Singapore's box office is set for a shake-up following an openingup of the exhibition market which allows films to be played on more screensthan ever before.

Until recently, filmsacquired by local exhibitor-cum-distributor Cathay had been excluded from the cinema circuits operated by its rivals Shaw,Golden Village and Eng Wah. Thanks to a new distribution arrangement among theexhibitors, the restriction has been lifted and all circuits are open equallyto all distributors, only subject to hall availability.

"To protect their marketshare, exhibitors acquired films for self-sufficiency in the past. But Singapore's cinema market environment has undergone a lot ofchanges, so has consumer behaviour," said Cathay president of business operations Suhaimi Rafdi. "The dream of allexhibitors is now about achieving the highest possible box office in theshortest possible time. It was time the exhibitors worked together to drive boxoffice growth."

The new arrangement tookeffect last month when Cathay's Valiant played outside its circuit and inreturn Golden Village's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Eng Wah's Seven Swordsand Shaw's The Cave were shown at Cathay.

Opening today (Sep 22) on 10prints, Korean horror The Red Shoes is the second film from Cathay to gain a wider release. Traditionally, Cathay acquired niche titles which were played exclusively at its two cinemaswith a total of 16 screens. It can now buy bigger titles with potential forbigger audiences.

Kenneth Tan, managingdirector of Golden Village, Singapore's largest exhibitor with 58 screens, said hewelcomed the changes. "As an exhibitor, we always believe in providing thewidest choice while as a distributor, we work to maximise the returns on everytitle we release and, where appropriate, to go as wide as possible," he said.

In November, Cathay will addthree more screens to its nine-screen Cineleisure Orchard, making itSingapore's biggest multiplex with the largest number of screens. An onlinee-gaming hub will be opened at the same site to coincide with the moviepremiere and the movie-themed games launch of Harry Potter And The Goblet OfFire.

Cathay Cineleisure Orchard,located at the prime Orchard Road area, was (and still is) the highest-grossing cinema in the city-stateeven before the opening up of the cinema circuits, according to Rafdi.