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8 October 2013, 10:08
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has vowed to fight on to stop the sale of the city's Arts Picturehouse, following a ruling by the Competition Commission.
The competition watchdog has ruled that Cineworld, which took over the Picturehouse chain last year, must sell off one of its Cambridge cinemas.
It means the firm must sell either Cineworld at the Cambridge Leisure Park, or the Arts Picturehouse on Regent Street in Cambridge.
The watchdog believes that having one firm run both cinemas in Cambridge may mean a "substantial lessening of competition'' and ultimately drive up prices for film fans.
Cinemas in Aberdeen and Bury St Edmunds are also affected by the ruling.
Cineworld has already said it will "reluctantly'' sell Picturehouse cinemas in these two areas.
Now, Julian Huppert plans to raise the issue in Parliament and with Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to try to stop the Cambridge Picturehouse cinema being sold.
He said: "I am very disappointed about this decision by the Competition Commission.
I and many others wrote to them to point out how different the Arts Picturehouse is from the existing Cineworld, but they have not changed their minds.
I will be raising this in Parliament as soon as I can, and will talk to Vince Cable to see if we can stop the forced sale. We must not let the cinema be closed down or lose the quality it provides."
Alasdair Smith, The Competition Commission's Deputy Chairman and Chairman of the Cineworld/City Screen merger Inquiry Group, commented: "Before we reached our final decision, we listened carefully to the many local filmgoers who wrote to us or signed a petition, expressing concern about a potential sale of Picturehouse cinemas, particularly in Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge.
However, we are not doing anything that we think will jeopardise the future of any of the cinemas in question.
We still believe that Cineworld and Picturehouse are in direct competition with each other.
There is a considerable overlap between audiences and screenings at the two cinema groups.
For example, both in Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge, about one-third of Picturehouse customers have been to Cineworld in the last 12 months and Picturehouse gets over half its revenue from films also shown at Cineworld.
The sale of one of the cinemas in Aberdeen, Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge to a competing cinema operator will restore competition in these areas and protect customers' interests.
Cineworld will have the choice of selling any one of the cinemas it owns in the three areas.
If it chooses to sell any of the Picturehouse cinemas, we are confident that a new owner will wish to build on their existing strengths."
A statement from The Arts Picturehouse says, "We continue to believe, as do a large number of our customers, that Cineworld and Picturehouse offer two very different cinema experiences and can operate side by side without diminishing choice or increasing prices as the Competition Commission have concluded.
This is therefore a very frustrating outcome.
No decision has yet been made as to which cinema we will sell in Cambridge.
We are still evaluating our options to determine whether the Arts Picturehouse or Cineworld will be sold and are reviewing a range of financial and strategic considerations. We will provide an update on this as soon as a decision is made.
We want to minimise this period of uncertainty for both Picturehouse and Cineworld staff and customers and so will do our best to make sure decisions are made as soon as possible.
Any sale will include honouring of advance tickets or reimbursing customers if this is not possible.
We will also do our best to ensure that Memberships are honoured so that customers do not lose out from this decision."