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UCI OPENS DOOR TO JAPAN

Joins with biz mogul on multiplex venture

TOKYO — Top local businessman Den Fujita has joined a venture with Paramount and Universal to operate multiplex theaters in Japan.

Fujita, who was the founder of McDonald’s Japan, will align with the studios’ joint venture company United Cinemas Intl. (UCI) to develop about 20 multiplex complexes in Japan over the next few years. Their first multiplex project is a 12-screen complex that will open in February in Sapporo.

UCI and Fujita will each invest 2 billion yen ($16.7 million) in the 2,987-seat project that will open near Sapporo Station. The multiplex will be called Sapporo Factory Cinema and will be constructed in the Sapporo Factory business center in Japan’s northernmost major city.

UCI said they are setting an annual attendance target of 900,000. Fujita also holds a 50% stake in Blockbuster’s chain of video rental stores.

Apart from the deal with Fujita to open the multiplex in Sapporo, UCI has already opened a movie complex in the western Japan city of Otsu last November and it is planning to open a 2,456-seat nine-plex in the central Japan city of Kanazawa in September.

Multiplex pack

UCI is one of four multiplex operators in Japan. Warner MyCal, AMC Entertainment Inc. and a joint venture between Japanese movie house Shochiku and U.S. multiplex operator Cinemark Intl. Inc. called Shochiku Cinemark Theaters are the other multiplex operators.

By the year 2000, multiplex cinemas are expected to boost the number of screens in Japan from the approximately 1,750 in use now to more than 2,000.

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