Cinema News Digest – Friday 9 March 2018

By Patrick von Sychowski | March 9, 2018 1:55 am PST
Saudi Arabia Cinema screening

Saudia Arabia issues cinema licences; Lotte to spin off cinemas; US $1bn BO February; Samsung Cinema LED insights; Cinemark Movie Club 120K member; Vue’s Tim Richards interviewed; Indian cinema growth; VPF revolt in south India; Côté Cinema becomes BoxOfficeFrance; MoviePass CPO hired; Comedie Francaise event cinema; car hits polish cinema; woman hits two-year old; cinema shooting threat; another cinema arrest; take-home popcorn refill (genius!); Scot/scotch cinema drinking; Gold Class companion card accepted and Odeon Oslo preview. 

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Saudi Arabia – This month Saudi authorities began issuing licences to operate cinemas, with Vox first to hold a public screening for an Alzheimer charity event. Following the lifting of the 35-year old ban on cinemas, the first multiplexes will be opening this month. “The re-launch of cinemas in the kingdom represents a pivotal turning point towards building a cultural economy, reviving the cultural scene in the kingdom, tapping Saudi talent and building a vibrant society through local content support strategies,” says Culture and Information minister Awad bin Saleh Al Awwad. In a survey 67% of Saudis surveyed said they plan to visit a cinema when it opens. Gulf Business – 4 March 2018

Korea (Republic of, South) – Lotte will spin off its cinema operation in the third quarter of this year. Such a move had previously been blocked by courts as the goodwill of the operation was considered over-valued at KRW 351.6 billion (USD $329 million). Lotte has 113 cinemas in Korea and 46 abroad, as well as sister company Lotte Entertainment that handles film distribution. Lotte is the second largest of the three big Korean cinema operators, with CJ CGV larger and Megabox smaller. Dailian (KR) – 8 March 2018

Black Panther - Opening Night Fan Event at AMC Theatres

USA – The US had a billion dollar box office February, mainly thanks to Disney/Marvel’s “Black Panther” – now at USD $500 million and the 10th biggest domestic hit of all time. Overall BO is up 11.9% on last year to USD $2.123 billion. Some of this has been driven by MoviePass and while other exhibitors are shy to give figures, AMC’s Adam Aron revealed that:

Our records indicate that several hundred thousand of their subscribers showed up at AMC theaters. They did so an average of 2.7 times each. They paid us approximately $11.90 per ticket, which means that MoviePass paid us in excess of $32 per subscriber.

Expect an equally strong Q2 with “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Rampage” both moving up in the release schedule. Seeking Alpha – 5 March 2018

Samsung Cinema LED 3D – already announced. (image: Samsung)

USA (CA) – A detailed interview about the Samsung Cinema LED screen in Box Office Magazine with Chris Buchanan, director of business development at Samsung Electronics, and Daniel Saenz, customer solutions manager at JBL Harman. New insights: Samsung is working at 3mm pixel pitch screen that would be 45- to 50-foot big. They think Hollywood studios will come around to video image scaling. They are working with a US exhibitor at the moment, and cost savings from no projection booth, less A/C and more are said to be significant. Interview must be a bit old as Samsung has already announced a 3D screen, but in the article it talks about such a concept being announced “in the near future”. Box Office – 5 March 2018

Cinemark MovieClub Signage

USA (FL) – Cinemark has passed 120,000 subscribers with its Movie Club loyalty program in three months. This is less than MoviePass but Cinemark is intent on serving a customer segment that is not serial moviegoers but semi-frequent visitors. “That’s way beyond our expectations. Now we’re off to the races,” CEO Mark Zoradi told investors. The USD $8.99 pass gives members one one free movie a month plus 20% discount on concessions and more. THR – 6 March 2018

Here's one I refurbished earlier. (photo: ThisIsMoney / Craig Hibbert)
Here’s one I refurbished earlier. (photo: ThisIsMoney / Craig Hibbert)

UK – This Is Money interviews Vue CEO Tim Richards. When asked about #metoo he says “Our business is the bricks and mortar, the boring end of things. We focus on entertaining our customers,’ he says, reverting to the safety of the corporate line.” We also learn that he has seen “Three Billboards…” three times, his biggest regret is not becoming an Olympic skier, he thinks Amazon might buy a cinema chain, if/when he sells his Vue stake he will be Tim richer and he puts maple syrup on his popcorn. (I may have made that last bit up). Sadly not quite Lunch With the FT. ThisIsMoney – 3 March 2018

PVR Inox logos

India – Multiplexes may not be growing as fast in India as in China, but they are still growing. Particularly inA licensing board’s decision to refuse an application to allow adult cinema-goers to take alcoholic drinks in with them while watching any film has been overturned following an appeal.. By the end of the current financial year market leaders PVR ad Inow had 625 and 476 screens respectively, compared to just 150 and 63 in FY11.
“While we were adding 60-80 screens every year, it is expected to jump 30-40% in 2018-19 and will follow the suit in the next two to three years as well, mainly due to an increasing construction of malls,” says PVR’s Gautam Dutta. PVR expects to have 1,000 by 2021 – it also just announced five new Imax screens – while Carnival has an ambitious target of 2,000 by then. It currently has 430. The acquisition of Swanson Multiplexes by Inox has now been completed. Economic Times – 1 March 2018

India – Troubled conglomerate SRS is said to have failed to agree a valuation of its cinema business. It is now putting its retail and realty business up for sale recover loans. Inbox Leisure is said to have been the highest bidder with an offer of INR 225 crore (USD $34.5 million). Live Mint – 2 March 2018

UFO Moviez Qube logos

India – Trouble still brewing in southern India where exhibitors are revolting against what they see as onerous and open-ended VPF charges. “The deadlock between the Tamil Film Producers Council and digital service providers (DSPs) — Qube Cinemas Technologies and UFO Moviez — remains unresolved as the film producers have demanded a ‘sunset clause’ from the latter.” In neighbouring Telugu state a reduced (18%-23% cut) VPF fee agreement has settled the matter. Qube says it can;t do more but cinemas complain that they have already been paying for 12 years. Intractable. The Hindu – 8 March 2018

Côté Cinema becomes BoxOfficeFrance.
Côté Cinema becomes BoxOfficeFrance.

