Aggressive Texas theater chain Rave to buy 35 theaters from Sumner Redstone


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Media mogul Sumner Redstone’s family movie circuit National Amusements Inc. has reached an agreement to sell 35 theaters to Dallas-based exhibitor Rave Motion Pictures, a person close to the matter confirmed.

Redstone will use the proceeds from the sale to help retire National’s remaining debt, which was an onerous $1.46 billion until the mogul announced in mid-October that he would sell nearly $1 billion in stock in the two media companies he controls, Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., to save his empire from collapsing.


It is unclear just how much Rave is paying for the nearly three dozen theaters, which are based outside National’s core markets in New England and New York. Headquartered in Norwood, Mass., and headed by Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, National operates more than 1,500 screens worldwide, including The Bridge in Los Angeles and cinemas in Britain, Latin America and Russia. News of Rave’s pending deal was first reported by the website Deadline Hollywood. It could be finalized in the next two weeks.

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’s screens, Rave will likely rank as the nation’s fifth- or sixth- largest circuit behind behemoths Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Entertainment, Cinemark and Carmike. Headed by CEO Thomas Stephenson Jr., who didn’t respond to media inquiries, 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 circuit, Stephenson has been a strong advocate of 3-D, pushing others in the exhibition industry to adopt the technology. He is also considered to be a tough competitor in the theater world, making some enemies along the way as he’s aggressively expanded the circuit and gone up against bigger rivals in certain markets.

Rave has accrued a fair amount of debt due to its rapid expansion. Deadline Hollywood reported that hedge fund TowerBrook Capital Partners L.P. is providing Rave the financing for the acquisition of National’s theaters.

-- Claudia Eller