AMC’s reeled out amid HK exhib war

Edko began programming Kowloon multiplex last month

The AMC brand is set to become a whole lot more familiar in downtown Hong Kong. But the new moniker, licensed from the U.S.’ AMC Entertainment, is little more than the latest stalking horse in a land grab by two of the territory’s most familiar exhibition names — Edko and UA.

Through its Suntech Intl. subsid, Edko, headed by “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” producer Bill Kong, took over programming the AMC Festival Walk multiplex in Kowloon last month.

Later this year it will take over and rebrand the complex at Pacific Place in the Admiralty district. Under UA the Pacific Place complex ran four screens. But it recently closed for renovation and will reopen as an AMC six-plex.

Decision was made by Swire Properties, owner of the mall site and an offshoot of the Swire group, which controls Cathay Pacific Airways. Swire and Edko, which also operates the Broadway and Palace theater chains in Hong Kong and China, said they expect further extension of the AMC brand.

UA, however, has parried neatly. It has taken control of the Windsor complex in the Causeway Bay shopping and entertainment quarter, which was previously operated by Edko. Move means Hong Kong Island’s two prime moviegoing areas, Central-Admiralty and Causeway Bay, now are controlled by near monopolies and distribs will be forced to negotiate releases with both Edko and UA circuits.

UA stole a march on its rival Monday by unveiling deployment of high-end digital cinema systems at its Cityplaza and Telford Plaza sites and announcing it will open a 10-plex in Kowloon East in February.