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Pathe plans Dutch plexes.

AMSTERDAM Dutch exhibitors have a raft of plans in the works, but outside of French plex builder Pathe, which dominates the territory, there is little actual site construction taking place.

"There's an awful lot of talk, but it's a slow process and getting through all the hurdles is no easy task," says Joachim Wolff, president of the Wolff cinema chain.

Wolff has been planning an eight-screener at Harlemmerplein in Amsterdam, and while it was given enthusiastic permission by city officials, getting through the building-permit nightmare is another matter.

"We hope to drive the first stakes by next April," Wolff says. While the chain has a number of other sites around Holland it is eyeing, and at some locations has secured permission to build, Wolff plans on keeping mum on the projects until they're completely greenlighted.

"Cinema building in Holland is a very political thing. It's best to keep a low profile until you've cleared the hurdles," he adds.

Tell that to Kinepolis, who had the enthusiasm and the permission of the city of Diemen, a suburb of Amsterdam, for a major plex project but was turned down several years ago by the province of North Holland. The city of Diemen is now in a legal battle with the province to get Kinepolis back on line, but one analyst says it was "a project destined never to happen." (Kinepolis has managed one site in Holland, a seven-screener opened late last year in Vlissingen.)

Time-consuming process

"Ideally, we'd like to build multiplexes all over but it takes a lot of time," says Jan Willem Verhoef, co-owner of Minerva, Holland's third-largest plex builder. Minerva's purchase of Pathe's six-screener in Maastricht earlier this year puts it neck and neck with Jogchem, Holland's No. 2 plexer. Jogchem's building scheme includes scouting new projects as well as renovation and build-out.

Normally, municipalities don't allow building a multiplex outside of the cities and finding an inner-city location for a plex can be troublesome, at best, Verhoef points out. He adds that Minerva has "serious projects in 10 cities, but in most of them, there are still fences to be jumped."

While Pathe wasn't seeing the margins it liked in its Maastricht site, Minerva has cut back showings from 24 to 21 per week, trimmed costs in other directions and is "doing quite well," Verhoef claims.

Pathe still is slapping together its newest project, a 13-screener next to the historic Tuschinski, where Holland premieres most of its movies, with the site expected to be completed in the fall of next year.

Pathe also is finishing off its biggest project yet, the 24-screen, 3,000-plus-seat Arena, named after the sports coliseum it is located near. Originally tied to the building plans for the Pathe de Munt, the Arena is one of the few suburban cinema projects to be given permission to build in Holland. Completion date is set for April.

In the year of "Titanic," Dutch admissions rose along with every other territory in Europe, and like every other region, they are expected to trip downward in 1999.

However, one kids picture may skew Dutch admissions to the good: "Abeltje" (Little Abel), a Bos. Bros. film distributed by Warner Bros. outed last December and so far has racked up over $5 million in box office receipts, one of the highest draws of all time for a Dutch film.

Box office:  $122 million
Admissions:  20.1 million
Screens:  461
Sites:  154


                     SCREENS    SITES
Pathe                   80        14
Jogchem                 46        11
Minerva                 38        12
Wolff                   27         9
Polyfilm                22         5

Source: Dutch Cinema Federation3
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Title Annotation:Holland movie theaters
Comment:Pathe plans Dutch plexes.(Holland movie theaters)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Jun 21, 1999
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