Warner Bros. Intl. Theaters will be the first major exhib to open a multiplex in China when its nine-screen cinema bows April 12.
The 1,490-seat plex will be owned and operated as a joint venture between Warner Bros., local distrib-exhib Shanghai Paradise Co. and leisure company Broadband Investment of Hong Kong.
WB must still apply for final approval from the Chinese government, according to Monday’s announcement from WB chairman and CEO Barry Meyer and Millard Ochs, prexy of WBIT.
“We began planning this project last year in anticipation of the dynamic changes that will occur now that China has joined the World Trade Organization,” said Meyer. “Projects such as this will fuel the growth of the Chinese film business and help realize the vast potential of this untapped market,” he added.
“Based on our experience in developing the multiplex around the world, we have found that they provide the spark that triggers growth not only in the exhibition arena, but also in the entire film industry,” said Ochs.
Industry experts predict a two-fold increase in films imported into China this year, and the boffo response to recent films including “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” indicates an upsurge of interest by Chinese filmgoers.
The multiplex, which will screen local and imported films, is located in Shanghai on the top floor of one of the city’s largest shopping malls, the Grand Gateway.
Shanghai is a particularly important theatrical market in China. While it only represents about 1% of China’s population, it accounts for 12% of the country’s total theatrical box office. Historically, the Shanghai audience has also been China’s film trendsetter.