'Casablanca' comes to life

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MARIANNE MACDONALD

Media Correspondent

A small British company has clinched the rights to the all-time cinema classics Gone with the Wind, Doctor Zhivago, and Casablanca, to exploit them in a tourist attraction to rival the Planet Hollywood restaurant.

Greenhills, a year-old leisure company, bought the merchandising rights of the films from Turner Broadcasting, the American media conglomerate, for almost pounds 1m. The company has also bought a 25-year lease to an untouched art deco cinema in Regent Street, central London, where it plans to open a vast themed restaurant and bar in December.

The Dream Factory, as it will be called, unused since the Second World War except by Seventh Day Adventists on Sundays, will feature eight "sets" based on films which will include The Wizard of Oz, Mutiny on the Bounty, and Jailhouse Rock.

In the untouched glories of what was the New Gallery cinema opposite Garrard, the Crown jeweller, the series of bars and restaurants will feature drinks and menus appropriate to each film. Doctor Zhivago will offer vodka, Mutiny on the Bounty will feature actors fighting on rigging hung from the balcony, and Elvis Presley lookalikes will serve drinks to Jailhouse Rock.

The Dream Factory, to be operated by Madame Tussaud's, is expected to attract 5,000 tourists a day, and, in addition to food and drink, will offer interactive games, re-runs of the classic films and virtual reality.

Gary Caesar, a director of Greenhills, described the discovery of the cinema in the Crown Estates portfolio as "a gift from the Gods". The original velvet seats, Wurlitzer organ, panelled walls anddomed ceiling remain eerily untouched, although the Adventists did install a font which will be used as part of a film set.

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