Hoyts hits Poland with plex plan

Major exhib pacts with Warsaw-based Echo

SYDNEY — Australia’s Hoyts Cinemas, the world’s seventh largest circuit, unveiled Wednesday plans to enter Poland, in partnership with Warsaw-based real estate developer Echo Developments.

The co-venture aims to build at least 100 screens in a territory that is severely underscreened, with fewer than 800 screens serving 40 million people.

Construction of its first complex, a 10-screen in the city of Lodz, is due to start later this year with a completion date of late 1999.

Largest of all

The Lodz cinema will be the country’s largest; the only existing multiplex is a fourplex in Warsaw owned jointly by unrelated Polish exhib Echo Cinemas and Australia’s Greater Union. Echo Cinemas and GU plan to expand to eight multiplexes, each with eight to 14 screens.

Hoyts CEO Peter Ivany, who values Hoyts investment in Poland at $9.3 million over the next three years, says its circuit will be concentrated in the capital city of Warsaw and in larger provincial cities such as Gdansk and Szcecin.

Ivany blames the low cinemagoing rate of one visit per person every two years on the dilapidated state of single screens with outdated technology and no concessions.

Social hub

“We see our multiplexes offering a new style of social life, as they will fill a very real shortage of high-standard entertainment facilities,” Ivany added.

Hoyts currently operates nearly 1,500 screens in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Austria and Germany. It is building cinemas in England and Argentina.