Argentina home to expanding plex biz

1,000 screens to open by year's end, pic attendance rises

BUENOS AIRES — Thanks largely to foreign exhibitors, Argentina should have 1,000 screens by the end of next year, industryites now project.

Though interest rates are climbing, prompted by regionwide economic uncertainty, exhibs report that construction continues and audiences are growing.

Attendance should rise from 24 million in 1997 to 32 million this year, according to Harold Blank, who heads Hoyts General Cinemas South America.

Along with Cinemark, National Amusements and Village Roadshow, Hoyts is rapidly transforming Latin America’s third-largest theatrical market into a multiplex-dominant arena.

150 this year, more in 1999

Including two sites still to open by Christmas, the four have together unveiled about 150 screens this year and are on course to bow 200 or 300 more in 1999, Blank said.

Hoyts’ final aim to build a total of 250 screens come one month after National Amusements CEO Shari Redstone visited Buenos Aires and declared that the chain aimed to build 200 screens.

Cinemark maintains a wide lead in new theaters, but Hoyts is hot on its trail: Hoyts has a 35% stake in top Mexico City multiplexer Cinemex, recently pacted for a joint venture with Uruguay’s Grupo Cinema Center.

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