Cineworld has 81 cinemas, 79 of which are located in the UK (Cineworld)

Cineworld founder and chief executive officer Steve Wiener has said he is to leave the company next year.

Wiener has spent 44 years in the cinema industry, starting in the US as an usher whilst a full time student, and rising through various roles culminating in vice president for Cineplex Odeon in New York City.

He has led Cineworld for 18 years after founding the company, but has decided to leave the business in March, 2014.

"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," said Anthony Bloom, chairman of Cineworld.

He added: "Wiener 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."

Wiener came up with a plan to create Cineworld with his wife in 1995.

He said he expected to open up to seven multiplex cinemas over a five year period and sell the business onto a big operator.

But now the business has 81 cinemas, 79 of which are located in the UK - culminating in more than 800 screens.

The first Cineworld opened in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in July 1996.

Cineworld Group shares dropped by 0.67% (12:30pm) on the day to 368.5p following the news.

The company said an announcement regarding a new CEO will be made in due course.