Cablevision Eyes Sale of Exhibition Arm Clearview Cinemas

Movie Theater Audience - H 2012
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Movie Theater Audience - H 2012

The cable company says it is starting to look at alternatives for the chain with 230 screens, including Manhattan's Ziegfeld Theater.

Executives at cable operator Cablevision Systems said Thursday that the company is looking for alternatives for its exhibition arm Clearview Cinemas, which has been part of its business portfolio since 1998.

CFO Gregg Siebert told analysts on the firm's quarterly earnings conference call that it is not a core asset and that it is now time to look at alternatives. Clearview, which he had currently has 45 locations with 230 screens, has negative operating cash flow. "That is one of the reasons" why a sale makes sense, Siebert said. "There are others we feel can do more with the asset."

He said Cablevision was early in the process of exploring its options, but gave no timeline for the process.

Analysts said any exhibition chain with a presence or interest in New York could take a look. Miller Tabak analyst Davic Joyce mentioned exhibition giants Regal and AMC as potential buyers. It wasn't immediately clear how big a price tag the asset could fetch.

"It is a great time for theatre sales right now with digital and good box office as discussed out at CinemaCon," said Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan. "Their theatres may be little small for guys like AMC though even though they are in good demographic areas."

Joyce said that back during an attempt to sell the exhibition business in 2002, Cablevision conservatively valued Clearview at $75 million. But ticket prices are now higher, and the screens and projections systems have been digitized, Joyce said.

The crown jewel of Clearview is the venerable Ziegfeld Theater in midtown Manhattan, which plays host to many movie premieres and screenings.


Twitter: @georgszalai