Bay City Cinemas' Paul Desmond confirmed this week he had finalised the sale of the local movie chain he founded more than two decades ago.
The buyer is Event Cinemas New Zealand, owned by Amalgamated Holdings of Australia.
Bay City Cinemas, which has 730 seats and eight screens at its Elizabeth St location and 570 seats and four screens at Mount Maunganui, is one of the most successful independent cinema companies in the country.
The sale included the land and the multiplex cinemas at each location. The value of the sale was not disclosed.
"I have been approached by a couple of the major chains over the years to see if we would sell," said Mr Desmond, who founded the Tauranga operation 21 years ago and set up Mount Maunganui in 2000. He and his wife, Ann, were the major shareholders. Mr Desmond first became involved in the movies as a part-time cleaner for Kerridge Odeon 46 years ago.
"Basically, we felt the time was right to semi-retire and hand over to a very good operating company, which Events Cinemas is."
Justin Chaney, who has managed the two multiplexes for the past decade, would remain in that role and all of the staff had agreed to stay on, said Carmen Switzer, general manager operations, for Events Cinemas NZ.
"There will be no staff changes," she said. "They have a fantastic team and that was one of the reasons why we wanted to acquire the business - it's extremely well run. Justin knows the market and he knows the town."
Ms Switzer described Tauranga as a "fantastic" part of New Zealand. The region's growth was part of the attraction for the acquisition, she said, with the possibility in the longer term of further expansion in Papamoa, but at the moment the city had the right number of screens for its size.
"We have been very keen in the background for a few years to purchase the business from Paul and I think the time was right for him to sell," said Ms Switzer.
The acquisition was the first in the Bay for Events Cinemas, which operates 12 other cinemas in the North Island.
Ms Switzer said that despite the competition from other forms of home and internet entertainment, the market had been steady and the forecast for the coming year's box office was strong, with some big titles expected, including a new instalment of the Fast and Furious, and Avengers.
"We will introduce the Events brand over time, but we're not rushing to make any sweeping changes," she said, adding that the cinema would launch its Cinebuzz loyalty scheme in March.
Events Cinemas NZ
Owns seven cinemas in Auckland (the Albany, Broadway, Manukau, Westcity, Queen St, Westgate, St Lukes), The Embassy and the Queensgate in Wellington, the Chartwell in Hamilton, and cinemas in Whangarei and New Plymouth.