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January 10, 2014 4:43 pm

Israel’s Cinema City in $825 Million Merger to Become Second Largest in Europe

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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The Armon Theater, Haifa. Photo: Screenshot / thehaifahistory.blogspot.com.

The Armon Theater, Haifa. Photo: Screenshot / thehaifahistory.blogspot.com.

Cinema City CEO Mooky Greidinger, whose family opened its first cinema in Haifa, in 1931, on Friday was named to be the CEO of a merged company with UK-based Cineworld Group, valued at £503 million ($825 million), with 201 theaters and 1,852 screens, the London Evening Standard and Variety reported.

Israel was Cinema City’s sole country of operation until 1997, when it expanded into central and eastern Europe with the launch of operations in Hungary. The combined group will now be the largest player in Poland, Israel, Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Slovakia, and second-overall in Europe (including Israel) to Odeon UCI, which has some 2,100 screens.

Greidinger said: “After nearly four decades in the cinema industry building a business from one country to seven, I see an impressive company in Cineworld and a good fit with Cinema City. Together with the rest of the proposed management team, I intend to seize this opportunity to bring together two equals in size, both leading players in their respective countries, and lead the resulting business to continuing growth, innovation and dedication to the best possible customer experience.”

Four years after opening his first cinema, in 1935 Moshe Greidinger, the current CEO’s grandfather, built a second, the Armon Theater, a large art-deco building with 1,800 seats on Ha’Nevi’im Street, in Haifa, which soon become the heart of the city’s entertainment district. The theater was also used as a venue by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Israeli Opera. The Armon was closed in 1987, demolished to make room for an office building.

Greidinger is taking over from Steve Wiener, Cineworld’s founder who had announced his intention to step down after 44 years in the movie business. Previously, he was managing director of Warner Bros Europe before starting his own business in 1995, the Evening Standard said.

The merger is expected to be put to shareholders for a vote in March.

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