The Greater Union/Village Roadshow/Warner Bros, exhib partnership Sept. 14 announced plans to spend at least A$200 million ($150 million) building seven multiplexes in Australia, including the country’s first 16-screen megaplexes.

While this is the biggest Aussie cinema expansion deal, it’s also likely to be the last of that magnitude as the nation approaches screen saturation.

The seven complexes, all located in Westfield shopping centers, will comprise a total of 92 screens and 27,000 seats.

“By the end of this three-year program, together with what we know (competitor) Hoyts is building, we think the Australian market will be at saturation point,” said Greater Union managing director Paul Oneile. “After that, it will be (one-shot) developments in isolated catchment areas.”

Oz has about 1,030 screens, a number that has grown steadily along with B.O. receipts for seven consecutive years. The Greater Union exhib intends to add at least 300 screens in the next three years, including those with partners Village and WB. Hoyts has said it will build another 170 in the next five years.

The Westfield cinemas development was announced jointly by Oneile, Village Roadshow managing director Graham Burke and WB Intl. Theaters president Millard Ochs.

“We are creating state-of-the-art cinemas that will be dynamic entertainment centers for the communities we are entering. They will feature the latest technology including digital sound (DTS and Dolby), giant wall-to-wall screens, luxury aircraft-style seating and the finest projection equipment,” the partners said.

Four 16-screen plexes will be situated in Sydney’s Bondi Junction, Doncaster and Southland in Melbourne, and Adelaide’s Marion. Oneile said this is the ideal time to build the megaplexes, which will “allow us to totally dominate each catchment area, and to screen most big films on multiple screens.”

The other three cinemas will be built at Liverpool in western Sydney (12 screens), West Lakes in Adelaide and Burwood in Sydney’s south (both eight screens). Work is about to start on the first, Liverpool, which is due to open in mid-1996.

Center of attention

The GU/Village/WB coventure already operates cinemas in nine Westfield centers in Oz.

Separate from the Westfield sites, GU has just opened a four-screener in Lismore, and is building an eightplex in Tuggerah and a five-screener in Coffs Harbor, all in provincial New South Wales, and planning a sixplex in Perth.

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