An emotional Bill Warren confirms he’s sold seven of his Warren Theatres, including all of the Wichita ones, to Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group.
The deal is effective immediately.
“If I want to see a movie today, I would need to buy a ticket,” Warren says.
Though it was a difficult decision to sell his almost 30-year-old company, Warren, 68, says it was the right one to permit him to do even bigger things.
“There’s a lot more seller’s happiness than seller’s regret.”
On Thursday, The Eagle reported that Regal was likely buying the Wichita-based theater chain.
The sale includes all of Warren’s theaters in Wichita – the east-side, west-side and Old Town Warren Theatres, the Palace Theatre and Movie Machine inside Towne West Square – and his theaters in Moore and Broken Arrow, Okla.
The sale does not include the two new theaters Warren is building in Oklahoma City.
Nor does it include the Palace Theatre in Springfield, Mo., which will be closing.
Warren says he hand-picked Regal in large part because of the company’s CEO, Amy Miles.
“If it wasn’t for Amy, I don’t think I ever would have sold,” Warren says.
He calls her sharp, accomplished and “probably one of the most decent, easy-to-talk-to people I’ve ever met in my life.”
Warren says that was important to him because of how much he cares for his customers and employees.
“This is a legacy thing,” he says. “It is personal.”
Warren thinks theatergoers will be happy with Regal, which is a public company and the country’s second-largest theater chain, with more than 7,000 screens at 559 theaters. Warren says it’s “a point of pride” for him that Regal is an American company.
In a statement, Miles said Warren Theatres is a market leader in Wichita and Oklahoma City.
“We are honored and excited to add these high-quality assets to our circuit and expect the transaction to be immediately accretive to our earnings and cash flow.”
Warren says Warren Theatres is a $200 million company, but he won’t say how much it sold for.
However, the twice-married Warren says, “I can afford to get married two more times now.”
He says the sale isn’t related to AMC Theatres’ plans to enter the Wichita market with a new 14-screen theater where the Dickinson Northrock 14 used to be near 29th North and Rock Road. He says his plans to sell were in the works for months before the chain, which is a competitor of his in Oklahoma City, made its announcement.
Warren’s office will remain in Wichita even though he’s out of the theater business here. He says he’s looking to grow his business in other markets.
“We’ll be kicking tires elsewhere,” he says.
“I want to build a new type of theater, and I don’t know what that is yet, but I just want to try something different.”
Warren says he has some ideas that he can’t share yet and wants to explore what else he can create.
“I just want to reshape the theater business and reshape what people expect going into a theater,” he says. “That’s my third reincarnation in the movie theater business, and I’m really looking forward to it.”