Wishing Our Readers a Happy Easter

Celluloid Junkie will be back next week with something MAJOR.

Ritzy staff strike for a Living Wage over Easter

Ritzy staff strike for a Living Wage over Easter

 

Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 17 April 2014


Regal Summer Movie Express

USA (TN): Discount tickets was a hot topic at CinemaCon. No update on that, but Regal will be showing older films for just USD $1 this summer, as it has for the past 22 years. Parent rejoice.

Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC), a leading motion picture exhibitor owning and operating the largest theatre circuit in the United States, today announces that the Summer Movie Express is back for its 23rd year. The launch of this summer’s program brings family movies for only a dollar to more than 350 Regal Entertainment Group theatres across the country.

“Many families make this a summer tradition and look forward to our announcement of the long list of fun movies coming their way. And for Regal, this helps us instill that love of moviegoing in another generation,” said Ken Thewes, chief marketing officer at Regal Entertainment Group. “The titles this year appeal to a diverse group of tastes, and we know there is a little bit of something for everyone.”  LINK

 

Cineworld Witney

UK: Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Cineworld, is what this upset letter writer from Witney seems to be saying.

Well, before the cinema opened, a spokesman for the company announced that as well as the usual 3-D screens which come with Cineworld, there was going to be a screen for arthouse/world cinema. But this has not happened.

No disrespect to people who enjoy Hollywood blockbusters, but not everyone likes those types of films, and when I used to go to the Corn Exchange for films which were not Hollywood blockbusters, there was always a good crowd there.

So what has happened?

I’ve tried getting answers from Cineworld themselves but they have never responded to my inquiries.  LINK

(Checking Cineworld Witney’s listings confirms that the most ‘art-house’ film showing is Oscar-winner 12 Years a Slave. Not even The Grand Budapest Hotel is showing. He might have a point.)

Event Cinema

Driving Miss Daisy

UK: Driving Miss Daisy will be showing in cinemas, the play that is, not the surprise Best Film-Oscar winner.

Event screening for stage adaptation to screen at over 300 screens across the UK, followed by live Q&A with star Angela Lansbury.

As a result of strong demand for tickets at the BFI Southbank, Omniverse Vision has announced a special one-off screening of Driving Miss Daisy: The Play.

Starring Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones, the stage adaptation will be broadcast via satellite to over 300 cinemas across the UK on May 25 and followed by a live Q&A with Lansbury, hosted at the BFI Southbank.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 16 April 2014

Phil Knatchbull Curzon

London’s Evening standard does an in-depth piece on British art-house major Curzon Cinema and its visionary CEO Phil Knatchbull.

The Curzon Victoria is part of a £6 million London expansion by the company behind the boutique Curzon cinema chain as it almost doubles the number of screens in the capital from 12 to 20. Curzon World is using other designers to rejuvenate the Curzon Soho and the Renoir in Bloomsbury, and is expanding beyond the M25 into Canterbury. The long-term plan is to have 50 screens at 25 sites.

Chief executive Philip Knatchbull explains he wants the cinemas to grow in importance as a showcase for the upmarket Curzon brand, even as the company diversifies by generating more income from other sources. Film production, cinema distribution and the online streaming of films, with its own Curzon Home Cinema on-demand service, are other parts of Knatchbull’s multi-pronged growth strategy.  LINK

I can attest that Curzon is not just the leading art-house cinema chain in the UK but perhaps one of the top in the whole world. They don’t just kit out their cinemas with the precision of Apple Stores (but less minimalist), but also operate their own day-and-date VOD service, have distributed more Cannes Palm d’Or winning films than any other UK distributor (they say) and even produce their own films. Much like every UK town would like a Waitrose supermarket, so to most high streets there would welcome a Curzon cinema with open arms.

Licensing

Penthouse Cinema Brooklyn Wellington

New Zealand: An art-house cinema in Sir Peter Jackson’s hometown Wellington won’t be able to serve alcohol over the busy Easter period due to planning restrictions.

The boutique Brooklyn venue applied for the licence to serve alcohol on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, after discovering it was no longer exempt as an entertainment venue since the introduction of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act in December.

