National Amusements tied up in family disagreement

posted by Michael Zoldessy on December 23, 2008 at 10:30 am

The Redstones are clashing over a debt renegotiation plan that could hold up future plans for National Amusements.

During a recent meeting of a special committee at National Amusements, the Redstones' movie theater company, which also controls Viacom and CBS, Ms. Redstone’s vote was the only one against the plan, according to people familiar with National Amusements' board deliberations. These people spoke anonymously because such proceedings are meant to be kept secret.

The continuing discord between the two represents another obstacle to an orderly debt renegotiation that would allow Mr. Redstone to maintain his grip on Viacom and CBS. The latest episode has made him a public example of what many industry titans are facing these days: declining personal wealth. Mr. Redstone’s net worth was once estimated by Forbes at more than $8 billion, but today it is questionable as to whether he is worth even $1 billion.

Read more in the New York Times.

Comments (7)

markp on December 23, 2008 at 10:59 am

This once mighty and glorious chain of theatres seems to be headed to the scrap heap. I remember when I worked for them from 1985 up till the end of 2004, how all the ducks were in a row, everything was like a well oiled machine. I can only imagine what the people who work there must be thinking day in and day out. If Shari Redstone cant wrestle away control soon, this chain will be history.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on December 23, 2008 at 12:38 pm

And it makes me so sad because I had contacted them a year or so ago for permission to photograph some of their theatres. Their marketing person seemed receptive but I never heard back. Already so many of their theatres have been demolished with little to no documentation made.

I can see how internally they may not be proud of all their 80’s era multiplexes (or Showcases for that matter) but some people spent their entire youth going to theatres like that and all we have are exterior photos or blurry shots that don’t do the buildings justice. It will be very sad to hear each of these closing one by one or being sold off to other chains.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on December 23, 2008 at 4:26 pm

I find it odd that they would think of dismantling the chain when they are right now building a huge new Cinema de Lux complex next to their headquarters in Dedham, MA.

MPol on December 24, 2008 at 12:21 am

Are they, Ron?!? That is wierd, especially considering the fact that National Amusements has expressed their tendencies not to sell to anybody who wasn’t a cinema.

IanJudge on December 24, 2008 at 1:52 am

Ah but such projects as the Dedham one are years in the making, whereas the financial crisis that has left old Sumner strapped is only a few months old.

I am not hearing that the whole company will be ‘dismantled’ but that many screens outside of New England will be sold to cover debts. This isn’t a matter of NA being unprofitable per se, but an ‘either/or’ one of “which asset do you want to sell to pay debts: CBS and Viacom stock, or NA properties” Clearly Sumner Redstone has stated that he does not want to sell his stock and Shari Redstone does not want to sell NA assets. Thus the internal and public strife.

I doubt this would be the end of NA, just a paring down of the chain. While not perfect by any means, of the majors they run a good show generally. However, my mind turns to think of people like the operators of the little independent West Boylston Cinema, a theater that has suffered tremendously because NA in Worcester, MA has chosen to enforce clearance over them, meaning they cannot play any of the same titles at the same time as Showcase North. The operators of the independent are trying to make a basic (and let’s face it, not so lucrative) living from their theater and have to suffer because of NA… so to think of the Redstones fighting over all these millions (and billions) of dollars and perhaps having some sleepless nights themselves over bills, well, it just kind of makes me smile… and makes me think about Charles Dickens' holiday-relevant words about ‘the chains we forge in life’ weighing upon certain peoples souls.

Merry Christmas!

MPol on December 27, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Aren’t they selling several NA Theatres in Connecticut?

danpetitpas on December 29, 2008 at 11:04 am

The sad part is that NA is profitable. Sumner is raiding it because he owes a lot of money from buying Viacom and CBS. He says the theater business is all washed up, but movies have survived several major upheavals while CBS’s viewership has been declining for decades. It’s too bad that Sumner seems to control NA’s board of directors. He’s going to be selling off theaters when those theaters are at their lowest values. The only upside is that other theater chains may be able to pick up these properties at a bargain price.

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