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Screen Works plans 15 U.K. plexes

LONDON — The independent British exhibition company Screen Works has emerged as a major new player in the U.K. cinema market with plans to build 15 deluxe multiplexes over the next six years, at a cost of over $500 million.

The multiplexes will be incorporated within larger “leisure destinations” which will also include health clubs, restaurants, swimming pools and child-care facilities.

All the sites will be fully equipped with Lucasfilm’s THX system, which has previously struggled to get a foothold in the U.K. The Screen Works deal will triple the number of British THX cinemas in its first year alone.

Screen Works is financed by a group of Dutch investors led by SBF Intercapita. The first complex, including a nine-screen theater, is due to open next year in Hartlepool, followed by another in Pontefract.

So far Screen Works has locked down deals to build four sites, and is in negotiations for several more. The Screen Works philosophy, which was researched by buying and operating a number of traditional cinemas, is based on providing technically superior film presentation allied to all the ingredients for a complete night out.

“Very early on we knew that we wanted the best technically out of our cinema picture and sound,” said David Hepworth, managing director of Screen Works. “With THX accreditation throughout our cinemas, the public know they can expect the ultimate film experience at Screen Works, including specialty theater presentations like Iwerks and Showscan at some sites.

“There are so many operators in the multiplex market, but there is little product differentiation,” he continued. “We want to give audiences what they deserve for their ticket price — the very best, together with something that is fresher, more relaxing, fun and imaginative.”

Patrick Artiaga, manager of THX cinemas, commented, “The Screen Works all-THX philosophy will triple the number of THX cinemas in the U.K. within the first year, making the U.K. one of the top international markets for THX.”

Other partners in the Screen Works leisure destinations include Axis Health & Fitness and the video vending group Cinemat.

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