Operations manager Kate Larkindale said she was stunned when a letter from the district licensing authority arrived on March 19, telling her she would have to apply for a special licence.

Under the new law, alcohol can be served on “sacrosanct days” – Anzac Day morning, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day – only with a meal, unless an exemption is granted for an “event”.  LINK

(Would it be churlish to point out that Jesus had to make do with drinking vinegar from a sponge up on the cross over Easter?)

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China Embraces Event Cinema With ‘Turandot’ and 3D ‘Farewell My Concubine’ (CJ EXCLUSIVE)

NCPA Turandot

China’s two major opera houses are joining the ranks of distinguished institutions like the Met Opera and the Royal Opera House with the first recordings and screenings of their operas.

Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) recording of Puccini’s Turandot opened this month’s Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF), while the Shanghai Jingju Company will screen the 3D opera adaptation of Farewell My Concubine at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles later this year.

The decisive push shows that China is as ambitious in the field of event cinema as it is in conventional films for cinema, despite the lack of tradition of screening ‘alternative content’ in cinemas.

Yesterday the BJIFF hosts the screening of NCPA Opera House’s Turandot, which has been localised and given a Beijing-setting but sung in Italian. The event was captured in high definition in partnership with  Huaxia Film Distribution Co. and will also be shown at the upcoming 17th Shanghai Film Festival, which will have a special focus on opera movie screening.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the first screening of the event took place at the NCPA itself on Sunday 16 March, as part of the 2014 Opera Festival, where a special 6-meter-high and 16-meter-wide screen was erected on the stage for the HD projection, with the production crew, NCPA orchestra and choir members all present to see their work on the big screen.

Turandot cinema show

The BJIFF screening took place at the Xidan Joy City Capital cinema, which has 290 seats and recorded an attendance well over 70%. Much like western operas shown in cinemas, the audiences clapped and cheered ‘Bravo!’, despite the opera not even being shown live.

Interviewed afterwards by Xinhua news, the audience members were overwhelmingly positive to the new experience.

“The film version of the stage version of the opera and there are still differences.” Audience Li Wei said, “the stage version of the opera actor observed facial expressions, and the movie screen actor expression, subtle emotional changes have been enlarged, more have impact.” In his view, the film more fully meet the opera opera lovers’ visual enjoyment. When Princess Turandot tears appear on the screen, kneeling in prayer picture viewer Hu Fang Yankuangshirun. “I’ve seen the opera before,” Turandot “, but there is no sound in the cinema today feeling good, feeling listening to music today play exceptionally moving,” she said.

As in US and UK, the price is a major factor for the popularity, with tickets for regular screenings in cinemas across China starting from today, costing just 30-50 yuan (USD $4.80-8.00).

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Fathom Events New CEO John Rubey Provides Both Experience and Leadership

John Rubey

John Rubey, CEO of Fathom Events

When National CineMedia (NCM) spun off its alternative content division, NCM Fathom Events, into a completely separate business entity at the end of 2013, it did not identify a chief executive officer for the newly formed company. Kurt Hall, the chairman and CEO of NCM, stayed with the cinema advertising network, and Fathom went off to find a suitable senior executive to fill its open leadership position. Their search came to an end earlier this month when it was announced John Rubey would become the stand-alone Fathom Events first CEO.

If Rubey’s name sounds vaguely familiar there’s a good reason why. Rubey comes to Fathom after spending the last 14 years as the President of AEG Network Live, the concert promoter’s in-house multimedia production company. While with AEG he helped produce some of the earliest noteworthy events in the nascent alternative content industry by beaming concerts into cinemas from the likes of Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Garth Brooks and Phish.

This is a great hire for Fathom as Rubey brings a lot to the table. He’s got more than two decades of experience working in one form or another on content and marketing for big-ticket entertainment events. Before signing on with AEG, Rubey founded and owned Spring Communications which specialized in pay-per-view events. He has a working knowledge and practical experience in multiple forms of media production, entertainment marketing, alternative content and working with exhibitors. His relationships and ties to key players in the concert and entertainment industries run deep.

