CinemaCon: The Three ‘S’ of the Immersive Cinema Experince: Sight, Sound and Seats

By | May 7, 2015 4:45 am PST

This series of talks and discussion that followed on International Day of CinemaCon looked at how to make the cinema going experience more engaging and immersive. It began with a talk by one of South East Asia’s leading exhibitor operators, followed by the same from the Gulf region (both very exciting regions in terms of cinema development),  concluded with a section in which each manufacturer got to do a ‘pitch’ for two minutes and a general Q&A. Here is what was said.

Jim PATTERSON – Thailand, Embassy Diplomat Screens

Here is how his work time is diveded:
85% work with Major Cineplex, largest chain in Thailand as director of Business Development, GM of Imax and 4DX thratres.
35% as Managing Director of Embassy Diplomat Screens.
20% Consulting to various cinema chains
5% teaching marketing and finance at Masters level at university. “I know these figures don’t add up,” he aknowledges – seeing that his work ads up to 145% of hi working time [insert your own joke about teaching financing and overbilling here.]

1. I think that “seats” includes the entire customer experience and environment.
2. There MAY be many advantages of premium Sight,Sound and Seats including: draw, frequency.

Primary point is:
– getting better leases (premium attraction);
– generating sponsorship income;
– sponsor driven attendance, out of $4m cost;
– loyalty;
all depending on many factors.

First – Major Cineplex (Thailand)
530 screens, 5 Imax, very profitable cinema chain, 5 4DX, 15 VIP thetatres, 375 lanes of bowling, 4 Atmos, 1 ScreenX (first outside of Korea), 331 Barco and 102 Christie projectors, 101 NEC, varius 3D systems

We go very high end. They (cinemas) look more like 5 star hotels. Not what people expect. No chairs – Beds. Grand theatre for Miss Thailand event. World’s only movie spa and massage. (“No happy ending,” he jokes.)

Major Cineplex Cambodia – Population less than 1.5m in capital. Lower than India average income and only 1/4 of Thailand. Yet put in very high-end cinema. Went to landlord and said we want low rent but we will attract high-end customers. No CAM 10% rent. Difficult to “one up”.
Raised $3m in sponsorship out of $4m cost. Payback is under two years.

Embassy Diplomat Screens.
High cost $50K per seat. 5 halls – 200  seats.
Five sponsors. Very large lobbies for 200 seats. Luxury toilet. Mini bar in one theatre. We put Atmos and 4DX in our nicer theatres.
ScreenX – not much product, but it is fully sponsored.
Done sponsorship for 10 Imax theatre and averages $1m per theatre. $2m for Imax theatre in Trinidad.
A unique venue gets more PR.

Cameron MITCHELL – Dubai, CEO, Vox Cinemas

Starts with a riff on the previous speaker: “Most of the previous concepts would get me arrested in the Middle East, like having a bed in cinemas.”

Vox is 53 in Egypt, 294 in UAE, 64 in Oman,

There are myriad of different concepts. It would be naive to think that people want to watch movies the same way every time. Look at every cinema and look at who we are targeting, what is the income level, what is the competition doing, etc.

Opening Imax laser in September in Dubai. USB for charging phone in VIP seats. Abu Dhabi – lift access, VIP seats with higher charge, dual Christie projectors, everything is of a higher standard.

28-30m screens, laser projection, MAX screen (not Imax).

‘First Class’ concept with Michelin chef. Very high ticket price. Tailor cinemas to the catchment. Enormous VIP seats with 3 different motors. Tracks how long staff take to respond to call button.

Vox  Gold – Business Class concept in markets where customers are a bit more price conscious. You still have lounge, washroom, etc, but you fit in more seats by not having the full recliner. Bigger capacity. $25 per ticket, compared to $40 for First Class.

4DX has been amazing experience with 90% occupancy at $40 ticket price. Gets people in the habit of coming to their locations, so they come back for Imax, etc.

Vox Kids – Party rooms, colourfull seats,  watch it with 25-30 of your friends for the price of a dinner for four people.

Shows more VIP locations. 20% spike in admissions where they took over a cinema.

Lesson: tailor cinemas to your markets. Decision between Imax, Christie, RealD should be based on understanding of your market. Work with Unic architects out of Glasgow. There is no one-size-fits-alll, even for renovation projects.

[Next follows the “Speed dating” segment form manufacturers – 2 minutes each.]

Stuart BOWLING – UK/US, Dolby Laboratories

About to enter 50th year as a company and exciting future. We help filmmakers achieve suspension of disbelief and create unique experiences in cinemas. Close collaboration with creatives, distributors and exhibitorrs.

