Cinema News Digest – Tuesday 27 March 2018

By | March 27, 2018 3:20 am PST

Dear Junkies,

This week children burnt to death in a cinema where they had gone to watch “Sherlock Gnomes”. 11-year old Viktoria Pochankina called her aunt to tell her that her school-class was trapped in the cinema auditorium and everything was in flames. When it was clear that they would not be saved Viktoria told her aunt to ‘Tell Mummy that I loved her.’ More than 64 people died in the fire in the Kemerovo shopping centre that had a three-screen cinema – at least 41 of them were children.

The cause of the fire is not known but authorities have stated that the fire alarm system had been switched off and emergency exits were blocked. Parents and relatives had messages and calls from their children, siblings and spouses saying they could not escape the fire because the doors were blocked. They had to listen to loved ones die on the phone. “Our children burned while we just watched,” said Olga Lillyevyali, whose three daughters were in the cinema with their father. In addition to the cinema the converted mall had a bowling alley, swimming pool, trampoline area, skating rink, restaurants and a cafe. It was spring break and lots of school children were enjoying a day out.

We don’t have to go as far back as 1906 when 602 people died in the Iroquois Theatre fire in Chicago or1929 when 69 children died in the Glen Cinema fire in the Scottish village of Paisley (one of the last survivors recently died aged 91), or as far afield as the Uphaar cinema fire in Delhi in 1997 that killed 59 people, for which partial justice was only belatedly served last year. As recently as late 2016 five people died in a cinema shopping mall fire in Peru, while there have been many recent incidents in South Korean cinema, though none deadly like the hospital fire that killed more than 37 people late last year.

I have myself seen cinemas in London’s West End with emergency exit doors blocked by rubbish bags from nearby restaurants, or Spanish multiplexes where it was standard to cordon off the entrance to auditoriums. So if you work in a cinema, regardless of your role, the best time to check if your cinema is safe and all the fire exits are clear is right this minute. Because when a man dies after getting his head trapped under a recliner seat we can say that it is a tragic accident that must be investigated. But when children burn to death in your cinema it is corporate manslaughter.

Regards, Patrick

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Russian mall fire kills 41 children in cinema; Spanish ticket VAT reduced to 10%; “Jumanji” 4D haptic vest in Japan; Megabox unveils private cinema; cinemas targeted by childhood obesity campaigner; Gate Cinemas’ Barbara Stone dies; PVR switches to Oracle cloud for HR and PVR LIVE 2.0; is 4DX discriminating against disabled; Pathe Switzerland evacuated; Guzzo vs babies redux and Kansas’ Plaza Cinema is “World’s Oldest” says Guinness. 

Russia – A fire in a shopping mall in western Siberia that killed scores of people and saw children and other cinema goers trapped in the mall’s cinema. A criminal investigation has been launched into the fire, which is believed to have started in the trampolining area or with a short circuit. Emergency exits were said to be blocked, trapping people, with fire alarm disabled, and staff not leading people to evacuation. All shopping malls in Russia have been ordered by the Prosecutor General’s Office to be checked for fire safety features. 41 children are amongst the dead and criminal charges have already been filed for. More details on Russian websites. The Telegraph – 26 March 2018

Spanish cinema will enjoy 10% VAT. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski / Celluloid Junkie)

Spanish cinema will enjoy 10% VAT. (photo: Patrick von Sychowski / Celluloid Junkie)

Spain – The government has approved a reduction of VAT (sales tax) for cinema tickets from 21% to 10%, in line with other Spanish cultural activities (like bull fighting) that had the rate reduced last year. VAT went from 8% to 21% in 2012 as the Spanish government tried to plug a budget deficit, though “the net collection of cinema in Spain fell by 15 percent in 2017 compared to the figures for 2011,” partly as a result form the higher prices. Europa Press (ES) – 26 April 2018

Jumanj haptic vest coming to Toho. (photo: Toho / SPE)

Jumanj haptic vest coming to Toho. (photo: Toho / SPE)

Japan – A new type of ‘4D’ cinema experience is being launched in Japan with “Super Bodily Sensation Cinema” screenings of “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” at Toho Cinemas Hibiya from 29 March 29th to 5 April. It involves the audience members wearing a ‘haptic vest’ where they “can experience realistic feel, vibration and shock” sensations during the film. Haptic vests have been used for video games and VR, as well as featuring in the upcoming “Ready Player One”. There is no ticket price upcharge for this test, but more than that we love the special Japanese posted for the film. Cinema Today (JP) – 24 March 2018

Megaboc's My Own Movie Theatre. (photo: Megabox)

Megaboc’s My Own Movie Theatre. (photo: Megabox)

Korea (Republic of, South) – Korea’s Megabox has opened an 8-screen private cinema. The place can host special events, such as birthday parties or corporate events, with table service and a selection of films. “The boutique private is another lifestyle innovation by Megabox, and it is expected that it will be a place where everyone can enjoy a unique experiences,” said Lee Yi-ran, MegaBox Operations Manager. Such ‘on-demand cinema’ (a.k.a. private cinemas) have previously only been common in China. Stoo (KR) – 23 March 2018

Do Cinemas Cause Childhood Obestiyy. (image: Daily Star website)

Do Cinemas Cause Childhood Obestiy. (image: Daily Star website)

UK – Cinemas are once again being targeted by anti-child obesity campaigners over the calories content in their snacks and drinks.

