UPDATED: Empire out of theatre business

John Brannen
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Westville drive-in theatre property to be repurposed

Empire Company, the parent group of Sobeys and Empire Theatres has reached a definitive agreement with Cineplex Inc. for the sale of 24 Empire theatres located in Atlantic Canada, including 13 in Nova Scotia, six in New Brunswick, three in Newfoundland, and two on Prince Edward Island. 

STELLARTON – It’s the end of a 35-year theatre empire.

Empire Company, the parent group of Sobeys and Empire Theatres has reached a definitive agreement with Cineplex Inc. for the sale of 24 Empire theatres located in Atlantic Canada, including 13 in Nova Scotia, six in New Brunswick, three in Newfoundland, and two on Prince Edward Island. Also included are two Ontario locations in Whitby and Kanata. 

The purchase price for the Cineplex transaction is $200 million to be paid in cash, with certain adjustments to be made at closing. The theatres will be rebranded as Cineplex Cinemas.

Andrew Walker, vice-president communications and corporate affairs of Sobeys Inc., noted while Empire’s entrance into the cinema business was in 1978, Frank H. Sobey’s passion for films started in the 1940s. “Whenever you decide to divest your company, you think about it long and hard,” he said. “This wasn’t a decision made in just a matter of weeks.”

Empire Theatres’ Westville Drive-In, though not included in the Cineplex deal, will close. “Specific decisions haven’t been made on this yet and it will be a very gradual realization,” said Walker, without giving a specific date of closure. While Empire will retain the property and its value within the company assessed, Walker said a theatre is not in the property’s future.

Paul D. Sobey, President and CEO of Empire Company Limited stated, “The decision to sell the business of Empire Theatres was a very difficult one as it has a long history with our Company and is a great business with excellent employees who have worked hard over many years to build an attractive entertainment destination,” said Sobey.

For the 90 non-theatre employees at Empire Theatres, 65 of which are in Stellarton, Walker said they would try to find them jobs within Sobeys. "We'll make every effort to find these empolyees positions within our company or if need be, help them to transition elsewhere," said Walker.

“The decision, however, aligns with the strategic direction of the Company to focus our resources on our food retail business through our 100 percent interest in Sobeys Inc. and on our related real estate investment through our 42.8 percent ownership interest in Crombie REIT,” said Sobey.  

While Walker said Sobeys recent acquisition of the Safeway supermarket chain didn’t necessitate the sale of Empire Theatres, it emphasizes Empire’s focus on food retail and Crombie REIT.

Ellis Jacob, president and CEO of Cineplex Entertainment noted this was a strategic move for his company. “This is a significant event for Cineplex, as the acquisition will provide our company with a truly national, coast-to-coast presence,” he said. “It provides us with a presence in Atlantic Canada and it will enable us to leverage our existing businesses to maximize shareholder value.”

“We look forward to providing our future guests with an exceptional entertainment experience,” said Jacob.

Closing of each transaction is expected to occur by late summer of 2013, though it is still subject to certain regulatory conditions, including approval from the Competition Bureau.

Empire Theatre movie passes, gift cards and certificates will be honoured for six months after Cineplex’s acquisition of the theatres.

Empire has also reached a separate definitive agreement with Landmark Cinemas for the sale of 20 theatres and 179 screens in Ontario and Western Canada, though the company is not obligated to close either transaction without closing the other.

 

Organizations: Empire Theatres, Empire Company, Cineplex Landmark Cinemas Sobeys Inc. Competition Bureau

Geographic location: Ontario, Atlantic Canada, Western Canada

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Recent comments

  • Joanna
    July 01, 2013 - 00:58

    Protest the closing of a movie theatre? Yeah...good luck with that.

  • lynn
    June 28, 2013 - 16:22

    I'll really miss going to the drive In we went as often as possible

  • Trevor J
    June 28, 2013 - 10:50

    Oh crap. I hope they don't start using Cineplex garbage popcorn. Empire makes the best.