Technology is moving at a fast pace. Compelling experiences required, but in a cost effective manner and that provide return on investment for exhibitors. 20 new Dolby Atmos titles being announced this year.

This Wednesday we will unveil Dolby Vision for Pixar’s “Inside Out”.

Todd HODDICK – US, Barco

Why do we keep innovating – because we love movies as much as you do.

With all the changes in digital cinema we forget that what makes us unique is the showmanship that allows us to forget. The world is changing and we need to change with it but we need a place to escape.

Barco is going to innovate we will listen and we will contribute to the future of cinemagoing.

Teddy KIM – Korea, 4DX and ScreenX

Home entertainment is a huge threat and immersive cinema is a compelling answere. Theatres are fighting back with recliner chairs and food service, but these are things you can find in the home. Hollywood is looking for opportunities beyond cinemas.

For more than 100 years we have been looking at the small rectangular screen in front of us. What if there was an immersive experience?

From the same company that brought you 4DX, the new ScreenX.

Peripheral vision enhanced. Sense of presence. Differentiates itself with immersive cinematic experience so that they are part of the content.

Demonstrations off site at AMC.

George SCHECKEL – US, Christie

2 minutes – elevator or stump speech? He wasn’t sure which to do. Went for latter. “World citizens of the cinema community – Christie has a 75 year experience…. [Does immitation of a US political speech – on International Day. Audience seem somewhat perplexed.] “We ask for your vote – thank you very much.”

Panel Q&A

Patterson: Where are we going with so many new entries?

Scheckel: We now have a digital starting point of quality. I don’t expect exibitors to replace their infrastructure wholesale, but we can take advantage of a stable platform. Role of technology is to support those. From a customers perspective, it is up to us to figure out what the value proposition is.

Hoddick: We are all learning and driving this together. Co-opetition. When we look at Escape it helps tremendously that CJ is doing ScreenX. Advice to exhibitors: whatever you are looking at ensure it is improving consumer experience and is driving profitability.

Bowling: Movie goers need to have choice. Important for technology that you invest in make it worth that investment. With Atmos exhibitos are assure that they are getting a movie per week for their investment.

Kim: CJ being exhibitor and technology company, the real danger is not brands competing or copying each other, but that there is no change at all. As we change, it is not brand that is important, but profitability but the judge is the customer doing the right choice. They will prove which brand will work.

Patterson Q: Anyone want to take a stab at crystal balling? What the future brings? What happened to 48fps?

Scheckel: Interesting NAB presentation where cinemtographers. They talked about 120fps 4K acquisiton and display as well as high dynamic range that enables them to tell different stories. The scary part is how realistic it was in 120fps 3D 4K when someones torso was 8 feet high. It was almost invasive, even though just a model holding a dress, with tatoos. I wouldn’t want two hours of that. But in short doses it is very compelling. It is not just us pushing it, but also the creatives pushing it.

Hoddick: Kim is right, this is about the audience, not about the loss of VPF. 90% of cinemas have the most advanced display technology. We need to bring experiences. Technology for the sake of technology is not interesting. It is going to be about listening to the audiences, they will tell us.

Kim: The X part of the ScreenX is the multiplier. Do we continiously have to upgrade? Is it something different that people cannot get at home?

Bowling: For audiences we are competing to get their time. Exhibitors rely on Hollywood for contet. For digital cinema we have not tapped into the opportunities that are there, by diversifying and getting more audiences with gaming and alternative content.

Patterson Q: Differentiation in the marketplace – are they new, are they copies?

Mitchell: From an exhibitors’ perspective, Disney’s marketcap went up $2bn when they released the Star Wars trailer. The stronger our competitors become the harder we work.

Kim: We don’t need to explode people with special effects. But what is the right feel for audiences. That is he bit we as manufacturers sometimes forget. Understanding your audience.

Hoddick: You will see tremendous advancement of lasers. It is all about getting the pricing to the point where it is competitive with Xenon. The scale is coming very, very fast. Laser is very close: in 9-12 months you will see a value proposition that also drives profitability.

Scheckel: Movie going public do not care for what is behind the port glass, they are coming for the experience. How do they realise that there is this new experience. My generation are coming back because they can have a drink in the cinemas.

Bowling: You sit down in the theatre and having the best possible experience: clean seats, no stale Coke, no A/C noise.

Patterson Q: RealD had problems to get people to notice brightness, but it was just an componenrt of overall enjoyment.

Bowling: Laser helps getting over the hurdle of a poor experience.

[With that the session ended.]
Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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