Poland has become the latest hot spot for multiplex development with two international cinema chains - the US' Loews Cineplex International and Israel's IT International Theatres - unveiling plans to expand into the territory.

IT, known in its home territory as Israeli Theatres, is using the proceeds from its recent IPO to build 150 screens in 10-15 multiplexes in Poland over the next three years. The first project - set to open in August - is a 3,000-seat, 12-screen multiplex in Warsaw's Sadyba Best shopping mall, which will also house the first Imax theatre in Central Europe. A second 12-screen multiplex is planned for the Bemowo district of Warsaw and an 11-screen site is being lined up for a Krakow shopping mall which will also house an Imax.

Meanwhile, Loews is planning multiplexes for Warsaw and Krakow due for completion by early 2001. The Warsaw site, in the Centrum Handlowe Targowek shopping centre anchored by French hypermarket giant Carrefour, will house 12 screens and 2,900 seats. The 12-screen Krakow development is planned for the Zakopianka shopping centre, anchored by Carrefour and Office Depot.

"With the region's largest population and strongest economy, Poland is key to our expansion in Eastern Europe," said Loews president J. Edward Shugure.

Loews already operates a six screen theatre in Budapest, Hungary and is planning an additional 10-screen theatre at the Baross Trade Centre to open in 2001.

IT, which plans to invest $200m in its Central European expansion plans, successfully completed a $35.6m IPO this month and its shares are now listed on EASDAQ. The company already controls 50 screens in six multiplexes in Hungary and plans to open an additional 30 screens in the territory by the end of the year. IT also owns an eight-screen cinema in the Czech capital Prague and in its home territory controls almost 40% of the exhibition market with 104 screens housed in 22 sites. The company also owns a distribution outfit Forum Film, which handles Buena Vista product, including the Miramax catalogue, in Israel.