Daily Cinema Roundup – Friday 1 May

By Patrick von Sychowski | May 1, 2009 7:24 am PDT

– UK exhibitor Vue has bold expansion plans for London, announced as part of the tie up with retail property group Westfield and build a total of eight sites by 2011, with two ‘crown jewel’ sites in London. From THR.com, “Vue Entertainment CEO Tim Richards said the site at London’s Westfield shopping center aims to be “the jewel in the crown” for the chain. It will be an all-digital venue with “no film projectors in sight” and Richards claims it will be the biggest purpose-built cinema in Europe, with 3,000 seats in a complex of more than 100,000 square feet.” Tim hopes to throw open the doors to this all-digital 3D entertainment palace in time of James Cameron’s “Avatar”;

– Fellow UK exhibitor Cineworld has just announced another terrific quarter. From Reuters, “Cineworld said in a statement that box office takings were up 19.1 percent in the 17 weeks to April 23, driven by British multi-Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, but other income led by advertising was down 24.6 percent in the same period.” From the Press Assosiciation we learn that 3D is also padding the coffers nicely. “So far the group has been “very encouraged” by its initial investment in 3D after it claimed 50% and 46% box office share for children’s films Monsters versus Aliens and Bolt.” Cineworld is also opening more screens, next up 10 screens in Aberdeen and five in Witney. From Brand Republic we learn that “The rise in cinema takings comes as consumers continue to desert UK pubs and clubs.“;

– No sooner has the Dolby announced the Arqiva satellite tie-up then its green digital cinema credentials get trumpeted for the distribution of eco-mentary “Big River Man“. From Home Cinema Choice, “The film will be mastered in the US and then transmitted from there to the company’s UK centre. From there the DCP (Digital Cinema Package) will be transmitted to digital cinemas around the UK – cutting out the need for air freight and couriers, which in the past have been used to transport 35mm film and hard drives containing digital prints, and significantly reducing Big River Man’s carbon footprint.” Friends of the Earth might be happy but as the subject of the film is a ‘horseburger-loving Slovenian‘ don’t expect this to get the support of PETA.

– Anti-social behaviour is the bane of cinema operators in most countries, but in the UK the problem is Greys Gone Wild. From The Telegraph, “Pensioners at the Odeon, in Leicester, have been reprimanded for threatening, pushing, poking, bullying, harassing and intimidating staff, saving seats for friends and queue jumping. Concerns were also raised about customers abusing the complimentary tea and biscuits arrangement.” The Senior Screen programme will be terminated, a three-page letter (see above) warned, if this type of bad behaviour is not curtailed;

National Amusements sale of some of its cinemas appears not to be going as well as hoped, we learn from THR.com. “U.S. screens included in a $1 billion-plus batch of National Amusements theaters drew fewer than a half-dozen bids by Thursday, but more were expected by Friday’s deadline after lucrative properties initially withheld were tagged for sale. A separate auction of National’s roughly 275 U.K. screens completed its first round of nonbinding offers last week amid a flurry of last-minute bidding.” Apparently other major cinema chains are not knocking on the doors, meaning that financial institutions are likely to have put in ‘lowball’ offers only at this stage;

– UK’s Empire Cinemas has awarded the contract for its telephone booking system. From the press release, “Telephonetics VIP, the speech automated specialist, today announces the signing of a multi-year contract with Empire Cinemas Ltd for the supply of its MovieLINE® automatic speech recognition (ASR) ticket booking and information technology solution to all of its 17 UK cinema sites. After a 3 year long relationship with Eckoh, Empire Cinemas has decided to switch their supplier to major competitor Telephonetics VIP. ” I’m sorry, I didn’t understand – could you repeat that? Click, brrr:

Barco is trumpeting its successes in Latin America in a press release out just in time for, errh, ShowCanada. “Digital Cinema pioneer Barco announced today that the deployment of its digital cinema projectors is growing substantially into the Latin American marketplace. Spearheaded by Barco’s relationship with Texas-based Cinemark International, Barco DP-2000 projectors have been deployed into more than 25 Cinemark multiplexes throughout Mexico, Central and South America, including major cities in Argentina, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil.” This triumph is somewhat undercut by the toll that the H1N1 (don’t-call-it-swineflu) is taking on the Mexican exhibition industry at the moment. It is no small irony that this summer’s box office might be undone by  small virus instead of a great big recession. Do your duty and visit your local multiplex this weekend – bing your hand sanitizer gel if you are worried;

– Ending on a positive note (as we like to here on CJ), Australia’s The Age has an article where the headline really says it all ‘Cinema boom shows even economic clouds have silver lining‘. “”Cinema does represent demonstrable value, particularly in tougher economic times, and compared to the cost of holidays, concert tickets and restaurants,” Liebmann said. Spending on filmed entertainment is set to rise by 5.3 per cent a year until 2012, to $3.4 billion, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.” And who are we to argue with PWC?

Patrick von Sychowski
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