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Thai exhib circuits sees turmoil

Poolvoraluk family takes control back over 88 screens

BANGKOK — The modern-day exhibition business in Thailand is only 10 years old, but it seems the terrible teens are setting in already. The Thai Poolvoraluk family, former industry leaders with their Oz Village Roadshow-owned Entertain Golden Village, last week took back the reins on their 88 screens. The relationship was a contentious one from the beginning, as the management teams from original partners Village and Golden Harvest met with local resistance to change.

Vichai Poolvoraluk now controls 50% of the family business. He denied having had any conflicts with Village, although he admitted there had been some disagreements on management style.

“The firm is in a transitional period. This buyout will be a big improvement for EGV, as it can better meet the challenges of a highly competitive market,” says Poolvoraluk.

Outpacing his cousin Vichai is Vicha Poolvoraluk, CEO of Major Cineplex Group which has about 76 screens, along with bowling alleys, retail shops and a movie ad agency. Vicha has just put in place Thailand’s first digital projector and should take over top market share this week as “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” digitally preems at his circuit.

Fighting tooth and nail for market share is SF Cinemas, which rose from six screens last year to 44 at present. Controlled by another Thai family, the Thongrompos, it started with a theater circuit on Thailand’s eastern shore. The family’s two eldest sons, Suvit and Suwat, have quickly grown their Bangkok cinema chain with the help of partner Mongkol Cinema.

With approximately 251 multiplex screens in Bangkok, one would think the territory would be near saturation; however, a new retail shopping complex near the heavily touristed Siam Center area of Bangkok is targeted for the construction of a new 16-plex that both EGV and Major are interested in.

“There is a lot of market left to open,” Vicha Poolvoraluk says.

The cinema market in Thailand is estimated at 3.5 billion Baht ($81.4 million).