Evolving Concessions

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In Focus

Ask anyone and they will tell you that concession sales are the gravy when it comes to profit at the nation’s theatres. Sometimes one wonders why the hype and emphasis is always on what’s on the screen rather than what is being served at the concession stand.

Today’s more sophisticated movie audiences want more than traditional popcorn and soda, and it is expected that theatres will make an effort to give them what they want. As demand increases, premium food offerings, alcohol and dine-in theatres have become more the norm.

Welcome to the National Association of Concessionaires’ Concessions & Hospitality Expo. This annual event caters to people in the foodservice industry and offers new products and the sharing of new ideas on how theatres and other venues can best ride the concessions sea change.

In this edition of FJI, associate editor Rebecca Pahle talks with Daniel Borschke, executive VP of NAC, as he gets ready to head to Minneapolis for their annual meet. Borschke opines that “quality is being demanded and it should be provided. This is a time for innovation, not for staying the course. Even though popcorn and sodas are still the best-sellers and are still the best profit-makers, you can’t live on the laurels of years ago.”

More companies are beginning to attend the show that deal in non-food items, such as digital signage and POS systems, which are becoming more prevalent due to looming menu-labeling regulations.

NAC is also striving to attract young people to the concessions industry, not as a part-time gig but as a career. We wish everyone at NAC a successful Expo.

A Circuit Gives Back

This is one of those interesting stories that very few people in the motion picture industry are aware of, but once you hear it, you will be emotionally moved by the acts of an eccentric and legendary entrepreneur. He died in December 2014, and from that day on he orchestrated his legacy from the grave.

John Santikos had a vision for how he wanted to be remembered and set the course in motion to perpetuate the Santikos legacy that he helped shape for decades:

* to maintain the quality of his theatres;

* to be a major employer in San Antonio. Texas;

* to give back to the community.

Upon his passing, the John L. Santikos Foundation, which held the theatres, real estate and land holdings, became the first and only theatre chain to operate as a social enterprise. With the revenue from ticket and concession sales, the company pays its bills and puts some away for the future, but everything else goes back to the community in the form of grants, charitable support, scholarships and donations.

So every time you by a ticket at a Santikos Theatre, you become a vital part of the charitable legacy—and that includes concessions. Mr. Santikos wanted to find ways to give back to the community that allowed him to build his circuit.

Many industry players are unaware of this great humanitarian. His forward thinking has made it possible for people in need, senior citizens, victims of child abuse and many other groups to benefit and prosper. John Santikos well deserves a posthumous award for his humanitarianism and innovation.

A Very Exclusive Home Theatre

People all over the world are demanding movie content at their fingertips. Over the years, many have tried to come up with a way to get first-run films into the home, day-and-date with the theatrical release. Very little has materialized.

A select number of home-theatre owners in the U.S. have been using Prima Cinema to access the latest movies of some Hollywood studios, at the cost of $3,500 a year for a set-top box and $500 per screening. Napster creator Sean Parker was stymied with his own day-and-date plan after filmmakers and exhibitors spoke out against his Screening Room, which was to offer new movies via a cheaper $150 set-top box for about $50 a movie.

Imax has now introduced IMAX Private Theatre, which is aimed at the growing number of highly affluent consumers in territories such as China and the Middle East. Those who can afford it now have the option to install private rooms with 10-foot-tall screens, where they can view the latest releases via a system called IMAX Home Premier, which uses fingerprint security technology. Construction costs range from $400,000 to $1 million, not including the $10,000 set-top boxes. This development poses no immediate threat to traditional theatres, but it’s certainly a new wrinkle that bears watching.

Targeting Sodium Reduction

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued draft guidance for public comment that provides voluntary sodium-reduction targets for the food industry. Average sodium intake in the U.S. is about 3,400 mg per day. The voluntary targets are intended to help the American public gradually reduce sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. They are also intended to complement many existing efforts by food manufacturers, restaurants and foodservice operations to reduce sodium in food.

This practical and voluntary approach to sodium reduction proposes sensible reductions across a broad range of food categories with high and moderate amounts of sodium. We applaud this effort by the federal government, as it is voluntary and educational. Many states are looking to either legislate or regulate sodium and in lots of cases are going further to include sugar and different allergens.

Individuals need to determine what goes into their bodies, not the government. Advice, dialogue and education are the best way to tackle these issues.