Warner Bros InternationalCinemas (WBIC) becomes the first ever Western majority owner of a joint ventureChinese theatre today (April 29) with the official opening of the 2,200-seatShangying Warner Cinemas multiplex in Nanjing.

The site features eightauditoriums, stadium seating and traditional and digital projection and openedfor business at the weekend with a soft launch that included free screeningsand a charity benefit. The inaugural paid screening will be Looney Tunes:Back In Action.

WBIC owns 51% of the venturewhile partner Shanghai United Circuit owns the remaining portion following thelaunch of a pilot scheme in January relaxing foreign ownership rules in sevenChinese cities.

"This theatre is a majorstep in our ongoing efforts to bring Chinese moviegoers the finest Chinese andimported films in state-of-the-art facilities throughout the country," WBICpresident Millard Ochs said in a statement.

"Venues such as thisrepresent the future of Chinese film exhibition and present a world of newpossibilities for film-makers and distributors alike."

Shangying Warner Cinemas isWBIC's third venue in China after Paradise Warner Cinema in Shanghai (in whichWBIC is a minority partner with Shanghai Paradise Co) and the Warner WandaCinema in Tianjin, which opened under a management and licensing agreement withthe Dalian Wanda Group Co.

WBIC is awaiting governmentapproval as a majority partner for a multiplex in Wuhan (also with ShanghaiUnited) and has an agreement in principle with Guangzhou Performance Co formultiplexes in Guangdong province, again as a majority partner.