Paramount Pictures and MCA Universal are accelerating moves to create a cinema circuit in Japan by naming Ian Riches to the new post of VP, Far East, of their exhibition coventure United Cinemas Intl.Riches, who segues to Tokyo from managing director of UCI’s loop in Britain and Ireland, said Wednesday his mission is to establish UCI in Japan “as quickly as possible.” Anticipating that he’ll be ensconced in CIC Video’s Tokyo office by early to mid-October, Riches says he will be channeling information on the Japanese market to the UCI partners and advising them on locations and possible joint venture partners. “I have no illusion that it will be easy,” says Riches, who’s never been to Japan and is immediately immersing himself in Japanese culture, language and maps. He intends to hire as his right-hand person a bilingual Japanese or Japanese-American, probably someone with a background in real estate rather than the cinema industry. Riches acknowledges that Warner Bros. Intl. Theaters is well established in Japan (with two multiplexes in Tokyo and Osaka and a third being built in Takaoka). “The opportunities are enormous and there has to be room for more than one operator,” he said. Asked how many UCI multiplexes he thought might be feasible, Riches said, “Whatever the market can stand, and whatever we can sensibly build.” As the U.K. topper, Riches was a key player in developing 25 multiplexes, making UCI the largest multiscreen operator in the country. Concurrently, UCI named Steve Knibbs, formerly director of operations, U.K. managing director, and Rob Claughton was upped from director of finance and administration to deputy managing director.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more