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Act Iii Planning Major Expansion Portland Company To Build 12 Theaters In Five States

Act III Theatres, which in 10 years has grown from a small string of movie houses into the largest theater chain in the Northwest, plans a major expansion in five states.

The Portland-based cinema chain plans to build 12 theaters in five states over the next 1-1/2 years, bringing its movie house total to 135.

The company will have 798 movie screens, up from its 1995 total of 648.

Act III also said it would follow up this expansion by building an additional eight to 10 theaters, adding about 150 screens, at locations yet to be named.

“The new theaters amount to a 23 percent increase in the number of screens at a cost of tens of millions of dollars,” said Randall Blaum, a spokesman for the company. “But the demand is there. Virtually all the screens sold out for ‘Mission Impossible’ this weekend. Even the massive Eastgate Theater, with one 1,200-seat theater and one with 500 seats, came close to selling out.”

Act III owns most of the movie houses in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Their expansion announcement comes as three developers are planning new multiplex cinemas. Act III is among the companies being recruited by Spokane developers.

The privately held company, with TV producer Norman Lear as majority owner, began in 1986 by acquiring an 11-theater chain in San Antonio, Texas. It has become the ninth-largest film exhibitor in the country.

Since 1990, the number of theaters nationwide has increased by about 13 percent, from 23,814 to nearly 27,000.

“It’s a been a great three or four years for theater owners,” said Mary Ann Grasso, director of the National Association of Theater Owners in Los Angeles.

“There’s been great growth in attendance and ticket sales this year, spurred on by the release of some great pictures. Our business is cyclical, and we’re in the midst of a great cycle now.”

Act III will build four of the 12 new theaters in western Oregon near its headquarters.

“We look at demographics and the needs of an individual community,” Blaum said.

The remaining eight theaters will be built in Washington, Texas, Alaska and Missouri.

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