Mumbai's Carnival Cinemas, Malaysian private equity fund Navis Capital and Delhi's Satyam Cineplex have joined the race to merge with Reliance MediaWorks' film exhibition brand, Big Cinemas. Business Standard had reported earlier this month Big Cinemas, which operates 280 film screens across the country, was in talks with rivals PVR Ltd and Inox Leisure for a merger into one mutliplex chain in which Reliance MediaWorks would have a minority stake. The strategy is part of the Anil Ambani company's plan to exit non-core businesses and reduce debt. After the merger, the film exhibition business will be handled by Reliance MediaWorks' partner. Carnival Cinemas recently acquired HDIL's multiplex chain, Broadway Cinemas, for Rs 110 crore.
The company earlier this year announced its intention of investing Rs 400 crore in the business to scale up to 300 screens across the country by 2018. Carnival Cinemas has film screens in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Navis Capital runs a multiplex business in Malaysia called MBO Cinemas. In September 2012, it acquired Big Cinemas' nine screens in Malayasia and merged them with MBO Cinemas. The third potential partner, Satyam Cineplex has 38 film screens in Delhi, Mysore, Amritsar and Rohtak. A private equity fund is expected to invest alongside Satyam Cineplex, making it a tripartite agreement.
Reliance MediaWorks executives declined to comment on the matter and spokespersons from Satyam Cinemas and Carnival Cinemas were unavailable.
In July, Reliance MediaWorks and Prime Focus merged their global film services divisions and the former picked up a 30.2 per cent stake in Prime Focus World. The Indian and overseas operations of Reliance MediaWorks' film and media services business will be combined with Prime Focus through a slump sale. These involve 1 million square feet of facilities, including studios, in Film City, Mumbai, a 30 per cent stake in Hollywood VFX house Digital Domain, and 100 per cent ownership of Los Angeles-based digital film restoration firm Lowry Digital.