COVID’s Collateral Damage: Biggest Place-Based Cinema Network In US Goes Chapter 11

May 2, 2023 by Dave Haynes

This happened about three weeks ago, but I just noticed …

National CineMedia, one of the larger and more established place-based media networks in the US, filed for Chapter 11 in mid-April and announced a debt restructuring plan designed to keep the lights on and restore growth that was crippled in the COVID era, when moviehouses were locked.

NCM filed for bankruptcy in Texas, listing its estimated assets in the range of $500 million to $1 billion, but noting liabilities between $1 billion and $10 billion. Restructuring arrangements have allowed the company to maintain operations and push pre-show ads to screens.

The company noted in announcing the move:

To facilitate its debt restructuring, the Company has filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas and has entered into a comprehensive Restructuring Support Agreement (RSA) with the support of its secured lenders, through which all of the Company’s debt will be converted into equity of the reorganized Company. Under the RSA, NCM LLC will assume all of its critical contracts upon emergence, ensuring that the Company will maintain the largest national cinema advertising network.

“Our category-defining platform will continue to empower advertisers to reach our sought-after, young moviegoing audiences with scale and measurability. Today’s transactions will position us to deliver the strong results our advertisers and cinema partners have come to expect from us today and well into the future,” said Tom Lesinski, CEO of NCM Inc. “We are entering this process with the overwhelming support of our secured lenders and key stakeholders, which we expect will enable us to swiftly and responsibly emerge as a stronger company.”

The RSA provides a clear roadmap for NCM LLC to quickly emerge without disrupting its operations or customer relationships. Upon confirmation of the restructuring outlined in the RSA, all of NCM LLC’s funded debt would be converted into equity, completely de-levering the Company’s balance sheet. Additionally, NCM Inc.’s management and NCM LLC’s other existing governance structures would be maintained to ensure continuity of ongoing operations and performance. NCM Inc. will receive an ownership interest in the restructured company of approximately 14%. Further, unless an official creditors committee is formed, all holders of General Unsecured Claims will be paid in full in the ordinary course under the RSA.

NCM LLC will operate its business without disruption and serve the national, regional, and local businesses that rely on its advertising network to reach entertainment fans in and out of movie theaters. The Company’s existing cash balances will provide the liquidity needed to continue operations in the ordinary course of business.

Following its restructuring, NCM LLC will be well-positioned as moviegoers enjoy the resumption of a regular schedule for major motion picture releases following pandemic disruption. The cinema industry continues to strengthen with an impressive 26% growth in Q1 2023 vs. Q1 2022.  

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