The Kinepolis group says it would like to open new movie complexes in “virgin” areas in Belgium, but is prevented from doing so by conditions imposed by the Belgian anti-trust authority, ABC.
The company has identified many areas in both Flanders and Wallonia where there are few or no cinemas, it said on Thursday on presenting its annual performance report.
These would be suitable for multiplexes with eight cinema halls, but not mega complexes with 15 or more cinemas, as in Antwerp or Brussels, it added.
For many years now, Kinepolis has been asking for the lifting of conditions imposed on it in 1977, when the group was created through the merger of the Bert and Claeys families. The conditions prohibit the group from building new complexes or from buying out rival complexes without the agreement of the ABC.
This condition was aimed at protecting the group’s competitors, which are mainly smaller operators.
In May 2018, the Authority finally decided to lift the conditions, but one of the group’s rivals successfully petitioned the Brussels Appeal Court to have the ruling repealed on procedural grounds in November. The Authority then changed its stance and imposed new conditions in March 2019. Kinepolis challenged this move at the appeal court and a decision is expected in the third quarter of 2019.
“Kinepolis is the only company in the world that is not authorised to grow in its own country,” CEO Eddy Duquene complained, pointing out that the group is being prevented from developing in Belgium, whose cinema market lags behind those of neighbouring countries.
Kinepolis still hopes to expand in Belgium, particularly in areas where there are few or no cinemas.