Pyramid adds Bollywood theaters


NEW YORK -- U.S. entertainment companies have been pushing into India to expand into one of the world's biggest growth markets. Now, at least one firm believes it can grow in the opposite direction thanks to an expanding and affluent North American base of South Asians with an appetite for Bollywood fare.

Chennai, India-based movie theater operator Pyramid Saimira has just created a North American arm to acquire Richardson, Texas-based FunAsia, which operates Bollywood movie theaters in Houston and suburban Dallas, a radio station, as well as banquet halls, dance floors and other entertainment venues for an undisclosed amount of cash.

The company's North American unit, Pyramid Saimira Entertainment America, will use FunAsia as its expansion base and already has acquired hours of drivetime radio in Chicago and Houston.

Pyramid It said these are "the first steps in taking the FunAsia multimedia entertainment concept across the U.S. and Canada."

The plan is to expand rapidly into other major cities.

"South Asians are much more visible in North America today," Pyramid managing director Saminathan Subramanian said. "We have an aggressive time frame for bringing the FunAsia name and entertainment concept to major U.S. and Canadian cities."

Pyramid, which is publicly traded in India, operates 44 multiplexes with 703 screens across India, Malaysia, Singapore and North America and also produces films.

By its own estimates, it ranks as the world's third-largest cinema operator based on its number of seats (nearly 435,000) and admissions (53 million for the July-October time frame).

Its North American unit also has an office in Los Angeles.

South Asians include people of Bangladeshi, Indian, Nepali, Pakistani and Sri Lankan descent.