U.K.'s Curzon Cinemas Sells to Cohen Media Group

Charles Cohen - Publicity - H 2018
Sabine Perrin/Cohen Media/Landmark

The deal for one of the U.K.'s oldest art house chains includes the Curzon Artificial Eye distribution arm and Curzon Home Cinema streaming platform.

In what could mark the last major acquisition of 2019, Charles S. Cohen's Cohen Media Group has purchased Curzon Cinemas, one of the U.K.'s oldest and most recognizable art house theater chains. 

The deal — announced Monday by Cohan and Curzon CEO Philip Knatchbull — gives real estate billionaire and film producer Cohan a significant foothold across the Atlantic, not simply including Curzon's 13 sites around the U.K., but also its Curzon Artificial Eye distribution arm and the Curzon Home Cinema streaming operations. Financial details were not disclosed. 

"Among exhibitors and distributors of great films, there are few names in the international marketplace as important as Curzon and Curzon’s Artificial Eye," said Cohen, whose Cohen Media Group last year acquired Landmark Theatres.

"We are thrilled to unite with this honored brand and I look forward to working with Philip and Curzon’s highly experienced senior management team. Together, we will carry forward the Curzon brand with plans to expand it in a thoughtful and measured way."

The Curzon name dates back to 1934, when Harold Wingate, who imported unknown films during the post WWI period, opened the first cinema in Mayfair. The Curzon Mayfair continues today as a two-screen art house cinema still focused on independent and foreign films, with royal boxes and a bar. A second cinema, Curzon Bloomsbury, opened in 1972, while the past decade has seen a steady expansion of sites. 

Curzon Artificial Eye, founded in 1976 and acquired by Curzon in 2006, releases around 20 new theatrical films and 30 DVD and Blu-ray titles in the U.K. each year. It has a library of more than 400 films and has released more Cannes Palme d’Or winners than any other U.K. distributor, including 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, The Class, The White Ribbon, Amour and Blue Is the Warmest Color.

Meanwhile, the Curzon Home Cinema platform, first launched in 2010 as Curzon on Demand, provides a direct-to-consumer platform for the distributor's catalog and other titles, as well as day-and-date availability for new theatrical releases. 

“The Curzon brand is uniquely placed to take advantage of the rapidly changing landscape in film and is easily transportable and scalable outside the U.K.," said Knatchbull. "With Charles Cohen’s proven dedication and track record for quality film together with his recent acquisition of the Landmark theatre chain and now the addition of Curzon, he has created an important group of companies with opportunities to grow a unified platform for an ever-increasing demand for filmed content. I look forward to helping Charles fulfill that potential."

Following Cohen's purchase of Curzon, Roger Wingate will be stepping down as chairman and ending his family’s association with the company, with Cohen assuming the role. 

"Curzon has been present throughout my entire life," said Wingate. "I will miss it but am confident that its future is in good hands."

The Curzon acquisition deal was negotiated by Lisbeth (Libby) Savill, a partner in the London office of Latham & Watkins and David Fogel acting on behalf of Cohen. Jonathan Goodwin and Julian Culhane of Alvarium Investments were Curzon’s financial advisers in the transaction. Latham & Watkins served as legal advisers to Cohen Media Group; Fox Williams represented Curzon sellers.