Investment company Norway Cinema Group (NCG) - which operates Oslo's Imax theatre - is challenging the local authorities' dominance of the Oslo exhibition market with plans for a 10-screen multiplex scheduled to open in 2003.

The complex, which represents an investment of $10m-$12m, will be built in Oslo's affluent seaside neighbourhood Aker Brygge, adjacent to the Imax theatre.

The project is spearheaded by Imax Oslo managing director Terje Kristansen, who said he intends to create a "much-needed" competitor for local authority-controlled Oslo Cinemas. Under Norwegian legislation, local councils are the only bodies with power to grant cinema licences and have traditionally operated most of the country's theatres.

Oslo Cinemas chief Ingeborg Moraeus Hansen recently came in for heavy criticism after slating Liv Ullmanns' Faithless, describing it as "banal and speculative" and accusing Ullmann of making a "too private film about herself" (Screendaily, August 2). Norwegian distributor SF Norge is considering suing Hansen for damaging the film's commercial prospects.

Kristansen admits that the new multiplex is partly in response to Oslo Cinema's comments: "A movie's fate in Oslo could be decisive for its success in the rest of the country. Oslo Cinema displays an incredible arrogance of this responsibility," Kristansen said.

NCG, owned by some of Norways' largest investors and real estate groups, also has long-term plans to build multiplexes in other parts of Norway. The company is currently seeking international partners for its multiplex expansion plans.