The whole purpose of AEG Networks Live is to “eventize” a concert, a tour, an arena or sports, generating marketing opportunities and actual revenue. These goals are identical or complimentary to most alternative content releases. To help him achieve these objectives during his tenure at AEG, Rubey worked with content aggregators and distributors such as Hulu, MySpace, Vevo and YouTube. Thus, he’s no stranger to digital content distribution and its many intricacies.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 15 April 2014

Berwick cinema

The Wall Street Journal examines the plight of small-town single-screen cinemas that are unable to make the costly transition to digital in the article ‘Is Film the End of the Road for Small Cinemas?‘. It highlights one particular cinema near Scranton, Pennsylvania, facing imminent death-by-digital.

Hollywood’s major studios are in the final days of distributing movies on film reels and moving to digital distribution sent via hard drives or satellite, a method that is cheaper for studios but requires significant investment by theaters in new equipment. The conversion means theaters like Mrs. DiAugustine-Bower’s Berwick Theater could fade out for good.

The theater, about 50 miles southwest of Scranton, has raised only $6,000 so far, a difficult amount to earn by selling baked goods and old movie posters in an economically depressed town.

“I got a backlash from patrons when I mentioned raising ticket prices” to $5 from $4, said Mrs. DiAugustine-Bower.

But help has come for some from an unexpected quarter: Indian digital cinema integrator Scrabble.

About 87% of the 5,762 theaters in the U.S. are now digital, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners. The remaining 13% is mostly made up of one-screen independents, in rural communities with no multiplexes for miles.

More than half of the approximately 600 drive-in theater screens in the country have converted so far, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association.

Scrabble Ventures LLC has begun leasing digital projectors to small theaters that can’t afford a lump-sum payment. Chief Executive Ranjit Thakur said the company has converted 370 theaters so far with more than 400 scheduled over the next three months.

Kickstarter, the Colorado State program, Kiwanis International club, state department funding and local donations are ways that some of that other cinemas have managed to raise funds.

Business

LAemmle Santa monica 4

USA (CA): As we highlighted in our item on ArcLight coming to Santa Monica, existing cinemas there will have to shrink to compete.  Hence Laemmle’s 4 screen will ‘expand and contract’.

The Second Street cinema currently has four screens and about 1,100 seats but a proposed makeover would add two screens and drop the seat total to below 500, said Laemmle CEO Greg Laemmle.

The largest theater would hold about 150, which is about the capacity of the current smallest theater. Two mezzanine-level theaters would seat about 35, Laemmle said.

“The row spacing is better and we believe the sight lines will also be better,” Laemmle said. “The added screens provide flexibility to show more movies for longer.”  LINK

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America’s Greatest Cinema Export to China Is Under Threat (Not Movies, Popcorn)

Chinese and american cinema audiences

Could Chinese authorities be about restrict imports of the quintessential multiplex staple imported from the United States?

No, we are not talking about movies or Hollywood; the greatest American export success to Chinese cinemas does not come from California but from the fields in Nebraska.

Different Attitudes – Changing Habits

Nothing illustrates the difference between Chinese and American cinema goers more than the respective attitudes to 3D and popcorn. While American audiences are increasingly turning their back on 3D, their appetite for concessions appears undiminished, to the point of circuits like Marcus and Laemmle installing larger seats to accommodate the expanding backsides.

Meanwhile, the challenge for Chinese cinemas is how to get people to consume more concessions to match their seemingly insatiable appetite for 3D films and thus increase average revenue per cinema visit. But a change is already underway.

The importance of popcorn to the growing Chinese cinema sector was highlighted by the recent revelation by Dalian Wanda Group that nationwide popcorn sales for its Chinese cinemas totaled 390 million yuan (USD $62.8 million) last year.  This amounted to 72% of total concession sales and 9.5% of its total earnings of 4.1 billion yuan. (By way of comparison Wanda’s American chain AMC earned USD $1,847 million from ticket sales and USD $787 million from food and beverage in 2013, with concessions thus representing over 28% of total revenue.)

The push to pop in China is understandable because the ingredients for a bucket of popcorn cost just 3 yuan (US$0.48) while selling for 20 to 30 yuan (USD $3.22-$4.83). Huang Qunfei, general manager of the Chinese exhibitor Beijing New Film Association,  was quoted by Xinhua as saying, ”It is very common to have an 80-percent profit margin in selling popcorn due to its low costs. Although tickets sales make up the largest share of revenues, popcorn and snacks can sometimes contribute more to profits.”

