DENVER (AP) _ Billionaire Philip F. Anschutz has reportedly taken another step toward gaining control of Regal Cinemas Inc., the nation's largest theater chain.

According to Monday's editions of The Wall Street Journal, Anschutz and partner Oaktree Capital Management LLC on Friday bought out a group of Regal's bondholders who had recently made a $1.1 billion offer for control of the movie chain.

The Knoxville, Tenn.-based Regal has 4,069 screens at 355 locations. It was bought by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., of New York, and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Inc., of Dallas in 1998 for $1.5 billion, but it has been struggling under a crushing debt load of more than $1.8 billion.

In December, Regal defaulted on its bonds and said it was considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Though KKR and Hicks Muse technically still own the company, their existing ownership stake would be wiped out in a Chapter 11 restructuring.

Anschutz and Oaktree had previously bought nearly half of Regal's $1 billion in syndicated bank loans, the newspaper reported. In Friday's deal, Anschutz and Oaktree bought about 30 percent of Regal's $800 million in bonds at an unknown price.

Anschutz now owns enough of Regal's bonds and bank debt to block approval of any competing plan by either class of debt holders, the Journal reported.

Officials at Regal, Greenwich Street, KKR and Hicks Muse declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal. Officials at Anschutz Corp., Oaktree and Tudor could not be reached for comment.

Anschutz is the largest owner of Englewood-based United Artists Theater Corp., the nation's sixth-largest chain, which is emerging from bankruptcy. In addition to several sports teams, Anschutz owns a movie production company, Crusader Entertainment.