Consolidation within the movie theater industry continues with the announcement Thursday of the sale of Dallas-based Starplex Cinemas to AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. for about $175 million.
Trinity Hunt Partners, a Dallas-based private equity firm that has owned the cinemas since 2012, said the Department of Justice has approved the sale of portfolio company Starplex Cinemas. The deal had originally been announced in July.
Starplex Cinemas operates 33 movie theatres with 346 screens in 12 states. Starplex has nine theaters in Texas, including three in North Texas, in Fort Worth, Lake Worth and Forney.
Peter J. Solomon Company advised Starplex on the transaction.
Separately, the Justice Department and several states are investigating alleged antitrust violations by the country’s biggest movie theater chains, according to securities filings and the Ohio attorney general.
AMC and Cinemark, based in Plano, both acknowledged investigative demands by the government in recent SEC quarterly filings.
Last month, AMC also acknowledged similar requests from Ohio, Florida, Kansas, New York, Texas, Washington and the District of Columbia.
The government wants documents related to potentially anticompetitive conduct, “including film clearances and participation in certain joint ventures,” AMC said in a Nov. 4 SEC filing. The company said it may receive similar requests from other jurisdictions.
“The Company does not believe it has violated federal or state antitrust laws and is cooperating with the relevant governmental authorities,” AMC said in the SEC filing.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Thursday his office was the first among 10 jurisdictions examining whether AMC, Cinemark and Regal have taken action to keep competitors and new theaters out of the market.
At issue is so-called exclusionary conduct by AMC, Cinemark and Regal that would limit consumers’ choices and stifle innovation, DeWine said. The investigation is looking at whether the chains have tried to thwart independent movie theaters and nonprofit film centers, among others, said DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney.
“All businesses should have a fair chance to compete,” DeWine said. “We’re investigating the movie theater chains because of concerns that smaller, independent businesses have been unfairly pushed out of the market.” – The Associated Press contributed to this report.