Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov has announced plans for a new $40m chain of cinemas backed by Russian metals and banking mogul Vladimir Potanin.

Potanin, one of Russia's richest men, heads the financial conglomerate Interros group, and already has interests in cinema via his company Profmedia.

The new national chain which will be called Cinema Park will be controlled by Mikhalkov's Three T Company and Profmedia. The new venture has announced that it is also interested in attracting foreign investors.

Russia's cinema business has been growing rapidly over the past three years. Last year's national box office total of $50m is expected to double this year. Cinema Park is hoping to take advantage of the boom.

The first theatre in the chain will be central Moscow MDM-Kino which is 51% owned by Profmedia. Cinema Park also plans to build six 12-screen multiplexes over the next two to five years in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnoyarsk and Nizhny Novgorod.

A spokesman for the state-owned cinema company Roskinoprokat said there were already agreements for Cinema Park to take over three of their top performing cinemas in St Petersburg.

Mikhalkov, who has dabbled in politics over the past ten years and is close to top government officials, will head the board of directors of the new company.

Part of the profits from the new chain will be re-invested in Three T's film production business with Cinema Park having first priority for the distribution of the studio's output.