City-centre cinemas to close

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The Independent Online
The growth of out-of-town multiplexes is largely to blame for the planned closure of 20 city-centre cinema sites, the ABC cinema chain said last night. The move left 200 jobs hanging in the balance after a 16-month review by a new management team at the company.

Barry Jenkins, the company's chief executive, yesterday criticised planners. "I believe that it is important for local planning authorities to adhere to the Government's guidelines in restricting out-of-town developments, so that the vitality of town centres is preserved," he said.

ABC, which said it would retain its position as the second-largest British- owned cinema company even after the sell-off, is a multiplex operator itself. It will reinvest the proceeds of the sale in multiplex developments mainly in town centres.

John Wilkinson, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors' Association, said: "There is pressure on every cinema site, whether it is new or old, to attract an audience. Some sites find it more difficult than others. But there are more screens opening than closing." An estimated pounds 1.5bn has been invested in cinema since 1984.

- Louise Jury