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Current as of 01/10/14 07:40PM NZST

Hoyts thinks big in battle to attract moviegoers

By John Drinnan

Cinema chain Hoyts is challenging Sky City's dominance of the Auckland cinema market and spending $30 million on a new 10-screen multiplex at Sylvia Park.

The expansion to the south side of the Auckland Harbour Bridge is part of growth strategy for Hoyts, coinciding with a shift to multiplexes based at shopping malls.

The new Hoyts multiplex will be a centrepiece for Stage Three of the Sylvia Park shopping centre near Mt Wellington, which is expected to realign shopping patterns for central, south and east Auckland. Stage 3 is set to open on March 29.

The chief executive of Hoyts New Zealand, Stuart McInnes, said the multiplex with more space between seats was a big investment in a key area where it had been under-represented in the past.

Hoyts owns 48 screens in New Zealand with only eight of those in Auckland - at Wairau Park on the North Shore.

The Sylvia Park complex will increase its screens to 58 with 18 in Auckland. It also operates out of Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Sky City Cinemas is centred on Auckland, where it has 61 screens, while privately owned Reading Cinemas and Berkeley Cinemas are also active in the market.

The seven-screen Rialto multiplex in Newmarket is a joint venture between Sky City and Reading.

McInnes said Sylvia Park Stage 3 would incorporate around 50 stores including a new outlet for global bookstore chain Borders.

He said the multiplex and adjacent areas would include large areas of space for people to congregate.

As well as marking a push where Hoyts has been under-represented in the past, the development will incorporate a new seating layout with extravagant use of space.

McInnes said under the new development an auditorium that would normally house 1100 seats would be fitted with 500 for more comfort and enjoyment.

Other auditoriums would have a similar improvement to room.

He said the approach was unique to New Zealand and the Sylvia Park complex would be breaking new ground.

Countering a trend towards smaller auditoriums and screens for niche audiences, the complex will incorporate big auditoriums and the three largest screens in New Zealand.

One will be a 30.7m wide and 13m high screen that Hoyts has sought to register as the world's largest.

McInnes said the company had been planning to move south of the Harbour Bridge but had waited for the development of the greenfields site in Sylvia Park.

Hoyts is jointly owned by James Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Limited and West Australian Newspapers.

Sky City Cinemas is owned by publicly listed Sky City.

Sky City Cinemas general manager Matthew Liebman said the Hoyts move would increase competition.

Asked if the new seating configuration would have an impact on ticket sales, he said Sky City was examining its own new seating configurations.

Liebman said the company had been largely focused on the Auckland market but was unrepresented in the North Shore.

Sky City was opening its own new 10-cinema complex at the new Westfield mall in Albany and planned to incorporate the current stand-alone complex into a Westfield mall site in Manukau.

The company was also developing a six-screen complex in Chartwell, Hamilton, with five screens planned for New Plymouth and and five for Whangarei.


Hoyts

* Now owns 48 screens in New Zealand, eight in Auckland.

* The Sylvia Park complex will increase its screens to 58, with 18 in Auckland.

* Also operates out of Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Sky City Cinemas

* Centres on Auckland, where it has 61 screens.

* The seven-screen Rialto multiplex in Newmarket is a joint venture between Sky City and Reading.

* Is opening its own new 10-cinema complex at the new Westfield mall in Albany.

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