The Celluloid Junkie team has been quite busy over the past week or two. Helen Budge attended the Event Cinema Association’s Slate Day in London at the very end of January. Last week, Patrick von Sychowski headed off to Neurenberg, Germany for the 2023 EDCF conference last week, while at the same time I was in Dallas, Texas attending the Dine-In Cinema Summit. All the while we’ve been keeping up with the latest cinema industry news and fielding nominations for our annual Top Women In Global Cinema list. (Speaking of which, nominations are still open.)
Indeed, this week’s Marquee editorial was meant to be dedicated to the anecdotes and knowledge we picked up while attending the Dine-In Cinema Summit, however our industry had other plans. So much so, we don’t even have room here to touch on all the big movie trailers shown during the Super Bowl, the 36% increase of cinema attendance in Brazil during January or the Walt Disney Company earnings call in which the studio reported it will be laying off 7,000 workers and underscored the need for a theatrical release window.
Last week began with AMC announcing a new tiered ticket pricing scheme based on where a seat is located in a theatre. We thought all seats in a cinema were supposed to be relatively equal in terms of presenting a superior movie-watching experience. Dubbed Sightline at AMC, the company has discovered few patrons want to sit in the first two rows of an auditorium. So, the world’s largest exhibitor is going to price tickets for those seats slightly below standard ticket prices and well below what it calls Preferred Sightline seats in the middle of the auditorium. Those prime seats will cost a dollar or two more.
Cue a week-long stream of media hot takes and moviegoer outrage. There was such a fury over AMC’s new pricing model, which the company has said is only being tested for now, that we compiled all the passionate opinions (and provided a few of our own) in a single analytic post for your reading pleasure. Spoiler Alert: While we can appreciate AMC experimenting with all sorts of business models to help them thrive in a post-pandemic market, and we can surely sympathize with their need to increase revenue for their own longterm survival as a company, perhaps adopting the universally reviled pricing schemes of the airline and concert industries isn’t the best option.
Before our heads could even stop spinning from AMC’s announcement, we were in to court with Cineworld to get an update on the company’s bankruptcy case. We’ve written a piece providing the latest details about where Cineworld (and it’s United States chain, Regal) stand in regards to resolving their case and exiting bankruptcy. Numerous industry executives who were in Dallas with me last week felt that Cineworld would eventually have to convert their Chapter 11 bankruptcy into Chapter 7 and liquidate the company. However, as Cineworld explores both a deal with existing lenders and an outright sale of the company, it has managed to save up USD $182 million in liquidity thanks to improved business operations and a a few hit films in December and January.
Speaking of new releases, one of the biggest takeaways for me from the Dine-In Cinema Summit is something I knew going into the conference; movies matter and the more movies the better. Sure, I learned all about family entertainment centers (FECs), how much it costs to open a video game arcade, the most popular food items for dine-in cinemas, the difference between actual versus theoretical food cost and all sorts of amazing learnings we’ll be updating you on in the coming weeks. But at the end of the day, when Robert Nowak, the Senior Vice President of Food and Beverage at Marcus Theatres, asked Terry Sullivan the longtime General Manager at the company’s Movie Tavern location in Bedford, Texas about the one thing he most wanted to improve his theatres’ business if money were no object, he stood there in front of at least 300 attendees for a good moment to think about it. His eventual response? More movies, more consistently.
Because all the frozen margarita machines and robot food runners in the world won’t help a dine-in cinema that doesn’t have movies to show. And apparently, those movies don’t even need to be new releases. Who had two James Cameron movies, one of which is over 25-years-old, earning over USD $20 million and duking it out for the top spot at this weekend’s global box office on their 2023 bingo card?
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