Bringing Creativity to the Cinema

In Focus

For the past decade, the focus of theatre owners when building new showplaces has been on what goes on the screen and how it sounds. This includes everything from digital projection to immersive sound. It is imperative to create a better experience than one can get in their home. The problem here is the cost to install new digital projection and digital sound systems. Certainly, this is a priority for attracting patrons to come to your theatre, but it does not add incremental revenue to the bottom line.

So what are exhibitors doing to attract people to their theatres? This is where a good deal of creativity comes in, and we are now seeing dine-in theatres, plush and reclining seating, immersive 4D technology, premium-large-format (PLF) screens, new concession stands, digital lobbies, gaming, alcohol and virtual reality. All of these ideas are coming to fruition; going to your local theatre is now about creating a destination where seeing a movie may not always be the main attraction.

The October edition of Film Journal International features the topic “Construction and Design.” Although it is impossible to cover everything, our editorial staff has been monitoring these new trends and has come up with some very interesting information that we are sure you will enjoy reading. And it’s all about increasing revenue at your cinemas.

Seating in movie theatres keeps getting better, and with the advent of the reclining seat the whole model is changing. In this edition, we’ve gathered a diverse group of executives to talk about seating: Neil Campbell, CEO of Canada’s Landmark Cinemas; Bill Stembler, CEO of Georgia Theatre Company; Paul Farnsworth of B&B Theatres; Edwin Snell of Dolphin Seating, and Steve Simons of VIP Cinema Seating. Here’s a sampling of their comments:

“When we pioneered the luxury premium seat to the cinema industry in 2008, the business model for what we were trying to sell didn’t seem to make sense. Exhibitors couldn’t resonate with ‘You lose 50 percent of your seats and increase your ticket sales by 80 percent.’ It’s very counterintuitive, but it’s factual.”

“Our advance ticket sales shot up immediately and drastically [after installing recliners]. We’d fill up the prime-time sets early and that over-fill would push to the nine o’clock set...”

“The occupancy rate prior to the recliner was, on average, 12 or 13 percent. With recliner chairs, the same screens often sell out Thursday through Sunday.”

“It’s like people rediscovered going to movies. For us, it’s not only changing how often people go to the movies, our customer satisfaction comments are off the chart.”

“Seats are evolving so quickly. We have a new chair where the entire chair is modular. Every part of the chair can be replaced in minutes. We have another proprietary product that’s ‘a brain in a chair”—a chair with a computer that has complete diagnostics.”

Another way of generating more revenue and making your theatre more attractive is reinvigorating the concession stand. This can be accomplished on any budget, as guest writer Bruce Proctor of Proctor Companies advises: “Consider updating your digital menu board with fresh suggestive-sell content, especially photos of higher-ticket combo options… Whatever level of refresh or renovation one goes with, remember: Don’t ever neglect your theatre’s number-one moneymaker—the concession stand.”

Meanwhile, guest columnist Jack Muffoletto of TK Architects is encouraging a new perspective on the lobby. “It needs to start with a strong sense of entry,” he urges. “This need not be expensive, just visually enticing and comfortable.” He advises, “Make your lobby into a favorite place to visit. Free high-speed a starting point… Consider a place where there are personalized perks aimed at instant gratification that incentivizes and motivates. Patrons want to use their apps, so have plug-ins for charging... For Millennials, social media is their primary mode of interaction with friends, co-workers and the outside world.”

The Premium Large Format market continues to experience a global expansion. Total PLF screens surpassed 2,000 worldwide for the first time at the end of 2015. Incremental revenues are a core driver of investment in next-generation cinema technologies and screens. The main role of PLF and other premium formats is to succeed in driving customers to higher-priced seating options.

The leading providers of PLF screens are Cinemark, Regal and Marcus Theatres. In the competitive global-based space, IMAX is the market leader with nearly 41 percent of the world base of PLF screens, or 77% of the global-branded category in 2015. All this information on PLF screens was compiled by our friends at IHS Markit.

We believe you will find if fascinating to learn more about the leaders in this industry. Enjoy your reading.

Unveiling a New Look

You may notice something different about the October edition of Film Journal International. We’ve undergone a modified redesign, freshening up the look of our columns and departments. And most important, we’ve brought many of those departments to the front of the magazine, giving more prominence to news items related to the theatre industry, announcements of upcoming feature films, and editor Larry Etter’s coverage of the concessions business. We hope you enjoy these changes as FJI moves into its ninth decade.