It's official: Regal Entertainment Group has agreed to be acquired by Cineworld Group.

The merger was announced Tuesday morning. Regal said the merger was approved unanimously by both Regal's and Cineworld's boards of directors. The merger is expected to go ahead in the first quarter of 2018 once regulatory reviews are completed and major shareholders from both companies sign off on it.

Cineworld agreed to pay $23.00 for each common share of Regal stock for a total buy-out of $5.9 billion, including the assumption of all debt and net of cash acquired.

“We believe this partnership with Cineworld will enhance Regal’s ability to deliver a premium movie-going experience for customers and further build upon our strategy of introducing innovative concepts and premium amenities designed to enhance the value of our theatre assets," Regal CEO Amy Miles said in the release. "The combination of our two great companies, Cineworld’s tremendous success in the UK, as well as other markets they have entered since, and Cineworld’s commitment to maintain a strong presence in the US and Knoxville, provide a global platform positioned for continued growth and innovation."

Cineworld is based out of London and is the U.K.'s largest cinema operator.

Regal said it is committed to keeping its HQ in Knoxville and maintaining a strong presence in the city after the merger, saying it would "remain business as usual."

"Hopefully it stays here," said Dr. Bill Fox at the University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business.

Dr. Bill Fox of the Haslam College of Business.

"It's an important location in Knoxville and in the state of Tennessee," Fox said. "And it would really be key to the community that they be able to stay."

Other Sales

It's not the first major Knoxville to give up local control this year. Last summer, Scripps Networks Interactive announced a sale to Discovery Communications. Investment group Berkshire Hathaway also signed a deal acquire the majority stock in Pilot Flying J by 2023.

Three major Knoxville-based companies are relinquishing local control to other companies.

Fox said he hopes the philanthropic impact of these longtime Knoxville business are not lost.

"They're places that have grown here," Fox said. "They didn't move here from somewhere else. So it is part of their identity, and Knoxville is part of their identity."

There's no word to indicate any of those headquarters are relocating, but Fox said he wonders how much local control will remain.

"Another question is what degree of flexibility will the local leaders, assuming it stays here, have in terms of their participation as leaders throughout the community. What participation can they make in terms of charitable donations and so forth."