Mexico's Cinepolis targets Bollywood

Exhibitor eyes India, first non-Spanish-speaking market

MORELIA, Mexico -- Cinepolis, Latin America's largest theater chain, appears bound for Bollywood.

The Mexican exhibitor is expected to launch its first theater in India by June 2010. About a year ago, the company set up a small office in New Delhi to analyze the market conditions.

Cinepolis chief Alejandro Ramirez said his company has yet to decide whether it will enter the market solo or with an Indian partner.

"We're thinking it may be advantageous to have an Indian partner, but the laws there do not require us to do so," he noted. "We've been talking with real estate developers and other exhibitors (as potential partners)."

India would mark Cinepolis' first foray into a non-Spanish-speaking market. The exhibitor has about 1,900 screens in Mexico, numerous theaters in Central America, and it had a recent multiplex opening in Colombia, its first South American territory. Cinepolis also is looking to enter Peru and Brazil.

As for India, Ramirez sees it as an attractive yet complicated market because of high costs and certain regulatory conditions.

"India is a movie-crazy country," he said. "And since most of the theaters there are single screen, we believe there is a need for multiplexes."

Family-owned Cinepolis plans to finance the India venture internally.

Cinepolis also is preparing a bid for Mexico City-based exhibitor Cinemex, one of the nation's top circuits. Mexican theater chain MM Cinemas and private-equity firms also have expressed interest in Cinemex, which is owned by Bain Capital, Spectrum Equity and the Carlyle Group. Credit Suisse is overseeing the sale.