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UltraStar Cinemas forms joint venture to build theaters in China

August 15, 2013|By Richard Verrier

UltraStar Cinemas of San Diego County has formed a joint venture to build more than 40 theaters in China, capitalizing on that country's growing appetite for movies.

UltraStar said in a statement Thursday it had formed a joint venture with Letian Entertainment, a subsidiary of China’s second-largest broadcast network, to develop and operate theaters throughout China, which is in the midst of a multiplex-building boom.

The companies are expected to complete construction of three theaters by the end of 2013, with plans to build an additional 40 cinemas by the end of 2016.


The venture marks the latest deal-making between exhibition companies in North America and China. Last month, big screen operator Imax announced a deal with Wanda Cinema Line Corp. to open up 120 additional Imax theaters in China. In 2012 Wanda's parent company acquired AMC Theatres, the second-largest theater circuit in the U.S. And Beverly Hills-based RealD also has partnered with Beijing SAGA Luxury Cinema Management Co. to equip the Chinese theater chain with 3-D technology.

Thursday's agreement represents a big leap forward for UltraStar, a small circuit with just seven theaters in Southern California and Arizona. The company cited growth prospects in China, the world's second-largest film market.

“With the growing urbanization trend, the Chinese population continues to move from rural areas to densely populated cities,” John Ellison, president of UltraStar Cinemas, said in a statement. “This presents a long-term opportunity to grow the movie industry in China as a whole and implement cinema technologies and concepts that have been successful here in the United States. We are thrilled to be working with Letian Entertainment, long recognized as one of China’s entertainment industry leaders, as their U.S. partner in this groundbreaking initiative.”

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The theaters will be located in the Changsha area of the Hunan province and comprise approximately 10 screens each with all-digital projection, 3-D capabilities and concessions.

In addition to traditional movie fare, the theaters will offer alternative entertainment, such as concerts, sporting events, musicals, operas and other cultural events on the big screen utilizing digital cinema capabilities.

“UltraStar Cinemas is a well-established American theater group with over 50 years of history, a wealth of industry resources, and global leadership in digital cinema technology,” said Huidong Liu, Chairman of Letian Entertainment in the statement. "The Chinese film market is growing rapidly as an industry, enabling UltraStar to bring capital, technology, and branding from a highly saturated market to a high-growth market."

UltraStar, which is based in Vista, San Diego County, is recognized as an early adopter of digital cinema  and for offering luxury theater concepts such as in-seat dining, alcohol service and D-Box motion seats.


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