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Fitch to design Virgin's cinema chain

Richard Branson's favourite designer, Rodney Fitch, has been asked to work up a master design for the entrepreneur's MGM cinema chain, bought last month from Credit Lyonnais for pounds 190m.

The new-look Virgin cinemas will be unveiled in Dublin in late September, at the site of a new MGM multiplex now under construction. The company is keen to establish the "tone" as early as possible, and is taking advantage of the fact that the Dublin site is already largely built but not yet furnished.

While the company refuses to comment at this stage, it is believed the Virgin cinemas will feature a new logo and an innovative lobby with shops selling Virgin products such as CDs and interactive games. It is assumed that Mr Fitch's design for Dublin will serve as the prototype for other MGM cinemas earmarked for "Virginisation" in coming months. Virgin owns 50 per cent of Fitch & Co.

Design experts contacted yesterday suggested the design for Virgin cinemas might resemble the approach used at Virgin Atlantic's plush Club Class lounge at Heathrow, also designed by Mr Fitch. There, what one expert called the "deep rich colours, the Victorian furiniture and the high-quality features" help set the Virgin lounge apart from those of competitors.

The Virgin cinema chain is set to grow through the development of new multiplex sites and the redevelopment of existing single-screen venues. Once the "look" has been agreed, the company is expected to move quickly to brand all the cinemas in the MGM chain.

Mr Fitch did not return phone calls yesterday. He is believed to have had initial discussions with Virgin executives about the specifications for the new-look cinema chain over the past week.