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WB’s adding China plexes

Warners to own 51% of theaters

SYDNEY — Warner Bros. Intl. Cinemas is closing its fourth joint venture deal in China. Accord will complete its web of alliances as it ups the pace of development of the exhib industry in the underscreened market.

The studio is pacting with Shenzhen Intl. Trust & Investment to build five multiplexes in Shenzhen province, across the border from Hong Kong.

Warners will own 51% of the theaters, continuing its policy of having majority stakes in its partnerships in China. The first is due to open in May in Chongqing and the others will be in Nanchang, Changsha, Zhengzhou and Chongqing, according to Chinese media reports.

The U.S. major currently operates seven cinemas in China and is the only Western player active in the country apart from large-screen company Imax.

WB has co-ventures with the Shanghai United Circuit, mall developer Dalian Wanda Group and Guangzhou Jinyi Film and TV Investment Co.

WB aims to have 15 cinemas in operation in China by the end of this year, expanding to 135 screens by 2007.

Warner execs declined to discuss the Shenzhen venture as the deal hasn’t closed yet.

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