By Watchiranont Thongtep
"Laos is a growing area for the movie business with its young population. The country is [also] attracting foreign investors, particularly from China, to erect a number of new projects including shopping malls, hotels and business centres," Vicha Poolvaraluck, chairman of Major Cineplex Group, said yesterday.
Entering the country of 7 million people through its partner Platinum Cineplex, Thailand’s largest movie-theatre operator formed a 60:40 joint venture to open its first five movie screens in Vientiane, for a total investment of about Bt75 million.
Located in the newly opened upscale shopping mall Vientiane Center, Major Platinum Cineplex by Huawei features four two-dimensional screens and one 3D screen equipped with cutting-edge technology, and has a total of 1,148 seats.
"We expect at least 500,000 movie tickets will be sold in the first operational year of this theatre, driven by the consumption power of young moviegoers. Forty per cent of Vientiane’s 700,000 residents are aged between 10 to 35 years," Vicha said.
To attract moviegoers in Laos’ capital city, Major has set its ticket prices at US$5-$5.50 (Bt180-Bt195) per seat), the same as in its Udon Thani branches.
By 2018, the company aims to have more two locations in Vientiane. The first will be in a shopping complex operated by a top Thai retailer and the other in the World Trade Centre (WTC). Vicha declined to disclose the name of the Thai investor.
For the WTC project, Major signed a cooperation agreement to open a new cinema complex with eight screens on July 24. The investment will be around Bt15 million per screen.
Apart from Major’s cinemas, the WTC will include an international shopping mall, a boutique shopping street, a five-star hotel, a 5A-class office building, a high-end business hotel and apartments.
The expansion into Laos is part of Major’s business strategy to create a strong presence in the CLMV countries, which also include Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam. Last year it opened its first cinema outside Thailand at Aeon Mall in Phnom Penh through its partnership with Platinum Cineplex.
"We have had very successful results from the Phnom Penh branch, with total annual sales of 800,000 tickets," Vicha said, and adding that the next location in Cambodia would also be with Aeon Malls and was expected to open next year.
Major is also in talks with local partners in Myanmar and Vietnam on offering entertainment facilities to the residents of those neighbouring countries.
By 2020, the company aims to see 10 per cent of its revenue coming from 100 screens outside Thailand.