US-based Cohen Media Group has acquired the 46 screens of UK’s arthouse cinema operator Curzon in December 2019. This follows the acquisition 12 months prior of Landmark Cinemas, the leading arthouse cinema chain in the US with 257 screens.
The deal includes Curzon’s distribution arm, Artificial Eye, and streaming arm, Curzon Home Cinema, which is available in the UK and Ireland.
Cohen Media Group created a vertically integrated group with the addition of Landmark Theatres in the US to its production and distribution business. With Curzon, Cohen Media expands the group geographically with the addition of exhibition and distribution in the UK but also with a specialty brand, Curzon, that can be exported to other territories, leaving the door open for further international expansion.
The transaction also takes the vertical integration further with Curzon Home Cinema rental VOD service. The streaming model, which could be imported into the US and exported into other territories, carries out day and date releases of most of the films offering an alternative medium to both cinema-going and non-cinema going audiences.
On the theatrical side this move won’t have significant impact in the highly concentrated exhibition landscape in both countries, as the respective market shares are small: 1% for Curzon in the UK and 0.6% for Landmark in the US according to IHS Markit Technology, now part of Informa Tech. That said, it brings consolidation to the small but engaged arthouse market and opens the door to expansion to others. Overall, it provides strength to the arthouse and specialised cinema sector which does not capitalise Hollywood blockbusters.
Finally, on the content side the transaction strengthens the group’s negotiating power as a distributor as it opens the door to acquire rights for two territories. They have released moss of the same films over the year so it is certain they will leverage their new size in negotiations.
From Curzon’s perspective, as expressed by its CEO in an interview in April, it was a moment to expand the brand but it felt more naturally to look at Europe given the company’s ties with the continent in content (specialisation in foreign language and particularly European films) and funding - Curzon obtained over €2m in 2018 from various Creative Europe programmes and a further €700k for its streaming platform in 2019. Now, Curzon has been acquired by a US group just as Brexit is set to materialise soon.