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Pathe way to Italy

French group to build screens near Torino

MILAN — A new international player has arrived in Italy’s exhibition sector, until now dominated by local companies and American majors.

France’s media group Pathe has announced it will open an 11 screen, 2,350-seat multiplex at Lingotto, a little-used industrial site near Torino, one of the largest cities in northern Italy.

The French group has beat out three other bidders: Warner Village, a joint venture of Warner Bros. Intl. Theaters and Australia’s Village Roadshows; Italy’s Focus, which already owns three multiplexes in Italy; and UCI, which is planning to build a nine-plex near Bergamo, north of Milan.

Pathe will invest between $16 million and $22 million in the Lingotto project, sources close to the operation said. The group anticipates a yearly audience of about 800,000 to 1 million people, with a potential audience base in the Torino area of about 3.4 million.

AGIS, the national film organization, reacted to Pathe’s announcement with some concern, noting that there are five multiplexes expected to open in the Torino area in the near future.

After two decades in which many theaters have closed, there has been a building renaissance in Italy. Since 1997, 518 theaters have opened in the country.

Warners recently announced plans to invest $160 million to build 21 multiplexes in Italy.