Clarke Willmott Bristol team plays starring role in Irish group’s deal to take over former Empire cinemas

December 6, 2023

Ireland’s largest cinema company has expanded into Great Britain in a deal put together by solicitors from national law firm Clarke Willmott’s Bristol office.

They worked with Omniplex Cinema Group on its acquisition of five outlets from Empire, the UK cinema chain that collapsed into administration in July.

Under the deal, which involves a total investment of more than £22m, the rebranded Omniplex Cinemas are opening in Birmingham, Ipswich, Sutton, Clydebank and High Wycombe this week, with more to be announced next year.

Amanda French, a partner in Clarke Willmott’s commercial property team, and insolvency partner Ken MacLennan – both based in Bristol – led on the deal on behalf of Omniplex.

Amanda, pictured, said: “We’re delighted to have acted on this deal, which means five cinemas are saved from closure and 150 existing jobs are secured.

“The Omniplex Cinema Group is well known in Ireland and its expansion into Great Britain is an exciting move for the brand.

“Cinemas are a hugely important part of our leisure industry and I’m sure this investment will result in more footfall and income for surrounding restaurants and shops in these locations.”

Omniplex, which operates 38 cinemas across Ireland and Northern Ireland, is known for its cutting-edge projection technology, digital sound facilities and what it calls its “unwavering dedication to delivering the ultimate cinematic experience”.

The group will invest in the former Empire cinemas over the next 18 months, saying the move signalled its commitment to establishing a strong presence in the British market.

Omniplex Cinema Group director Paul John Anderson said: “Our disciplined approach to investing in our businesses and unwavering drive to operate high-quality cinema locations have proved successful over the years on the island of Ireland and has given us the confidence to venture into new territories.

“This expansion is a testament to our commitment to innovation, quality, and delivering unforgettable moments for our customers.”

Other Clarke Willmott lawyers who acted on the deal included Sharon Latham (employment) and Simon Smith (corporate) – both Bristol-based – and Chris Connors (tax).

Clarke Willmott has a strong track record in retail, property and planning and was recently added to the panel of legal advisors for Somerset-headquartered global footwear manufacturer and retailer Clarks.

Over the past few months its commercial property team has worked with clients such as Cornish Bakery, Fat Face, Turtle Bay and Farrow & Ball.

The firm also has offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton.

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