Movie rooms with a Vue slated for London

U.K. exhibitor developing a 12-plex near Olympics site

LONDON -- U.K. exhibitor Vue Entertainment is betting heavily on a bright future for digital exhibition, but surprisingly, Vue chief Tim Richards hasn't seen James Cameron's "Avatar" in full yet.

Richards has an excuse: He was in Montreal carrying the Olympic torch last week, even as Cameron visited London for the film's world premiere. That's because the Olympics also are a big part of Vue's plans.

The exhibitor is developing a 12-plex near a site set for the 2012 Olympics in the Stratford area of east London. Vue recently inked a pact with property developers to build a cinema similar to a theater under construction in west London's huge Westfield shopping center.

The U.K.'s third-largest chain is pumping an unspecified eight-figure sum into building a state-of-the-art multiplex at Westfield. At least four of its 14 digital screens will be equipped for 3D, and the venue also will sport a pair of screens bigger than anything available at other premier London venues.

Richard said the theater's biggest auditoriums will boast "wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling gigantic screens." Its lobby will boast a fireplace to lend the atmosphere of a private club, and the site also will feature valet parking, concierge services and alcoholic beverages.

"We're really focused on providing something for everyone at Westfield," Richards said. "There is an opportunity for everyone to come, and there will be a range of ticket prices."

The Westfield cinema is expected to open in February and the Stratford theater in 2011.

The projects arrive amid steady increases in U.K. boxoffice and also for Vue, which operates 607 screens in 62 theaters. U.K. boxoffice is on track to surpass £1 billion ($1.61 billion) by the end of next week.