Armed with seed capital of $20m-$25m, Madrid-based Argentine entrepreneur Pablo Larguia is launching a new vertically integrated entertainment empire, Innova Networks.

The former founder and chief executive of Human Resources software technology company has immediate ambitions to build multiplexes across Spain. To launch in January 2003, Innova Networks's intended scope covers nearly all fields of entertainment including film and television production, documentaries, stage theatres and film exhibition. The outfit will focus initially on the Spanish market before expanding to Argentina the year after.

"Argentina may be less expensive but recouping our investments would take longer. The opportunities in Spain are stronger at present," said Larguia, who sold in 2000 to Terra Lycos, a subsidiary of Spanish telco Telefonica.

Innova is negotiating real estate properties for stage and cinema venues. It is looking to convert some of the thousand-seat capacity cinemas on one of Madrid's main streets, the Gran Via, into multiplexes. Innova will enter Argentina in 2004 with the same end-target of 200 screens in five years.

"We plan to build up to 20 screens the first year and reach our target of 200 screens after five years in Spain," said Larguia.

Innova also hopes to breathe new life into the performing arts in Madrid and Buenos Aires, bringing hits from Broadway and London's West End to the new or refurbished theatres it will build.

Larguia, who co-produced Argentine director Adolfo Aristarain's Lugares Comunes, has already selected up to three films to co-produce, including Aristarain's next project, which is still untitled.