cinemas had been operated as Warner Village cinemas, with only Carlisle being branded externally as Village. They included the multiplex at Manchester (Salford Quays) which was leased from 28 August 2003 until an unspecified date to Manchester United FC and branded ‘Red Cinema’ as a “cinema of dreams” for their fans and a “world first fusion of entertainment and sport”. On 20 June 2006 Tim Richards led a £350m management buyout, funded by Bank of Scotland Corporate, whereby the management team acquired the shareholdings of Boston Ventures, Clarity Partners and Legal & General Ventures. The management team owned 51% of the company. In October 2006 the former Ster Century multiplex at Basingstoke was sold to Odeon, as required by the Competition Commission further to Vue’s acquisition of that and the local Warner Village cinema.

In October 2009 Vue leased the former Showcase at Wood Green, north London, from Hoyts and in February 2010 Vue opened Westfield London, originally a Showcase Cinema de Lux development.

In June 2010 the lease on the multiplex at the Greenwich 02 centre was taken over by Cineworld. On 15 July 2010 the ex-Warner multiplex in Bury closed; a new Vue multiplex, which includes a “Vue Xtreme” screen, opened the following day. In November 2010 the company was bought by private equity firm Doughty Hanson for £450m, with the intention of paving the way for further growth.

In May 2012 Vue acquired the Apollo circuit for an estimated £20m. This included 11 multiplexes and three non-multiplex cinemas at Leamington Spa, Morecambe and Stafford. (In 1977, Paul Gregg and his wife Anita acquired the theatre that they renamed the Apollo, Ardwick and thus founded Apollo Leisure. They went on to build up a circuit of 27 live theatres, the largest in the UK, but sold the business to SFX, in September 1999, for £129m. Gregg became SFX’s European operations director. However, after Clear Channel acquired SFX, Gregg decided to leave the company. In April 2002 Anita Gregg and HSBC financed the purchase, for £23m, of Apollo’s cinema and bingo business and re-established this independent business. In February 2011 the Apollo at Rhyl closed for a £2.5m refurbishment, reopening in August. In 2011 consultants Deloitte had been engaged to conduct a strategic review of the loss-making circuit, but it had been thought that an outright sale would be difficult due to wrangling over the estate of Anita Gregg, who owned the circuit and was the late wife of founder Paul Gregg.)

In January 2013, to avoid referral of the acquisition to the Competition Commission, the former Apollo multiplexes at Fareham, Port Talbot, and Burnley (together with the Apollo cinema at Morecambe) were sold to Reel Cinemas.

In June 2013 Doughty Hanson sold the circuit to Canadian investors OMERS Private Equity and Alberta Investment Management for £935m. This represented a substantial profit on their £450m purchase, although the number of cinemas operated had increased from 70 to 143, mainly through the acquisition of CinemaxX and Multikino, respectively the second largest circuits in Germany and Poland. The existing management team, led by Tim Richards, continued to run Vue. As a result of its July 2016 takeover by AMC, Odeon had a monopoly in Manchester city centre, so its Printworks multiplex was divested to Vue in May 2017.

ex-SBC

Livingston (The Circuit) [8] 5 October 2000
Aberdeen (The Lighthouse) [7] 6 April 2001
Hamilton (SBC) [9] 23 August 2002
Southport (SBC) [7] 17 October 2002

ex-Warner

Bury (Pilsworth) [12] 16 June 1989. Closed 15 July 2010
Newcastle on Tyne [9] 6 December 1989. Closed 15 April 2004
York [12] 9 March 1990
Basingstoke [10] 21 September 1990
Thurrock [7] March 1991. Increased to [9] 15 June 2007
Preston [7] 18 October 1991
Doncaster [7] 14 February 1992
Sheffield [11] 26 March 1993
London (West End) [9] 24 September 1993
Acton (Park Royal) [9] 16 December 1994
Cambridge [8] 13 April 1995
Leicester [9] 14 July 1995
Croydon (Purley Way) [8] 19 January 1996
Watford [9] 19 January 1996
Harrow [9] 26 April 1996
North Finchley [8] 11 July 1996

