Vajna, Roadshow pump up Hungarian exhib biz

BUDAPEST — One of Hollywood’s top moguls is fueling Hungary’s multiplex boom.

Multiplex developer Village Roadshow InterCom Hungary, owned by Cinergi Entertainment CEO Andy Vajna in partnership with Australian cineplex developer Village Roadshow Ltd., is building a new $2.8 million. 10-screen cineplex in the Lurdy House shopping center in southern Budapest.

The 2,000-seat Hollywood Multiplex at Lurdy House, scheduled to open in 1998, will be Vajna’s second Hungarian multiplex and the fourth multiscreened venue to appear in the Hungarian exhibition market since last September. The Lurdy House theater will be equipped with Village Roadshow sound and exhibition technology, and modern concessions. “This new multiplex will be the same standard as any other Village (Roadshow) theater anywhere in the world,” said Andras Kalman, InterCom managing director.

More Vajna-funded theaters may soon be on the way. “We’re looking at every community in Hungary with a population of over 200,000 people” as a possible multiplex site, Vajna told Daily Variety.

Vajna’s company is negotiating with mall developers regarding six sites in Budapest alone.

Vajna has already proven that multiplex exhibition in Hungary is a moneymaker. The venue Vajna opened in Budapest in November — the Hollywood Multiplex in the Duna Plaza mall — celebrated its millionth customer after only eight months in operation.

As for the big picture, the impact of multiplexes on Hungary’s total exhibition market has been immediate and powerful. By the end of 1997, analysts estimate, the Hungarian cinema will earn 7.5 million admissions, a 50% increase in box office receipts over the previous year.

“The Hollywood Multiplex has been more lucrative than we planned,” Kalman said. In addition to the arrival of multiplex venues, Kalman credits a strong slate of late summer and autumn blockbusters (“Men in Black,” “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” “Conspiracy Theory,” “Air Force One”) for the admissions explosion predicted for the end of the year.

However, good movies and new multiplexes are not the only catalyst for this boom. “The cinema business shows that the Hungarian economy is developing,” Kalman said. “The increase in admissions cannot be explained by the arrival of multiplexes alone. Even the Hungarian countryside has shown increased admissions over the last year, and there are no multiplexes anywhere outside of Budapest.”

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