Kinepolis Wins Legal Battle for Expansion in Belgium

A long-standing legal decision aimed at curtailing Kinepolis’ expansion in its home country of Belgium has now been annulled.

The theater chain, formed in 1997, has expanded to 55 cinemas throughout Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Poland. Growth in Belgium, however, has been limited by a 1997 decision by the Belgium Competition Authority, or BMA, which per its website “an independent administrative authority that contributes to the definition and implementation of competition policy in Belgium, by pursuing anticompetitive practices and reviewing the main merger operations.”

It was Kinepolis’ creation as the merger of two family cinema chains—the Bert and Claeys families—that caught the attention of the BMA in 1997. Subsequently, Kinepolis was prohibited from building new theaters in Belgium or acquiring theaters without permission from the BMA.

The ruling has been the subject of controversy just over the last few years. Writes the Brussels Times, in May 2018 the BMA “decided to lift the conditions, but one of [Kinepolis’] rivals successfully petitioned the Brussels Appeal Court to have the ruling repealed on procedural grounds in November.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 the BMA’s decision, and the Brussels Court of Appeal sided with the exhibitor. Part of the Court of Appeal’s ruling hinges on a transition period, which has been set by the BMA as ending on August 12, 2021. Starting on that date, Kinepolis will be able to open theaters in Belgium without permission from the BMA. Leading up to the end of the transition period, Kinepolis is allowed to prepare for future growth.

Said Kinepolis Group CEO Eddy Duquenne in a statement: “This is a reasonable decision. We look forward to contribute, also in new regions, to the positive development of the Belgian cinema market.”

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