Despite the gloom hovering over several European exhibitors, particularly those with circuits in Germany and the UK, fledgling exhibition company Spean Bridge has announced ambitious expansion plans to build sites across nine European countries, as well as Taiwan and Japan.

From its initial announcement in 1998 to build cinemas in the UK and Germany, Spean Bridge is now also targeting Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Belgium and Poland. Outside Europe, its plans for Brazil have been put on the back-burner with the focus turned towards Asia, in particular, Taiwan and Japan.

After launching the company close to two years ago, the first Spean Bridge Cinema (SBC) will open in Livingstone, Scotland on October 26. This will be followed by a complex in Aberdeen at the end of March. Outside the UK, the 13-screen Metrowalk site in Chungli City on the outskirts of Taipei is scheduled to open in the new year.

Tim Richards, CEO of the venture after Stewart Blair recently stepped down, expects to open 10 sites in the UK over the next two years, five of which are currently at the legal planning stage. SBC has already picked up two sites after a fellow exhibitor pulled out of its commitment.

Spean Bridge, which is close to finalising plans to sign up two top-level executives, will be setting up a London headquarters within the month. The cinema operator is backed by US venture capitalists, Boston Ventures Management and Chase Capital.