  • John MacKay
    June 27, 2013 - 23:27

    There are lots of jobs in Alberta and Saskatchewan, transfer them all out here.We could use the manpower. Isn't the cinema industry mainly employing students part-time anyway? Nova Scotians should know there is a thriving economy in the west. Nova Scotia is for retirement and education. If you are really craving Drive-in,there is one in the Annapolis Valley.

  • Donnie
    June 27, 2013 - 21:48

    well protests don't work against large companies unless dollars work in their favour. if people would make an effort to use the drive-in, and help it show profit, it could be possible to save it.

  • Andrew
    June 27, 2013 - 21:15

    Whatever happened to job security these days? All of these acquisitions and sales of assets, if you will, are resulting in job loss where you would never see it coming. Zellers to Target, Farmers cheese plant to a Quebec company, and now Empire to Ciniplex, etc. Each of them resulting in some sort of loss. Annnnnnnnnnd the rich get richer...

  • CHRISTINE LANGILLE
    June 27, 2013 - 20:38

    This is truly very sad news to hear, why would they close the Drive-In I have sooo many memories there as a kid & now my daughter will be able to have the same experience or memories as I do & this truly saddens me & I for one did not find that the Drive-In was that expensive , & you people thought empire was expensive wait till you see Cineplex's prices...

  • Lori
    June 27, 2013 - 19:42

    The Drive In sits on property that the Sobeys group want for another purpose. Give up the thought of them changing their minds. Development is happening now and will continue to happen in that area. Sobeys knows what they're doing. They know how to make money...enough said.

    • chief wiggam
      June 27, 2013 - 20:08

      no ,it is NOT "...enough said" i find that so rude when people say that.if people want to say something let them.some things need to be talked through.one never knows whats around the corner for anything or anyone."..'nuff said."

  • westville res.
    June 27, 2013 - 19:25

    last year it was only open two night a week and it was getting to expensive to go so I do not care if it closes because you can watch many many moyies home on the computer how can you expect a business to stay open when attendence was dropping every year .and why would Westville want the drive in .they have no money to fix sidewalks and repair our streets..

    • Angie
      June 28, 2013 - 09:42

      It was not open two nights a week at all. Drive-Inn was open throughout the week last year all summer just like always and we go quite a bit and its rare its not busy, and for two movies its not expensive at all.

  • Fed up taxpayer
    June 27, 2013 - 15:07

    As a shareholder, you socialists need to pay full price for the property. A tax donation is less than 20% of the value. Raise your own money and pay the shareholders for what is THEIRS not yours. Many people rely on profits to fund their retirements, not govenment handouts. This is business not a redistribution scheme by government.

  • L. Smith
    June 27, 2013 - 14:54

    3 words : Prime Real-Estate

  • stoney
    June 27, 2013 - 14:44

    I too hope that the drive-in stays open! Is there anything that can be done to change their minds?

  • Amanda
    June 27, 2013 - 14:43

    Doug, Please explain why you would like to see Empire out of business. With all of the people in Pictou County that are employed by the company I can't imagine why you would say that.

  • M S H
    June 27, 2013 - 14:41

    Yes, it would be nice to continue to have the drive-in open, as there are so few left in Canada. But......I feel for the Empire Theatre employees who have been thrown into a turmoil with these drastic changes......unsure if they will indeed have employment within the Sobey's family of companies.....many unable to relocate from the area due to spouse's employment. Having a drive-in theatre is secondary to the impact this may or will have on the people. Best of luck to all of you in your future endeavours.

  • M S H
    June 27, 2013 - 14:39

    Yes, it would be nice to continue to have the drive-in open, as there are so few left in Canada. But......I feel for the Empire Theatre employees who have been thrown into a turmoil with these drastic changes......unsure if they will indeed have employment within the Sobey's family of companies.....many unable to relocate from the area due to spouse's employment. Having a drive-in theatre is secondary to the impact this may or will have on the people. Best of luck to all of you in your future endeavours.

