Cathay sells cinema business

Cathay Organisation has sold only its cinema business and retains other assets, such as The Cathay building in Handy Road (above). Managing director of Cathay Organisation Choo Meileen and chief executive of mm2 Asia Melvin Ang (both left) at a press
Cathay Organisation has sold only its cinema business and retains other assets, such as The Cathay building in Handy Road (above).PHOTO: ST FILE
Cathay Organisation has sold only its cinema business and retains other assets, such as The Cathay building in Handy Road (above). Managing director of Cathay Organisation Choo Meileen and chief executive of mm2 Asia Melvin Ang (both left) at a press
Managing director of Cathay Organisation Choo Meileen and chief executive of mm2 Asia Melvin Ang at a press conference yesterday.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Cathay Cineplexes is now part of mm2 Asia as part of a $230-million deal

Cathay Organisation, founded in 1935 as a company that operates cinemas, has sold its theatre business in Singapore.

Last Friday, Cathay Cineplexes, the second-largest cinema operator in Singapore, became part of mm2 Asia as part of a $230-million deal.

Chief executive of mm2 Asia Melvin Ang says that in the short term, there will be no major changes that will affect customers. As new owners, they are still in the learning stage, he says.

"We are not in a rush. We want to understand the business," he says.

The multinational company now owns Cathay Cineplexes' eight cinemas across Singapore, comprising 64 screens, or 11,569 seats.

mm2 Asia is involved in television, film and concert productions in Singapore and across the region, and which recently got into the cinema business in Malaysia.

It co-produces movies, among them the recent hit comedy, Ah Boys To Men 4, the highest-grossing Asian film of the year in Singapore.

Mr Ang was speaking at a press conference yesterday afternoon at mm2's 2mm Talent Hub.

Staff will not be affected and there are no plans to open more cinemas or to close them, nor make any changes to the Cathay name.

While the cinema business in Singapore will be run as a separate arm of mm2 Asia, Mr Ang says he sees possible cross-promotions between the cinema arm and other other mm2 operations, such as its concert promotion business.

Earlier this year, mm2 Asia failed in a $184.25-million bid for the Golden Village cinema chain, the largest in Singapore.

Asked if mm2 will now lean in favour of showing its films in Cathay cinemas rather than at its competitors' halls, Mr Ang says it would not be wise to do so.

He says: "The cinema and the distribution business should be separate and are run by different teams. Whether a film gets screened in a Cathay cinema will depend solely on the 'merit of the content.'"

Cathay Organisation has sold only its cinema business and retains other assets, such as The Cathay building in Handy Road and the Cathay Cineleisure Orchard mall in Orchard Road.

Ms Choo Meileen, managing director of Cathay Organisation, says her company will now focus on its property business. She is the niece of Datuk Loke Wan Tho, founder of the company.

She says the decision to sell the exhibition business was an "emotional" one for her.

"It was a difficult decision, especially for me, as my entire life has been in cinemas," she says.

She wanted a buyer to be a Singapore company, one that was serious in keeping the business going, and diversified enough in the entertainment sphere to be able to handle challenges in a changing market.

"In that sense, mm2 fit the bill."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline 'Cathay sells cinema business'. Print Edition | Subscribe