Conate revving up multiplex venture

Exhibitor-distributor Conate, which rules the theatrical roost in Chile, will speed up its multiplexing venture with Dallas-based Cinemark now that National Amusements has committed to the country.

Conate VP Jose Patricio Daire told Variety that the joint venture, which has operated a sole Santiago sixplex for nearly two years, will open a second multiplex in September and aims to expand to 100 screens by the year 2000.

Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements confirmed Chile entry plans in late May, pledging to break ground on two multiplexes by August. The multiplexes will open in early 1996 and probably be followed by further venues.

Daire is wary that a second U.S. entry will push already high real estate prices to astronomical levels if the two exhibs compete for sites – a phenomenon already seen in Mexico following the entry of four or five new exhibs. The VP says quality land in Santiago currently fetches $1,000 to $1,500 per square meter.

“We want to grow fast because we expect the price of land to increase further, but not too fast as that would help drive it up,” says Daire.

“It’s strange that National Amusements haven’t approached us about working together,” Daire adds, implying that ideally the two players would huddle and divvy up choice sites.

Industry insiders observe that National Amusements’ entry could start to redress the balance of power between exhibs and distribs. Last year Conate exhibs took 93% of firstrun B.O. in Santiago, a city accounting for two-thirds of all Chilean ducats.

While Daire says relations between Conate and the U.S. majors are good, there’s no doubt who’s boss. As well as almost monopolizing exhibition, Conate leads the field in distribution through its repping of Buena Vista Intl., New Line, and indie titles, and also dominates video distribution and retail through part-owned sister firm Video Chile.

In this country of 14 million, Conate reaped about $15 million in exhib-distrib revenues last year, and has foreign designs of its own. With Conate already top dog in Argentina’s home video and TV/film post-production markets, Daire does not discount a move into Argentine exhibition, where U.S. plexers have not gone.

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