Growing Ster puts plex foot forwards with ‘Pearl’

Co. has seen 'growth of 110% in Brno,' and continues to grow

PRAGUE — Ster Century is among Czech cinema operators betting “Pearl Harbor” will ride the coattails of local smash “Dark Blue World,” nabbing the U.S. pic to open its newest multiplex in Brno. The seven-screen, 1,420-seat Velky Spalicek plex in the city center opened Aug. 30.

Opening put Ster at four cinemas and 37 screens, far ahead of competitors including Village Cinemas and Israeli Cinemas. The company expects to open its fifth cinema, a 12-screener in central Prague, by the end of this year.

“We’re growing week by week,” says David Horacek, who directs Ster Century’s operations in the Czech and Slovak Republics. “We’ve seen growth of 110% in Brno since our first cinema opened there.” Ster Century hopes to capture half of the Czech market.

The new cinema got high marks from the industry. “Our expectations are strong. We think this is a good space for midsized, independent and Czech films,” says Ales Danielis of Bontonfilm.

As the opener of the traditionally strong fall moviegoing season, “Pearl Harbor” is expected to help boost Czech numbers to the best since 1994, topping 10 million tickets sold. Higher prices at the plexes already have put box office 37% above this time last year, at $12.6 million.

In a banner year for local product, Czech films are holding down the top four slots, with “Dark Blue World,” the first post-Oscar film from helmer Jan Sverak (“Kolya”) leading the pack, with 800,000 admissions since its May opening (it screens in Toronto Sunday). “Bouquet,” by F.A. Brabec, is second, with some 500,000 admissions, with “Luck of the Devil 2,” a popular kids fairy tale, and retro ’60s musical “Rebels” by Filip Renc both topping 300,000 in the third and fourth spots.

Czech exhibs are hoping “Pearl Harbor” — similar in theme to “Dark Blue World,” with both featuring romance set against the backdrop of war — also can deliver potent box office. Distrib Falcon has built a strong promo campaign for “Pearl,” comparable to the media plastering achieved by “World.”

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