Sales of popcorn accounted for as much as 20% of the total revenue of Chinese cinemas turnover in 2013. Wanda is the largest but not the only circuit benefitting from growing popcorn demand. Quoted in the Want China Times:

An executive at the Beijing UME Cineplex stated that popcorn and beverages were usually the only derivatives sold at domestic cinemas and that the complex’s popcorn sales accounted for 10% of its total revenue of at least 30 million yuan (US$4.8 million) last year.

However, the issue of concessions is complicated by the increasing tendency by Chinese cinemas to bundle cinema tickets, popcorn and sodas as one combo.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 14 April 2014

4D_4DX_rumble_seat

The Wrap takes a look at the growth of ’4D’ offered by the likes of D-Box, CJ 4DPlex and MediaMation and whether there is a business case for it. Not if it shakes the popcorn out of the tub, it seems.

Indeed, some theater owners have experimented with the technology, only to decide that it is best served up in small doses. Rolando Rodriguez, president and CEO of Marcus Theaters, installed 30 motion seats in one of his fifty theaters. While the seats are popular features when paired with big-budget blockbusters, he has decided not to invest in the technology. The $8 surcharge the 4D seats carry limits their appeal, he said.

“We’re investing in other amenities that play better with our customers,” Rodriguez said. “We’re pleased with the performance, but from our perspective, investing in things like large screen theaters and in-theater dining is more important.”

But other exhibitors and manufacturers counter that this is more than just a novelty act.

“We’re finding that people turn into aficionados,” Michel Paquette, vice-president of marketing of the 4D manufacturer D-Box Technologies, said. “Once people try it, if they like it, they usually get hooked.”

Likewise, Heath Thomas regional manager of the Goodrich Quality Theaters, has placed 4D seats in 16 locations and reports they are a big hit with audiences between the ages of 18 to 30.  LINK

 Odeon logo

UK: UK/European cinema major Odeon-UCI saw its revenue and profit drop sharply in the past year, dragged down by the lack of a Skyfall-size hit and by its Spanish arm.

Odeon’s earnings before interest, tax and other charges dropped by 24 per cent to £69.2m while sales fell five per cent to £706.7m.

In Spain, where Odeon operates 43 cinemas, Odeon’s market volume fell 15 per cent last year.

“In 2014, there are some early signs that the economy may be turning: unemployment has started to fall slightly and retail sales have started to grow,” Odeon said, adding that it has now grown its Spanish market share to 21 per cent.  LINK

Odeon’s results do not include its property arm.

NCR logo

USA: Marcus Theatre is deploying the full range of services offered by NCR Cinema software.

NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR), the global leader in consumer transaction technologies, today announced that Marcus Theatres®, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE:MCS), has now deployed NCR’s full suite of cinema and restaurant solutions to improve its business operations and enhance its customers’ movie experience. Marcus Theatres has been a long-time customer, using NCR’s mobile and fixed point-of-sale (POS) systems, indoor kiosks, takeout and delivery software and NCR MovieTime mobile application.  LINK

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Vista Continues Strategic Growth and Diversification With Stake In MACCS

Murray Holdaway, Bert Huls and Mathieu van As

(From left): Murray Holdaway, Bert Huls and Mathieu van As

One of the more important stories to come out of this year’s CinemaCon is one that didn’t even get announced until more than a week after the show ended. By then anyone who follows such news was already well aware that the cinema exhibition software firm Vista Entertainment Solutions had acquired a stake in MACCS International, the developer of market leading distribution software. We’d like to summarize why we believe this is a significant industry development.

As I noted just before this year’s CinemaCon, I have a great deal of respect for Murray Holdaway, Vista’s Chief Executive, and Derek Forbes, the company’s President of North America. Over nearly twenty years they, along with a growing team of smart executives, have taken the New Zealand based outfit from being a small player in a crowded field of cinema point-of-sale vendors to being the dominant exhibition software solutions developer in the space. In the process, Vista has left a wake of once prominent entities such as Splice and Titan Technologies.

