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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Moving Pictures

The seven Nassau theaters in the Cablevision-owned Clearview Cinemas chain are being sold to Bow Tie Cinemas, a privately held Connecticut company, in a transaction which is expected to close in the coming months.

The deal, which includes 34 other Clearview Cinema locales in the metropolitan area, will impact Cablevision’s Optimum Rewards cardholders starting next week.

“Optimum Rewards members, due to the contemplated sale of Clearview Cinemas, your free movie Tuesday benefit will be ending on Tuesday, May 28th, and the everyday ticket discount will be expiring as of May 31st,” Cablevision wrote, in an email to its Optimum Reward cardholders.

The Nassau theaters impacted by the sale are in Baldwin, Franklin Square, Great Neck, Manhasset, New Hyde Park, Port Washington and Roslyn. This is big news for Cablevision customers who patronized those Clearview Cinemas theaters and used an Optimum Rewards card when purchasing tickets.

“We would have had significant costs, capital costs, involved in operating the Clearview theaters to make them fully digital,” said Gregg Seibert, Cablevision’s vice chairman and chief financial officer, when asked about the Clearview sale in a May 9 earnings conference call with analysts who track the publicly traded Cablevision stock. “And that was just an expense that, from our perspective, we felt was better undertaken by a company that sees its long-term future in the operation of theaters.”

Seibert also acknowledged on that call that Cablevision was losing money as the owner and operator of Clearview Cinemas, although Seibert declined to quantify the size of its financial losses because they were “not material, relative to the overall scale of the company’s [Cablevision’s] operations.” The financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, either.

“This is a transformational acquisition for Bow Tie Cinemas and an exciting new chapter in our company’s rich history,” said Ben Moss, chief executive officer of Ridgefield, Conn.-based Bow Tie Cinemas, when its purchase of the 41 Clearview theaters was announced. “Going to the movies is a tradition deeply rooted in the local community. Bow Tie makes long-term commitments in the communities where we own theaters by building local partnerships, employing local people, and engaging with our patrons. Our mission is to return style and elegance to the movie-going experience, and we look forward to applying the same approach to our newly acquired locations.”

Indeed, Bow Tie, when the purchase is completed, will have increased its screen count to 388 from 177, and its number of theater locations to 63 from 22. Today, the company owns and operates movie theaters in Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia, as well as two in New York. One is in Schenectady and the other is in the Bronx, with another two locations scheduled to open this summer upstate in Saratoga Springs and Wilton.

Bow Tie has said publicly it intends to make substantial investments at its newly acquired theaters, including digital projection and 3D installations, concession stand upgrades, decorative improvements and employing point-of-sale technology that will boost participation in its customer loyalty programs, such as Bow Tie’s Criterion Club.

The club is free to join and patrons earn two points per ticket purchased, with points redeemed in the future for free refreshments or movie tickets. Like Cablevision, Bow Tie wants to get customers in the door on Tuesdays, charging $6 per ticket all day and $5 for a large tub of popcorn.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: