Benetton, Mediaset launch new Italian circuit

Merging Warner Village Cinemas, Medusa locations

ROME -- Clothing maker Benetton and media giant Mediaset head the investment group that on Thursday unveiled The Space Cinema, a new exhibitor chain that will take over the Warner Village chain in Italy and merge it with the locations owned by Medusa, Mediaset's film industry subsidiary.

The blockbuster deal will create a new player in the market with 24 multiplexes and a total of 242 screens that sold a total of 16 million tickets last year. It will also see the exit of Warner Village from the market, where it had been a mainstay. It also marks an entry into the sector for Alessandro Benetton, the eldest son of Luciano Benetton, the founder of the Trevisio-based fashion-empire.

Giuseppe Corrado, a relative newcomer to the cinema sector who brings with him business experience from the pasta and advertising sectors, will head the new venture.

"This is more than a simple fusion of two companies and a rebranding," Corrado said at a briefing. "We want to change the traditional way that films are distributed."

Paolo Protti, the president of the cinema industry association Anec, applauded the move, calling it a vote of confidence for the sector.

"When to big companies like Mediaset and Benetton believe that owning a distribution chain is a good investment, it's a good sign," Protti said.

Financial terms of the deal were not released.