Summer blockbusters such as the Transformers sequel have helped buoy the Irish cinema market, a trend the Showtime group is planning to cash in on

New cinema group Showtime, which opened its first cinema at Ashbourne, Co Meath on Friday, is planning to invest €20m in opening five new cinemas in the coming years, employing up to 150 staff.

The group, backed by former Storm Cinema chief executive James Towler and businessman Jimmy Flynn, has invested €3m in the six-screen cinema at Ashbourne retail park which can hold up to 1,000 patrons and has wall-to-wall screens, rocker seats, full digital projection and 3D capability.

"Because of the state-of-the-art equipment incorporated we also expect customers to travel from outside the immediate catchment, particularly as we are only 12 minutes from the M50," Towler said. "No business is recession-proof but cinemas are doing very well this year. The last time there were numbers like this was during the Great Depression."

Towler said the group had already identified four locations for cinemas and that they would be a mixture of new builds and existing premises.

Meanwhile UCI cinemas, owned by Colum and Ciaran Butler, lost €205,000 for the year ended 31 July 2007, according to the latest accounts. United Cinemas International (Ireland) had shareholders' funds of just under €2.2m, the accounts stated.