STELLARTON, N.S. - Empire Company Ltd. (TSX:EMP.A) is getting out of the movie-theatre business in order to focus on Sobeys, the national grocery chain that accounts for most of the Nova Scotia-based company's revenue.

Canada's largest cinema company, Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX), will pay $200 million cash to acquire 26 of the theatres — all 24 of the Empire theatres in Atlantic Canada and two in Ontario.

Cineplex said the deal is strategically important since it gives the Toronto-based company a presence in Canada's four most eastern provinces.

The sale will also give Cineplex 78 per cent of the movie-theatre business in Canada.

Story continues below slideshow

Loading Slideshow...
  • Colosseum Kino, Oslo, Norway

    The largest cinema in northern Europe is also currently the largest movie palace in the world certified for THX—George Lucas’s premium audiovisual benchmark. Dominated by a squat gray-and-cream dome, it resembles a futuristic spaceship that’s crash-landed in Scandinavia, but it was actually built in 1921. Throughout its 90-year history, the Kino has kept up with technological advances, from pioneering Cinemascope in the 1950s to the late-1990s THX-aimed overhaul. <br><br> <a href="" target="_hplink">See more of the World's Coolest Movie Theaters</a><br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" class="external">Truus, Bob & Jan Too!</a></em>

  • The Raj Mandir, Jaipur, India

    This Bollywood-boosting movie palace is tucked away in Rajasthan’s gem-dealing capital—fittingly, the seating sections are named after precious stones (Emerald, Diamond). Yet the ticket prices remain a bargain at around $3 per person. Built in the mid-1970s and still considered India’s top theater, it is easily recognized by its jaunty pink façade, which dominates the street. Inside, the heavily ornamented lobby resembles a retro-Deco ballroom in ice cream–colored pastels. Look for testimonies to the cinema’s greatness from Amitabh Bachchan and other Bollywood icons pasted onto a column at its center. <br><br><a href="" target="_hplink">See more of the World's Coolest Movie Theaters</a><br><br> <em>Photo: Erick Nguyen / Alamy</em>

  • Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, TX

    This quirky indie movie chainlet has been known to kick out patrons for texting during a show. That’s a tip-off to the seriousness of the place, which also has an offbeat charm. The Drafthouse once showed the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy at an event called Hobbit Feast, where viewers ate only when the on-screen characters did; periodic screenings call for everyone to dress as a particular character—say, Will Ferrell in Semi-Pro. <br><br><a href="" target="_hplink">See more of the World's Coolest Movie Theaters</a><br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" class="external">Alamo Drafthouse</a></em>

  • Sun Pictures Cinema, Broome, Australia

    Haphazardly built from corrugated iron and jarrah wood in 1916 to entertain locals in this isolated outback town’s once-thriving pearl-diving industry, the endearingly rickety cinema is the world’s oldest operating outdoor picture garden (first silent film shown: racy racing drama Kissing Cup). Saved by a wealthy local businessman in the early 1980s, it’s been preserved almost unchanged. <br><br><a href="" target="_hplink">See more of the World's Coolest Movie Theaters</a><br><br><em>Photo: LOOK Die Bildagentur der Fotografen GmbH / Alamy</em>

  • Kennedy School, Portland, OR

    McMenamins is a local empire of brewpubs and entertainment venues, with more than 50 different spaces in the city, many artfully repurposing old buildings (church, farm, ballroom). The coolest is undoubtedly the Kennedy School, a onetime elementary school that’s now a 35-room hotel and restaurant plus an eccentric movie theater housed in the old auditorium. The 300-seat cinema shows second-run and repertory movies nightly, plus kid-friendly Mommy Matinees, with comfy armchairs and a full menu of McMenamins craft brews available at your seat. <br><br><a href="" target="_hplink">See more of the World's Coolest Movie Theaters</a><br><br> <em>Photo: Courtesy of The Kennedy School</em>

  • ReRun Cinema, Brooklyn, NY

    The cobblestoned streets of Brooklyn’s waterfront DUMBO district welcomed this gastropub theater (an extension of the dive ReBar) in Summer 2010. It spotlights undistributed or unfairly overlooked indie circuit films, projected from a DVD player on a 12-foot screen while cinemagoers recline on repurposed car seats (yep, there are seat belts too). <br><br><a href="" target="_hplink">See the rest of World's Coolest Movie Theaters</a><br><br> <em>Photo: <a href="" class="external">Courtesy of reRun Cinema</a></em>

The theatres that Cineplex is acquiring generated $113 million in total revenue in 2012, RBC analyst Haran Posner said in a note.

Another 20 Empire theatres in Ontario and Western Canada will be sold to Landmark Cinemas for up to $55 million.

Landmark will pay $31 million cash, plus equity in a new entity worth $19 million, as well as an earn-out right estimated to be worth $5 million. Landmark will be able to buy the equity from Empire for $19 million until Dec. 31.

After the sales, Empire said it will have four theatres left over. Two of those theatres — located in Victoria, B.C. and New Glasgow, N.S. — will be sold as real estate.

Empire said it will decide what to do with the other two theatres, both located in Ontario, when their leases expire in August and December. The company says it will likely sell those theatres as well, or close them.

"We're not going to be operating four theatres in three different provinces," said Empire spokesman Andrew Walker.

The company will use the proceeds of the sale to pay down debt, Walker said.

Empire also announced Thursday that it had $98.6 million or $1.45 per share of adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter — up $9 million from a year earlier and eight cents per share above the consensus estimate.

The company's net income for the quarter ended May 4, before adjustments, was $107.4 million or $1.58 per share — up from $92.1 million or $1.35 per share a year earlier.

After the quarter ended, Empire announced that it will pay $5.8 billion to acquire Safeway's Canadian grocery business — adding about 213 grocery stores in Western Canada as well as in-store pharmacies, gas stations, liquor stores, distribution centres and 12 manufacturing plants.

Sobeys already owns or franchises more than 1,300 stores across Canada under several banners that include Sobeys, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, and Thrifty Foods.

Also on HuffPost: