Tokyo Theatres Co., a leading independent exhibitor specialising in Japanese and European arthouse films, has announced plans to double the number of theatres it operates in Tokyo from eight to sixteen, over the next five years.

During Japan's long recession and consequent deflation, urban land prices have plunged, bringing residents back into central city areas that were once unaffordable. As a result, downtown theatres, including Tokyo Theatres', that once struggled to fill seats are seeing an upswing in business.

The company will open the first theatre of this new development plan on April 27 in Shinjuku, a Tokyo sub-center that is a major entertainment district. The site will be the largest in the Tokyo Theatres chain, with 344 seats. In its first year of operation, the company expects it to record 200,000 admissions.

Tokyo Theatres intends to revamp existing theatres and close unprofitable ones in the suburbs that are encountering fierce competition from multiplexes. It will also use a theatre in the Ikebukuro area, another Tokyo entertainment district, to screen films by new directors, in association with a film school and independent film distributors.

Founded in 1946, Tokyo Theatres operates a total of 20 screens at 15 sites, primarily in the Tokyo and Osaka metropolitan areas, in association with the Seibu Saison Group. It also manages hotels, clubs, restaurants and retail stores, as well as engaging in real estate leasing and other businesses, though a total of thirteen group companies.

In the 2000 fiscal year, ending in March 2001, Tokyo Theatres recorded sales of $470m (Y9.3bn), down 7.6% from the previous year, while operating profits amounted to $3.3m (Y434m), down 51.2%. Tokyo Theatres is listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.