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Kieft to enter Italy via Mediaport deal

Multiplexes to cost $555 million

ROME — As part of a European expansion program that will make it a direct competitor to U.S.-controlled companies such as Warner Village and UCI, veteran German exhibition outfit Kieft & Kieft Filmtheater will enter the Italian market via a joint venture with local upstart Mediaport.

The two companies announced plans Tuesday to construct a network of 30 multiplexes in Italy during the next two to three years, housing between 300 and 350 screens. Project involves an overall investment of 1 trillion lire ($555 million), much of which is expected to come from investment banks.

While the new Italo chain does not yet have an official name, it is provisionally being called Cineplex-Cinestar, combining the exhibition banners of Mediaport and Kieft & Kieft, respectively.

Established in 1996, Mediaport is a consortium of four independent Italian exhibitors that includes Carlo Bernaschi, the former president of national exhibition association ANEC, together with state film production-distribution body Istituto Luce.

The company opened its first nine-screen plex in Genoa two years ago and will unveil four more sites this year in Udine, Fiano Romano, Belluno and Padua. While all of Mediaport’s previous developments will be absorbed into the joint venture, the Italian partner will retain management responsibility for the national plexes with the German side handling administration.

The Cineplex-Cinestar sites will be known as Multiplex Entertainment Centers with ample space given over to additional family leisure facilities, music areas, restaurants and bars.

“Mediaport has already become established in key situations in Italy through our Genoa multiplex and other screens managed by the company,” Bernaschi told Daily Variety. “This agreement allows us to increase our presence on the national market, while the family-entertainment areas will help us attract a much wider public. We will become by far the largest European exhibition group operating in Italy.”

Currently the second-ranked exhibition company in Germany with 52 theaters housing a total of 294 screens, Kieft & Kieft in 1998 sold a 50% stake to Australian exhibition leader Greater Union Intl.

In addition to the 20 multiplexes, nine cityplexes, 22 single-screen houses and a Berlin IMAX theater currently operating in Germany under the Cinestar banner, a further 15 national plexes are at planning or construction phase, which will make Kieft & Kieft Germany’s market leader. The company this year will open its first plexes in Holland and Austria, with sites in other European territories to follow.

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