Virgin Cinemas plans global drive

Virgin Cinemas is to expand beyond the UK for the first time, moving into Japan, Canada and the US as part of a global growth strategy.

A 14-screen Virgin Cinema will open in Hisayama, in southern Japan this month. Two more Japanese sites will open later in the year.

Russ Pillar, president and chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group North America, says he is also looking for opportunities to push the Virgin brand into Canada and the US. Virgin Cinemas’ holding company,Virgin Entertainment Centres, has 19 Megastores in the US, but no cinemas.

Pillar says: “We are committed to extending the Virgin Entertainment brand by looking at new ways of developing and implementing it.”

The overseas plans emerge shortly after revelations that UK Virgin Entertainment Centres plans to broaden its standalone licensed cafés concept by incorporating computer games. The first venue will open in Manchester in 2000 aimed at an adult audience.

The plans coincide with the appointment of Mike Thompson, former regional manager of Virgin Cinemas for North of England, Scotland and Ireland, to the new position of Virgin Cinemas commercial director.

Thompson replaces former marketing director David Alder on May 1. He will be responsible for product and booking, as well as marketing. Alder has moved to sister company Virgin Megastore.

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