Cinema operator Cine-UK plans to build 15 more multiplexes by the end of next year. Contractors may be able to win a starring role, although consultants will be lucky to land bit parts.
What is Cine-UK?

A London-based multiplex cinema operator.

Who is the key decision-maker?

Chief executive officer Stephen Wiener is responsible for negotiating exclusive cinema operating contracts with developers.

Who are the key personnel?

Paul Stefka is vice-president in charge of design and construction, Al Alvarez is vice- president of operations, and Richard Jones is vice-president of finance.

What are the firm’s investment plans?

Cine-UK plans to increase its nationwide portfolio of multiplex cinemas from the 10 it now operates to 25 by the end of 2000, with an initial investment of about £40m. The company’s strategy is to dominate catchment areas with small populations that most other operators do not consider.

It is also identifying sites in major markets that do not have a multiplex. All sites are established in retail or leisure complexes. This year, the company will open another three cinemas in Runcorn, Cheshire; Ashford, Kent, and Weymouth, Dorset. The chain will move into Europe once it has more sites in operation in the UK.

What types of project does Cine-UK tackle?

Cine-UK buys into developer shells and lets fit-out contracts for the interiors. Design and costing for these contracts is done in-house.

How do you ensure the developer builds a suitable shell?

A shell specification is given to the developer to allow it to assess its development costs and Cine-UK’s rent levels. To ensure the cinema is appropriate for the location, the company’s architect works with the developers to arrive at the shell design – the number of screens depends on the size of the catchment. The shell is usually built under design-and-build contracts. Sometimes the shell contract will include dry-lining, which Cine-UK prefers, but, on tight build programmes, the company will often use its own subcontractor.

What is the company’s preferred procurement route?

Stefka says the most economical fit-out method is for the main contractor to carry out the work because it is already on site and fully aware of the programme. If this is the case, he applies “Stefka’s Rule” of dropping very heavy hints about which contractor he would prefer, without actually nominating one. Stefka claims to have developed good relationships with various fit-out contractors.

How easy is it to get work with Cine-UK?

Architects and QSs need not apply – the company has an architect seconded to its office, and the firm has its own surveyors and project managers. Services designers are used only on complicated projects. However, fit-out contractors, drylining companies and services contractors with cinema experience may be considered.

How are contractors chosen?

All fit-out appointments go through Stefka. Contractors are selected on his experience of them, and by word of mouth from others in the industry.

How long do contracts generally last and what type are used?

It depends on the size of the cinema, but most fit-outs take between 18 and 24 weeks and are usually carried out under a JCT80 form of contract, with the contractor’s design and Cine-UK’s amendments.

How much is spent on fit-out?

“We do it very cheaply,” says Stefka. The costs of fit-out are usually divided equally between services and the furnishing, fittings and equipment. Costs depend on the size and location of the cinema, but are in the region of £40-45/ft2 for fit-out, and £115 000-125 000 per auditorium for furniture, fittings and equipment, depending on the type of chair that is used.

Is the firm involved in partnering?

“Partnering is fantastic – it’s based on trust,” says Stefka. “I never partner officially, but I’ve been developing partnerships all my life. I don’t need a legal document. Of course, we argue over the final account. It’s the contractor’s job – and mine too!”

How does Cine-UK find sites?

“We have a spotter to find potential new locations,” says Stefka.

Does it develop on greenfield sites?

Yes, but it is becoming increasingly difficult with restrictions on out-of-town planning.

How can you break the ice with Stefka?

You could try talking skiing or tennis, but Stefka’s knees are not what they used to be, so it is probably better to stick to cinemas.