Excellence Comes in Threes

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In Focus

In the May issue of Film Journal International, we have the opportunity to salute and highlight three unique and highly competent professionals. Each of them has excelled at his job and has earned the respect and esteem of his colleagues.

Valmir Fernandes will be receiving this year’s CinemaCon “Global Achievement Award in Exhibition.” Valmir is the president of Cinemark International and is being honored for his role in building Cinemark’s Brazilian operation from scratch and using that model to spread their standard of excellence to theatres throughout Latin America. His story is extraordinary in that he was a complete novice when he was hired to launch Cinemark Brazil in 1996.

It doesn’t matter who you speak with in the industry, including Cinemark leaders Lee Roy Mitchell and Tim Warner, everyone has great things to say about Valmir, from his business acumen to his friendship and loyalty. Valmir is a first-class human being and this editor is pleased to call him a friend.

Ray Boegner is celebrating his 30th year with Ballantyne Strong. He is presently senior VP and is being singled out by his company and associates for his contributions to the motion picture theatrical industry. 

Ask anyone who is knowledgeable in the field who is the most visible and prolific “equipment person” in the business, and undoubtedly they will answer Ray Boegner. Ray helped digitize the U.S. and when he completed that, he headed to Europe, Latin America and the Far East.

Ray is one of a kind. He’s a real man’s man and his achievements and successes are well-known throughout the world. He has friends in every major city of the globe and this editor is happy to also call him a friend.

Fifty years is a long time, and in this edition we are pleased to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Landmark Cinemas of Canada. The president and CEO, Neil Campbell, is a true pioneer in the movie industry and has instilled in his employees the idea of community spirit and involvement. Neil has proven over and over again his acumen and his willingness to take risks to grow his business. Both are obvious in the decision to do a management buyout in 2007 and then to purchase 23 locations from Empire Theatres in 2013.

Neil gives all the credit to his wife Louise for his success and getting into this business—so, of course, family is most important to him. He enjoys his work and wants his employees to have fun at their jobs. You know he is a happy man by listening to his booming and formidable laugh. This editor is very pleased to be Neil’s friend.

FJI salutes these three remarkable men who have worked diligently to become prominent and respected executives in this great business. We think you will enjoy reading their profiles in this edition. Congratulations, Valmir, Ray and Neil!

Good Tidings for CinemaCon

As the industry gets ready to descend on Las Vegas for NATO’s annual CinemaCon convention, their enthusiasm and excitement is quite evident after a lackluster 2014. The first quarter is off to a terrific start thanks to American Sniper, The SpongeBob Movie, Fifty Shades of Grey and Cinderella. And earlier this month the phenomenal and record opening of Furious 7. And this is only the beginning, as there are many more sequels and tentpoles getting ready for release.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign, apart from these great upcoming films, is that exhibition and distribution are enjoying one of their most fruitful periods in the history of the business, with a shrinking home market and an ever-expanding global market.

Congratulations are in order to Mitch Neuhauser and his team for putting together a very comprehensive and innovative program. Our editors interviewed the top two NATO executives and we thought it would be very worthwhile to provide some of their insights here.

David Passman:

*In 2014, it wasn’t that the movies weren’t good or popular—there just weren’t enough of them.

*NATO believes that a well-spaced movie slate, with a variety of content that appeals to different groups of cinemagoers and tastes, ultimately performs the best over a full-year period.

*Exhibitors have the responsibility to provide a great moviegoing experience.

*Piracy continues to be a tax on our industry.

*I think Netflix and Amazon are great home viewing products, very similar to original programming by TV and cable. They are not, by themselves, a threat to movie theatres. As long as the window is respected, I am happy to see them succeed.

*Our studio partners and fellow theatre owners have been working together in an open and collaborative environment like never before.

*I like to think that my role has been to help this industry to all row together.

John Fithian:

*We are seeing better use of all 12 months in the calendar by our distribution partners, along with more diversity in the genres and the demographic targets throughout the year.

*Luxury seating is really taking off and expanded fine food and drink are becoming more the norm.

*There have been a few high-profile, sort-of-experiments from companies like Netflix. But, frankly, they are getting a whole lot more press than they are worth. These are not big movies and these simultaneous releases are not going to get played very widely.

*Everyone in the industry would find unacceptable the way in which retailers like Amazon or Best Buy try to hook onto the theatrical bandwagon.

*Technology is always a big issue at CinemaCon. Some really exciting stuff is coming, such as High Dynamic Range. Yes, we have laser illumination and there’s immersive audio to further engulf the audience with sound. One note of caution, as there is always at least one, these advancements are expensive.

*Especially striking this year is that moviegoers are really aging.

Thanks to both David and John for taking the time to be interviewed for this special edition. We think our subscribers will enjoy reading their full comments. See you in Las Vegas!

Preparing the Colosseum

People come to CinemaCon for many reasons. One key aspect of the show is screening features and product reels of upcoming releases from the major Hollywood studios. Being able to accommodate 3,000 people in one venue and giving them a fantastic theatrical presentation is a monumental task. CinemaCon does it by transforming a much larger space intended for live performances. That’s exactly what happens each year at Caesars Palace’s Colosseum, a massive 4,298-seat performance hall that normally sees the likes of Celine Dion, Elton John and others.

Turning the Colosseum into a giant state-of-the-art movie theatre is no easy task. A team of ICTA members including Christie, Dolby, QSC, RealD, Harkness Screen, Strong MDI, Sony Digital, MasterImage and Boston Light and Sound, along with the Colosseum’s technical staff, collaborate to convert the room in just a few days.

In the next issue of FJI, we will explore how this is done using photos and comments from the equipment manufacturers that participate. Yes, this is a Herculean job, and our hats are off to the companies that make it happen.