  • Jillian
    June 27, 2013 - 14:37

    Please don't close our drive in!! This is such a great feature to have in Pictou County... there are so few drive in's left. I agree, protests need to happen!

  • give the drive in to the community
    June 27, 2013 - 13:39

    The drive in should be donated to the Town of Westville by Empire in exchange for a charitable donation tax receipt issued by the municipality. The town could then contract out its operation each summer for a fee. The fee monies would in turn be put back into improving the property. This drive in is an experience and is a treasure to have in the county and generates a lot of spin-off business in the area.

  • Doug
    June 27, 2013 - 13:33

    Shame they aren't out of business period!

  • Justin
    June 27, 2013 - 13:30

    Instead of focusing on the employees that may be out of work (65 plus locally), you chose to comment on the drive in staying open...

    • HUH
      June 27, 2013 - 14:12

      what are you talking about? what 65 employees? they arent closing the theatre(s) you dope, just the drive in. LEARN TO READ

    • Lee
      June 27, 2013 - 15:19

      HUH - There are 65 employees at the LOCAL OFFICE. How about you check your facts before you spout off?

    • I can read
      June 27, 2013 - 15:20

      Seriously dude, you should take your own advice! For the 90 non-theatre employees at Empire Theatres, 65 of which are in Stellarton, Walker said they would try to find them jobs within Sobeys. "We'll make every effort to find these empolyees positions within our company or if need be, help them to transition elsewhere," said Walker.

    • Nick
      June 27, 2013 - 15:39

      On first glance of this article on lunch at work, I didn't even notice the note about the 65 employees that could be losing their jobs. That's terrible- scary even, with all of these closures, where are people supposed to get good paying jobs in our communities. Good luck to those affected by this and hope that they can fit somewhere at Sobeys or otherwise. To "Huh", if you read the article it looks like these 65 jobs are in the Stellarton head office, not the drive in in Westville. Oops.

    • Cory
      June 27, 2013 - 17:38

      Response to HUH. Maybe it's you who needs to read. Sobey's has an office on King street in Stellarton called Empire who employes 65 plus people. It's those people that will lose their job or be located elsewhere. Nothing was said about the people who work directly at the theatres themselves, "DOPE"!!!!

  • Monty
    June 27, 2013 - 13:02

    "Empire Theatres’ Westville Drive-In, though not included in the Cineplex deal, will also come to an end." Um thinking this means they WON'T be keeping it open

  • Ryan
    June 27, 2013 - 12:38

    People need to protest the drive-in closing. If you want to keep a piece of history alive, be loud, let them know how you feel about this.

    • Nick
      June 27, 2013 - 13:18

      Really disappointed to hear about the future of the drive-in. Nothing beats going to the drive-in for a couple of movies on a nice summer night! Agree with Ryan here - people need to be loud and show our support for the drive-in and possibly, just maybe, they could reconsider it's fate. Go on to Cineplex & Empire Facebook pages and show support, write a quick letter, or call!

    • Lee
      June 27, 2013 - 14:22

      There isn't something more important you could be protesting? Wow.

    • Ryan
      June 27, 2013 - 15:24

      lets see, a business that promotes growth in our struggling economy and brings outside people to our county for them to spend money in our county? Nah Lee, no reason to protest that eh?

    • Lee
      June 28, 2013 - 07:41

      Okay Ryan, if the business makes that much money, why on earth would they close it? I'd have to say it doesn't make as much as you'd like to believe. So no, I don't see why you would protest a business closure. Were you picketing Zellers when they went under too?

  • Eva Campbell
    June 27, 2013 - 12:03

    Wonder what this will mean for the drive-in.

  • Jeffrey
    June 27, 2013 - 10:52

    I hope they keep the drive-in open. That place is awesome and there are not too many left.