Cineworld founder decides to walk away after 44 years in film industry to ‘enjoy the fruits of success’


Steve Wiener, the chief executive of Cineworld, has finally decided that the closing credits should roll on his career at the chain he created 18 years ago, so he can enjoy the “fruits of his success”.

cineworldThe American, who moved to the UK in 1991 with Warner Bros before setting up his own business, said he would step down from Cineworld in March.

His departure will bring to an end a 44-year career in the cinema industry that is worthy of its own feature film.

The son of a New York trucker, Wiener used to sneak into his local cinema as a child to watch films for free. His first professional brush with the industry was testing rocking chairs for the first screen in the world to use them.

When in 1991 he was told by Warner Bros he was being dispatched to England, Wiener didn’t even own a passport and had never travelled outside of the US.

But after getting to used to life across the Atlantic, Wiener spotted a gap in the UK market and decided to set up his own cinema chain, opening his first screen on an out-of-town leisure park in Stevenage.

Originally, Wiener and his wife had only modest plans for the business, which they almost called Planet Movies, but the group had expanded to more than 30 sites when in 2004 private equity giant Blackstone came calling and bought the group for £120m.SteveWiener

That same year, Cineworld acquired UGC’s UK cinemas and the combined business was floated on the London stock exchange in 2007.

Cineworld has since expanded to 81 sites and is the UK’s biggest chain by market share. Including the Picturehouse chain, Cineworld controls 102 cinemas in total, and plans are afoot to open a further 25 cinemas between now and 2017.

Cineworld said Wiener’s successor would be announced “in due course”.

Wiener said: “In 1995 my wife Jenny and I wrote a business plan to start a cinema company. We expected over a five year period to open five-seven multiplex cinemas and sell it on to one of the big operators.

“Today, in 2013, Cineworld is the number one cinema chain in the UK and has been for more than three years. This was achieved by a lot of hard work by an executive team that is the best I have ever worked with in my 44 years in the industry”.

By Denise Roland and Nathalie Thomas
©  Daily Telegraph 20 Nov 2013


Cineworld and its founder: nine things you did not know!

The tallest cinema on earth is a Cineworld
Cineworld’s 18-screen Glasgow Renfrew Street branch stands at 203 feet (62m) high, making it the tallest cinema in the world. It was built in 2001 for France’s UGC cinema chain, whose UK and Ireland branches were taken over by Cineworld in 2005, and was ferociously unpopular when it first appeared – being voted Scotland’s ugliest building for being “too big to fit comfortably within the city.”

Wiener has spent 44 years in the cinema industy
His first job was testing rocking chairs in the first screen in the world to install them.

A video about England helped Wiener decide to emigrate
American Wiener had never left the US until moving to England to work for Warner Brothers in 1991. He says he did not have a passport and even researched English life by watching a video on the subject before deciding whether to make the move.

Cineworld got its name from a game of wastepaper basketball
The Cineworld name is the one that emerged victorious after Wiener and his wife wrote down all the names they could think of on bits of paper, screwed them up, and aimed them at a bin. The ones that made the target were taken out and thrown again, until only two were left. These two were Cineworld and Planet Movies.

…and the idea for the chain came from a government report
Two findings from a government-commissioned report into the cinema industry inspired Wiener to start Cineworld. One was that the average person would not travel more than 20 minutes for entertainment. The second was that 60pc of the UK lived more than 20 minutes from a modern multiplex cinema.

Cineworld got off to an inauspicious start
The first Cineworld was opened in Stevenage on an out-of-town leisure park that was still under construction. Wiener says Cineworld was the only company to move in before the site was completed, apart from a McDonalds, as early investors were eager to start seeing returns. But the move created all manner of problems for the new chain. Customers complained that loose nails had burst their car tyres and demanded cleaning bills be paid to remove the dust from the surrounding construction work from their vehicles.

…but it is now the UK’s biggest cinema chain by market share
Indeed the chain, which has grown to 81 sites, 102 including the Picturehouse group. It has become so big it has been ordered to sell off three of its Picturehouse cinemas after the Competition Commission ruled that the chain’s dominance in three towns – Cambridge, Aberdeen and Bury St Edmunds – could lead to higher prices for customers. In the year ending March 2012 it made £252.6m in ticket sales.

…and still growing
Plans are afoot to open a further 25 sites between 2013 and 2017

Cineworld’s Feltham and Ilford branches are the highest grossing Bollywood cinemas in Europe
Cineworld coFilm - DEVDASntrols around 60pc of the UK Bollywood market. Wiener says that its Feltham branch, in south-west London, was the only multiplex in Britain whose top grossing film of 1997 was not Titanic. Instead, it was Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which sustained a six-month run in Feltham Cineworld.


By Denise Roland
©  Daily Telegraph 20 Nov 2013