CFG eyes new cinema circuit

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BEIJING -- China Film Group plans a new cinema circuit that could include four theaters it purchased after Warner Bros. International Cinemas (WBIC) divested its Chinese holdings in November, an unnamed senior CFG official told local media Monday.

With help from the Beijing Shidai Jindian Group, the majority partners in the new circuit, state-run CFG paid 50 million?60 million yuan ($640,000-$760,000) for the purchase of former WBIC movie theaters in Chongqing (Sichuan province), Nanchang (Jiangxi province), Changsha (Hunan province) and Zhengzhou (Henan province), the CFG official told the Beijing News.

The purchase comes as cinema construction by CFG lags behind the development of the company's film production and distribution operations.

China currently has 36 cinema circuits operating about 3,000 cinemas with a screen count less than one-tenth that of the U.S., where the population is one-fifth as large. Many of China's cinemas are in need of rennovation.

WBIC pulled out of China's cinema-building business after four years in Novembe, citing shifting governement rules that barred it from majority ownership (HR 11/9).

WBIC had advised on the construction of several cinemas in China with the option to invest with the Shenzhen International Trust Investment Company Ltd. (SZITIC). SZITIC is one of China's foremost government-sector funding institutions, specializing in the location of sites suitable for shopping center development.

In WBIC plans set out in in internal documents in 2005, the four theaters now owned by CFG were to have been in Wal-Mart-anchored shopping centers.

Queries to Beijing Shidai Jindian and CFG were not answered at press time.
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