Cinema Park, the verticallyintegrated Russian production, distribution and exhibition outfit, got its ambitious two-year theatreexpansion underway yesterday (22) with the opening of a nine-screen Moscowmultiplex.

More than 600 peopleattended the opening of Cinema Park at Kaluzhskaya, which coincided with therelease of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

The site cost roughly $9mand comes with stadium seating, Dolby Digital and Surround EX sound, a sushi bar, facilities for thehandicapped and hard of hearingand special sensors designed by the military in each of the 1,186 seats.

The sensors are linked to acentral computer that allows distributors to see how many people are present ata screening, a feature that it is hoped will stamp out the problem of falseaccounting.

"We will make ourexhibition 100% transparent to our distributors, and every ticket sold at the Cinema Park boxoffice will be accounted for," Cinema Park's vice president of acquisitionsAnatoly Valushkin said.

Over the next two years thecompany plans to build a $107m national network of up to 15 multiplexes with atotal seat count of 16,000-20,000, a move executives expect will raise CinemaPark's market share to 20-30%.

Aside from the newSouth-West Moscow site Cinema Park also owns the six-screen multiplex MDM-Kinoin the centre of town.

The company is backed byInterRos, a large financial and industrial group headed by the Russianbillionaire and Russia's former first-deputy prime minister Vladimir Potanin.

InterRos subsidiaryProf-Media owns an 80% stake and the remaining 20% belongs to production studioTriTe, headed by Nikita Mikhalkov, who won the foreign language Oscar for BurntBy The Sun in 1995.

Prof-Media is investing $50min cash into the project, with $20m coming from the World Bank and $35m through stock offerings.

The next six-screenmultiplex is scheduled to open in Moscow in October, followed by a nine-screen site in St Petersburg, another10-screener in Moscow, and six-screener in St Petersburg.

Cinema Park's Los Angeles-basedCinema Park Distribution continues to be active in the acquisitions sector andrecently bought Russian rights to the $65m animated feature Foodfight! from Seven Arts.