With the box office booming in Russia, local cinema chain Karo Film says it is investing $150M to fund an expansion program which will include the building of several next-generation movie theaters. Karo is already at work on what it says is Russia’s “most technically advanced cinema complex,” the Karo Vegas 22 Megaplex in Crocus City in southern Moscow. The opening is set for July this year with multiple premium large format rooms, Luxe RealD Experience rooms, five VIP screening areas with concierge service, bowling lanes and restaurants. Karo also plans to open two other multiplexes in Moscow this year, including the country’s second-largest cinema, Karo AviaPark, with 18 screens. Elsewhere, the exhibitor is in late-stage negotiations to break ground on new complexes in St. Petersburg and Siberia in the summer of 2015 with planned openings in early 2016. Of the $150M, $22M will be used to upgrade existing venues, and on increasing IT capabilities and infrastructure. Karo currently has 28 sites with 189 screens. Since 2012, a consortium consisting of lead investor Baring Vostok Private Equity, UFG Private Equity and Russian Direct Investment Fund, together with media entrepreneur Paul Heth have acquired a majority stake in the company. Russia, which is underserved in terms of screens, has been a welcome market for Hollywood titles, recently anointing such films as 47 Ronin, I, Frankenstein and Pompeii to No. 1 slots despite some underperformance elsewhere. But local movies are also prospering. Last year’s top film, Stalingrad, was the biggest local film in Russian history, ultimately taking over $51M. And this year is off to a hot start with Universal’s VIY 3D, a fantasy film that bested Stalingrad‘s opening with $17.7M when it debuted a few weeks ago.
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