France – Webedia’s Côté Cinema becomes BoxOfficeFrance and gets a website revamp. Offremedia (FR) – 3 March 2018


Mike Berkley MoviePass (photo: LinkedIn)
Mike Berkley MoviePass (photo: LinkedIn)

USA (NY) – MoviePass has hired Mike Berkley as Chief Products Officer (CPO). He is a former product leader at Spotify, Viacom and Comcast, and will oversee improving the credit card operations of the cinema subscription service. “What I’m looking for Mike to do is to learn more about what customers want and build a stronger product,” MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe is quoted as saying. “We have an opportunity to build something meaningful.” The service expects to have five million subscribers by 2019. In other news MoviePass has disabled its user location tracking after concerns about privacy issues. Variety – 8 March 2018

Event Cinema

French classics from stage to screen. (photo: Comédie française/Vincent Pontet)
French classics from stage to screen. (photo: Comédie française/Vincent Pontet)

France – It is not just NTLive that is bringing live plays to the big screen. “Petit-Maître Corrigé” play by Marivaux was beamed from Comedie Francaise this past Thursday by Pathe Live night to more than 200 movie theaters across France. It is the fifth play to go out, after the success of “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Misanthrope”, “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Les Fourberies de Scapin”.

Health & Safety

Car crash in cinema Praha in Warsaw. (screen grab: TVNWarszawa)
Car crash in cinema Praha in Warsaw. (screen grab: TVNWarszawa)

Poland – A driver in Warsaw was involved in a collusion and drove the car into the building of the Praha cinema. Fortunately nobody inside was injured. TVNWarszawa (PL) – 8 March 2018

Law & Order

Charles and Keri Karman (NY Daily News)
Charles and Keri Karman (image: NY Daily News)

USA (NY) – A woman upset with a two-year old at a screening next to her tailing during the film led to her allegedly dumping the popcorn over her head and knocking her head with the popcorn bucket. “Karman, 25, and her dad Charles Karman, 61, were taken into custody after a two-month investigation and charged with endangering the welfare of a child in the bizarre bit of cinema verite, police said.” The incident took place at the AMCDine-In Theater in Levittown, L.I. NY Daily News – 4 March 2018

James Taylor
James Taylor

USA (WV) – A former cinema employee has been charged for treating a shooting in the Meadowbrook Mall cinema. “Mason James Taylor, 18, was charged by Bridgeport Sgt. J. Petroski with felony making terroristic threats, according to a press release from the Police Department.” Another employee at the Cinemark alerted the police after a Snapchat post. WVNews – 3 March 2018

Kevin Lee Johnson - "had active warrants for his arrest." (photo: Fort Wayne police)
Kevin Lee Johnson – “had active warrants for his arrest.” (photo: Fort Wayne police)

USA (IN) – A man has been arrested following an incident at the AMC Jefferson Pointe 18 (formerly a Carmine Cinema) Fort Wayne, IN. “According to the incident report, Johnson entered Theater 8 just before 5 p.m. He was carrying the tote bag and “acting strangely.” Witnesses said he claimed be part of a special forces unit.” After police were called and the man arrested the bag was found to contain nothing more than food and a ‘large bottle of vodka’. WPTE21 – 27 February 2018

Concessions / F&B

Megabox popcorn refil service. (photo: Dispatch)
Megabox popcorn refil service. (photo: Dispatch)

Korea (Republic of, South) – Megabox is offering a refill of popcorn for those who want to take some home after the film, with a refill and lid sold for KRW 1.500 to KRW 2,000 (USD $1.41 to $1.88). Just bring your empty bucket and a copy of your receipt, pay the extra and get a refill and lid. Genius! Dispatch (KR) – 5 March 2018

Soon you can do it in the cinema. (image: Trainspotting)
Soon you can do it in the cinema. (image: Trainspotting)

UK (Scotland) – Cinema goers in Scotland will be able to enjoy a pint, wine or wee dram in cinema screenings following a recent ruling. “A licensing board’s decision to refuse an application to allow adult cinema-goers to take alcoholic drinks in with them while watching any film has been overturned following an appeal.”  Showcase Cinema in Coatbridge had filed the appeal. Scottish Legal – 6 March 2018


Derek and Dianne Kingswell can now use the Companion Card at Reading's Gold Class. (photo: Daily Telegraph)
Derek and Dianne Kingswell can now use the Companion Card at Reading’s Gold Class. (photo: Daily Telegraph)

Australia / New Zealand – A change of policy means that Reading Cinemas will accept Companion Cards also for its Gold Class screens. The change came after a woman with disabilities complained that her spouse could not accompany her to the Rouse Hill Town Centre cinema, where only Gold Class auditoriums can accommodate her wheelchair. Daily Telegraph – 5 March 2018


Odeon Oslo. (photo by: NN)
Odeon Oslo. (photo by: NN)

Norway – We don’t normally feature new cinemas in the Digest, but a sneak peak inside the new Odeon Oslo makes it too hard to resist sharing. The foyer looks simply stunning and it will have a huge IMAX screen – but with something extra that no other Imax cinema in the world has. Sorry, can’t tell you, as we’ve been sworn to secrecy. Opening is on 22 March. 

Patrick von Sychowski
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