As multiplexes prepare for an influx of youngsters over the Easter holidays nutritionists accused them of “pushing” unhealthy food.

Favourites including soft drinks, nachos, hot dogs, sweets and popcorn are stretching waistlines and leading to increases in diabetes and tooth decay.

Nutritionist Kawther Hashem, from Action on Sugar, accused those selling unhealthy snacks of “profiting at the expense of our health”.

[Cinemas that are doing something (yes, they exist) appear fearful of talking about it, in case they are instead accused of increasing prices on sugary drinks. Can’t win either way, so best just to keep quiet about it, seems to be the strategy.] Daily Star – 25 March 2018

David and Barbara Stone in front of their cinema. (photo: Deadline)

David and Barbara Stone in front of their cinema. (photo: Deadline)

UK – Barbara Stone, the co-founder of London’s historic Gate Cinema has died aged 83. “Stone and her late husband David worked in the film business most of their lives, both in the U.S. and in the UK, playing an important role in distributing independent and avant-garde movies during the 1970s and 80s.” They acquired the Notting Hill cinema in 1974. Deadline – 26 March 2018


India – PVR has deployed Oracle’s cloud technology to help manage its growing HR department. The company’s CHRO is interviewed about moving from Excel files, hiring, staffing, reporting and MIS, analytics and more. PVR also uses a workforce management solutions from Kronos. Good piece even with heavy Oracle focus. HR, staff and training often gets overlooked in the excitement of new cinema technologies (HDR! Big Data!!) but the best cinemas are those where customers have a seamless and high quality experience with friendly staff. The interview ends with an affirmation about the growing importance of HR. CXO Today – 20 March 2018

India – PVR also recently revived its event cinema operation with PVR Live 2.0. “Offering a world away from traditional cinema model, it will program and host a series of high-profile cinema events setting high standards of alternate content for the patrons.” Televisionpost – 24 March 2018

CJ 4DPlex 4DX VR Disk

Discriminatory against wheelchair users? (Source: PRNewsfoto/CJ 4DPLEX)

Korea (Republic of, South) – Is it discrimination when people with disabilities are not permitted to use 4D theatres? That is the case being weighed up by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, following complaints from disabilities groups.  “Because of the vibration of the 4D movie theater, the severely handicapped are in danger of injury during the viewing and should be shifted to ordinary movie screen that can be watched in wheelchairs,” NHRCK had been informed by cinemas. Blind would-be patrons are also suing Korea’s three large chains.  Korea Human Rights News – 26 March 2018

Switzerland – The Pathe cinema in Mall of Switzerland was evacuated twice this past weekend because of an alarm triggered by faulty sensors. The mall has been evacuated three times since opening last November, including by hoax bomb threats. 20min (DE) – 26 March 2018

Vincent Guzzo

Vincent Guzzo, won’t surrender to the pro-baby lobby. (photo: CBC)

Canada – A Montreal mother is outraged after a cinema charged her CAN $7 (USD $5.35). “The theatre’s owner says the charge is a necessary deterrent to noisy kids.” Yes, it is Cinemas Guzzo, and yes, we’ve been here before. “Do we try and respect 0.01 per cent of our business who are under three years old or do we respect the other 99 per cent of people?” Guzzo says and points out that the cinema hosts mother-and-baby screenings where infants go for free. CTVnews – 25 March 2018


Plaza Cinema, Ottawa, Kansas. (photo: Plaza Cinema)

Plaza Cinema, Ottawa, Kansas. (photo: Plaza Cinema)

USA (KS) – In the competitive sport of World’s Oldest Cinema, Plaza Cinema in Ottawa, Kansas, has just been recognised as the oldest continuously operating cinema by the Guinness Book of World Records. “The theater’s owner, Rita “Peach” Madl, applied for the award after she found some old photographs that made her wonder about its history. As she learned more about the cinema’s past, she gathered the resources to ultimately change its future.” It is from 1907. Kino Pionier in Poland’s Szczecin previously held the honour. Not clear why it lost it as it dates back to 1902. Then there is the one in France from 1899 that recently re-opened.  MOR-TV – 23 March 2018

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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