Italy's largest multiplex operators, including Warner Village Cinemas, De Laurentiis Cineplex and United Cinemas International, have split from exhibitor trade association, ANEC, to form their own organisation, ANEM.

ANEM spokesman Carlo Bernaschi said that Italy's single-screen exhibitors want to obstruct the rights and interests of multiplex operators, but claimed that the growing presence of multiplexes in Italy is responsible not only for economic growth in the sector, but also for the surge in public attendance.

"We understand that the film industry'has reached a crossroads: it can either rebuild itself through radical, internal restructuring or remain anchored in a market niche," said Bernaschi, adding that the present system of management does not adequately represent or strive for the former.

Bernaschi is head of Mediaport, Italy's multiplex consortium that is working with German exhibition chain Kieft & Kieft Filmtheater to build at least 350 new screens in the country over the next five years.

Also in development in Italy are 200 new screens by UCI, 200 by De Laurentiis Cineplex, and 140 by Warner Village Cinemas. Italy currently has 2,500 screens, less than Germany, France, Spain or the UK.