Par, U Beat WB In Race For Moscow Hardtops

The Paramount and MCA/Universal-owned United Cinemas Intl. appears to have gotten a headstart on Warner Bros. Intl. Theaters in the race to build cinemas in Moscow.

Last week UCI announced it had signed an agreement with Moscow City Council giving it an exclusive six-month option to develop multiplexes in the capital.

UCI chief exec Charles Wesoky said the company hoped to sign a pact within six months to grant UCI the exclusive right to build, operate and own cinemas in “selected prime locations.” Agreement would allow the exhib to convert the Russian ruble into hard currency, he added. Wesoky said it was too early to identify the number of sites or a targeted construction date.

The UCI-MCC agreement, if consummated, would appear to put a stumbling block in the path of WB Intl. Theaters’ intention to build a 12-screener in Moscow. WB announced plans to expand in both Moscow and Leningrad in partnership with the Sovexport agency in 1989, but those projects stalled as the authorities grappled with the novel questions of land ownership and leasing rights.

Last month WB indicated it had negotiated a new lease with the Moscow council and said construction would begin in 1992. WB Theaters execs could not be reached for comment, but one WB source reacted to UCI’s plan by saying: “I hope they make better progress than we did.”

Late last year UIP entered direct distribution in Russia in league with the Soviet/British Creative Assn. with “Gone With The Wind.” It’s been a huge b.o success, but UIP has not yet announced dates for or identity of future releases.

UCI operates 23 multiplexes in the U.K., Germany and Ireland.

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