Cineworld-UGC deal threatens marketers

Cineworld UK’s acquisition of rival cinema chain owner UGC has put the future of the UGC brand in doubt, and threatens a number of senior marketing jobs.

The marketing team at Cine UK, Cineworld UK’s existing chain, is led by Sabine Khan, while UGC’s is run by commercial director Mike Thomson and head of marketing Julia Brown. Cine UK uses full-service agency Riley Advertising for its campaigns, while UGC works with Clinic and MediaVest. Khan says no decision has been made on which brand to retain, or about any redundancies.

Cineworld UK, which is controlled by private equity firm the Blackstone Group, bought Cine UK earlier this year. The UGC acquisition makes it the UK’s second-largest operator.

Any merger of the two brands is also likely to affect contracts with specialist ad sales houses Pearl & Dean and Carlton Screen Advertising (CSA). UGC has a contract with Pearl & Dean and Cine UK with CSA.

Cineworld now has 35 sites under the Cine UK brand and 42 under UGC. The latter entered the UK market in 1999, when it bought Virgin Cinemas. It pioneered the use of loyalty cards in the cinema sector, with the introduction of its Unlimited pass at £12.99 a month.

The cinema sector has undergone a round of consolidation this year, with Terra Firma buying the Odeon and United Cinema International chains in August (MW September 2). Warner Village was bought by SBC in May 2003, and rebranded as Vue.

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