ex-Warner Village

Dagenham [9] 10 January 1997
Bolton [12] 16 January 1998
Leeds [9] July 1998
Inverness [7] 28 August 1998
Bristol (Cribbs Causeway) [12] 18 September 1998
London (Finchley Road) [8 later 12] 20 November 1998
Hartlepool [7] 5 March 1999*
Plymouth [15] 27 May 1999
Bristol (Longwell Green) [13] December 1999
Ellesmere Port (Cheshire Oaks) [16] 17 Dec. 1999?
Reading [10] December 1999
Birmingham (Star City) [30, but 5 moth-balled] 20 July 2000
Worcester [6] 7 November 2000
Portsmouth [11, later 14] March 2001
Shepherd’s Bush [12] 7 December 2001
Staines [10] 22 March 2002
Croydon (Grants) [10] 3 May 2002
Islington [9] 28 June 2002
Fulham Broadway [9] 11 October 2002
Edinburgh (Omni Centre) [12] 15 November 2002

* In June 1997 Screen Works of the Netherlands announced they were to develop a UK circuit of 15 multi-purpose entertainment complexes, to be built around multiplex cinemas. The first of these was to open in Hartlepool in 1998. Nothing more was heard. Possibly the project at Hartlepool was taken over by Warner Village when Screen Works pulled out.

ex-Cinemark International [branded as UCI]

Northampton [10] [30 April 2004]
Scunthorpe [7] [30 April 2004]

ex-Ster Century

Norwich [8] 2 June 2000
Romford [16] 6 April 2001
Leith (Ocean Terminal) [12] 4 October 2001
Leeds [13] 22 March 2002
Basingstoke [10] 22 October 2002. Sold to Odeon
Cardiff [14; less 4 converted to a casino in 2005 (CB 23 p4)] 11 April 2003

opened as Vue

Blackburn [10] 18 November 2005

ex-Ozone

Oxford [12, but screens 2-4 unused] 17 December 2003

ex-Village Roadshow

Birkenhead [7] 19 November 1999
Carlisle [7] 30 June 2000
Newcastle under Lyme [8] 1 September 2000
Manchester (Salford Quays) [7] 16 November 2001
Lancaster [6] 25 August 2006

opened as Vue, continued

Cleveleys [8] 25 August 2006
Swansea [12] 29 September 2006
Exeter [7] 22 December 2006
Greenwich (O2) [11] 29 June 2007. Lease terminated. Acquired by Cineworld
Westwood Cross (Thanet) [10] 16 November 2007
Hull [10] 21 December 2007
Stirling [8] 25 January 2008
Merthyr Tydfil [8] 26 September 2008
Cwmbran [8] 31 October 2008
Camberley [9] 14 November 2008
Eastleigh [9] 3 April 2009
Newbury [7] 13 November 2009

ex-Showcase

Wood Green [6] [17 December 2009]

opened as Vue, continued

Westfield White City (London) [14] 12 February 2010
Bury (The Rock) [10] 16 July 2010
Westfield Stratford City (London) [17] 13 September 2011

ex-Apollo

Rhyl [5] 11 December 1995
Burnley [9] 30 May 1997. Sold to Reel.
Port Talbot [6] December 1998. Sold to Reel.
Barrow in Furness [6] 22 February 1999
Paignton [9] August 1999
London (West End) [5] 24 August 2004
Fareham [5] 29 July 2005. Sold to Reel.
Stroud [6] 11 November 2005
Altrincham [6] 8 December 2006
Redditch [7] 23 March 2007
Carmarthen [6] 30 April 2010

opened as Vue, continued

Halifax [9] 26 October 2012
Cramlington [9] 5 July 2013
Bicester [7] 11 July 2013
Glasgow (Fort) [8] 22 August 2013
Gateshead [9] 20 December 2013
Farnborough [7] 7 May 2015
Darlington [9] 23 June 2016

ex-Odeon

Manchester (Printworks) [23] [24 May 2017]
Westfield White City (London) [14; 20 from 5 June 2017] 12 February 2010