The future of Village Roadshow's international exhibition arm looks uncertain following the surprise decision of chairman and co-chief executive officer John Crawford to leave the company.

Crawford is quitting Village's UK-based international arm in December after deciding not to renew his contract. The UK headquarters will relocate to Melbourne, despite the recent addition of two senior executives, both hired from Australia in March this year. Village is expected to keep its current international partnerships intact, but expansion plans for its Village-branded network are likely to be cut short.

Village currently operates 268 screens in the UK through its joint venture with Warner Bros International Theatres (WBIT). However in January this year, the operator announced it was to launch a separate circuit of Village-branded theatres outside the partnership. These proposed sites in UK and Ireland will now revert to the Warner Village Cinemas (WVC) joint venture which also operates seven multiplexes in Italy.

The future of Village's 74 screen circuit in Germany, which was previously a Warner Village partnership before Warners pulled out at the end of 1998, is also uncertain. But the depressed German box office over the last 12 months, combined with continued expansion of multiplexes in the country, has put pressure on all cinema operators and led to considerable consolidation within the market. At the time of going to press, Village was unavailable for further comment.

Village recently sold its stake in its Golden Harvest partnership through which it operated several exhibition circuits across Asia.

Other European Village sites currently in operation are: France (following the opening of its Nice site), Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.