THE founder of cinema chain Cineworld is to step down as chief executive next year after an industry career spanning 44 years.
Steve Wiener, who had been managing director of Warner Bros Europe before starting his own business in 1995, has built Cineworld into today’s 100-strong estate of mainly multiplex cinemas.
The American’s career in the industry began with a student job as an usher before he rose through various roles to become vice president for Cineplex Odeon in New York City.
He became managing director of Warner Bros in Europe in 1991 but four yeas later founded Cine-UK, which he developed into a chain of 34 cinemas before it was acquired by Blackstone in October 2004.
Cineworld, which floated on the stock exchange in 2007, owns four out of the 10 highest grossing cinemas in the UK and Ireland. Mr Wiener, who is 61, 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 to 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. I am sure with them on board Cineworld will continue to go from strength to strength.”
In December 2012, the group acquired the Picturehouse chain of cinemas consisting of 21 cinemas each with five or fewer screens.
Mr Wiener will leave the business at the end of March, with a replacement chief executive to be named in due course.
Anthony Bloom, chairman of Cineworld, said: “I speak on behalf of the board and everyone in the business when I thank Steve for having the vision to create Cineworld and subsequently building it into the UK’s most popular cinema business.
“He has led the company with great distinction from the first day of its founding and has mentored and developed an outstanding management team.
“He will leave the business in fine shape and with significant management depth when he moves on to new challenges at the end of March.
“This is an exciting time for Cineworld as it continues with ambitious UK expansion plans.
“We have just opened our newest cinema in Wembley and are making steady progress on the well-developed programme Steve has put in place over the past several years.
“We look forward to the next chapter of our growth and express our deep appreciation to Steve.”
Shares in the firm, which have risen by half on a year ago, were flat in early trading at 372p.
Cineworld has sites in Bradford, Castleford, Hull, Sheffield and Wakefield.
The group announced plans last month to open up to 25 new theatres over the next four years in a bid to gain the upper hand over rivals.