In all fairness, Vista still faces a field of new and perennial competitors. They include, though are not at all limited to, regional and worldwide entrants such as Allure Global, Compeso, Diamond Ticketing Systems, Jack Roe, NCR, Omnico, Omniterm, Ready Theatre Systems, Retriever, TicketNew, TicketSoft and Vendini.

What has helped set Vista apart from some of these rivals is how the company has been able to think beyond its own systems and offerings to see opportunities in related or adjacent markets. They have managed to avoid pitfalls, even when enticing distractions beckoned with the promise of future riches. A great illustration of this would be Vista’s decision to not develop a theatre management system (TMS) for digital cinema installations. Such software is generally forced upon exhibitors by integrators and has become commoditized, save for a few solutions offered by Arts Alliance Media, Cinedigm and Unique Digital.

At the same time, Vista has been adept at increasing its revenue through a series of wise decisions about building or acquiring product offerings that have expanded its customer base. For instance, the company developed Veezi as a cinema management and ticketing system for small and independent cinemas; a market it didn’t serve and one that couldn’t afford Vista’s current solutions.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 11 April 2014

Benjamin Zeccola Palace Cinemas

A row has broken out in Australia about the high price of cinema tickets (which we have written about before) and its relation to, or supposed-justification for, film piracy. Quoted in the Brisbane Times,

The chief executive of Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola, said cinemas were just trying to stay in business by increasing the top ticket price to $20.

“If you took away screen advertising, we wouldn’t have a cinema that survived,” he said. “If you took away the bars, we wouldn’t have a cinema that survived.”
Jamie and Cersei Lannister.

Mr Zeccola, whose chain fully or jointly operates 22 upmarket cinemas around the country, is upset at widespread claims that the cost of movie-going excuses illegal downloading.

Highlighting Australia’s high labour costs, Zeccola points out that Palace staff are paid AUS $25.60 (USD $24.10) per hour, compared to AUS $15  (USD 14.12) for London staff  (just don’t tell him London’s Ritzy staff are going on strike today over low wages).

Dumaresq Street Cinema in Campbelltown

Locations is probably the second highest expense, as this family-run cinema in a suburb of Sydney makes a virtue of its cheap tickets (all shows are AUS $6 – USD $5.65) and affordable concessions:

Forget spending hundreds on an evening at the movies – a trip to Dumaresq Street Cinema in Campbelltown would rarely cost a family of four more than $30.

A serving of popcorn will set you back just $1.50 at the family-run cinema, as will a small drink.

In fact, the three-cinema premises has only ever raised its prices twice since it was taken over by the Moore family in 1992 – once with the introduction of GST and again in recent years, when all tickets – adult, child and otherwise – were set at $6 for any session.  LINK

Business

Blitzmegaplex

Indonesia: South Korean multiplex major CJ CGV has strengthened its minority stake in Indonesia’s second largest cinema operator, confirming the country’s significant growth cinema potential.

South Korea’s largest cinema chain CJ CGV has advanced into the Indonesian market following China, Vietnam and the United States, the company said Friday.

CJ CGV said it took over a 14.75 percent stake in Indonesia’s theater chain Blitzmegaplex after it was listed on the local stock exchange on Thursday.

Blitzmegaplex opened its first location in Bandung in 2006 and has continued to expand each year, now running 11 theaters with a total of 86 screens in six cities around the country.  LINK

Meanwhile Blitzmegaplex has announced that it will use the proceeds from its recent IPO to open three more multiplexes this year.

The cinemas would be built in Yogyakarta; Bandung, West Java, and Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, costing around US$2 million for each cinema, Graha Layar Prima’s marketing director, Ferdiana Yulia Sunardi, said on Thursday.

“Since becoming a public company, we will be more aggressive in our expansion plans, starting this year,” Yulia said during a press conference.  LINK

Reuters informs us that “PT Graha Layar Prima, the operator of movie theatre chain Blitzmegaplex, plans to develop 30 new cinema complexes by 2017, with a total investment of up to $60 million, said CEO Bernard Kentz Sondakh.”

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