In a deal several months in the making, B&B Theatres President Bob Bagby announced today that he has sold all ownership stock in Sonic Equipment Company which his family has owned since 1965 as well as its companion business Kneisley Manufacturing effective December 1, 2018.
Sonic Equipment Company is an industry leader in the sale, installation, and service of cinema equipment, providing services to major chains and independent exhibitors on over 1,200 screens in 35 states. Their programs include comprehensive equipping for new builds and remodels, onsite service and preventative maintenance, online and call center troubleshooting, and personalized training for theater management teams. Kneisley Manufacturing produces projector pedestals, self-service candy racks, and other cinema hardware.
Bagby was approached in early 2018 by an investment group led by industry colleagues Stan Hays, Mike Clement and Keith Watanabe. As the conversations progressed, it became clear that the change in ownership would open doors for the service company due to the contacts in the marketplace of the members of the investment group. The investment group plans to add several hundred new screens to Sonic in the coming months and also add additional items for Kneisley to manufacture. Stan Hays is the new President of Sonic and Kneisley.
The stipulations of the deal require that Sonic remain headquartered in Iola, Kansas for a number of years, and significant efforts were taken to ensure that employees of both organizations were retained. B&B Theatres has also entered into a long term service contract with both companies.
Speaking of the sale, Bagby said, “I am very excited for the Sonic/Kneisley teams as they move into this new phase of the business. I have not been able to give Sonic and Kneisley the attention that they need as my time has been focused on growing B&B Theatres. Sonic has the best service team in the industry and I’m so happy that they will all be a part of this next phase of growth for both companies.”
Bagby will remain involved in a consultancy capacity for a time during the transition, but looks forward to focusing his full attention on the continued and measured growth of B&B as funds from the sale will help B&B expand in the coming months and years.
Stan Hays has been in the industry for many years overseeing over 4,000 digital installs in the early stages of the digital conversion. Hays said “Sonic has a reputation in the industry as a premiere service provider and I am honored to help it grow into an even larger company. Ron Hageman will remain as Executive Director of Sonic and will continue to lead the company and its 65 employees. I have no plans for any layoffs but instead plan to add seven new employees immediately so we can aggressively grow the company.”
Mike Clement has spent his entire career in accounting and finance helping businesses of all sizes run efficiently and successfully, including seven years with AMC and its subsidiary National Cinema Network. Clement said of the acquisition, “I’m well aware of Sonic's and Kneisley’s strong position in the industry and more importantly the outstanding employees responsible for making that happen. This is an exciting opportunity for everyone involved.”
Keith Watanabe’s career spans over 20 years in the motion picture industry with assignments at Eastman Kodak, Christie projection, Harkness screens and CinemaNext. Watanabe shares “Sonic provides complete equipment and service solutions to cinemas and what I appreciate the most is the straightforward way they accomplish this work; thoughtful, fair and done right. As the industry enters the ‘post VPF’ era, Sonic is ideally positioned to guide, partner and support cinemas through these transition times.”
Sonic is located in Iola, Kansas but has technicians throughout the country and currently services over 1,200 screens in 35 states.