Warner Bros InternationalCinemas (WBIC) is expanding into the mid-south and southwest corners of China through a strategic partnership with Sichuan PacificCinema Circuit, one of the leading circuits under China Film Group.

The two partners will makejoint efforts to explore this region of China which is relatively undeveloped compared to thewealthier eastern seaboard cities. The local cinema market is underscreened andlacks modern equipment, but is ripe for development due to the size and growingspending power of its local population.

The province of Sichuan has a larger population than the UK or Germany while the municipality of Chongqing, which borders the province, is home to more than 30 million people.

"We are expecting to bring aworld class movie experience to audiences in central China," said WBIC vice president of operations TJ Green."We firmly believe that Pacific Film Circuit, which boasts great experience andexcellent distribution channels within the local market, as well as possessingan in-depth understanding of local consumers' habits, will help us to realiseour hopes for the Chinese market."

WBIC has already establisheda joint venture cinema in Chongqingin partnership with the retail property subsidiary of Shenzhen InternationalTrust & Investment Co.

The Warner SZITIC ChongqingCinema, which officially opens its doors on Jan 25, has joined the Sichuan Pacificcircuit. WBIC and SZITIC are also planning cinemas in the cities of Changsha, Shenzhen, Nanchang and Zhengzhou.

According to recentstatistics, each screen in China plays to an audience of more than 240,000 people andthe average person visited a cinema 0.1 times in 2004. However, in the US, each screen plays to 8,123 people and the averageperson visits a cinema 5.4 times a year.