The Integrator: Vilma Benitez celebrates four decades at Bardan Cinema

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Cinemas Features

In celebration of Celluloid Junkie’s third annual survey of its “Top 50 Women in Global Cinema,” we spoke with Bardan Cinema’s CEO, Vilma Benitez, who is listed as number 31 in CJ’s ranking.

“I feel humbled and deeply honored to be in such good company,” she admits. “The diversity of our industry is so much of what makes it such a wonderful ecosystem to be a part of and I am glad to see that being celebrated.”

Benitez has been the international service provider’s chief executive for the past 11 years, first joining the organization way back in the late 1970s—an impressive four-decade run.

By way of a quick introduction for those who may be a little less familiar with the company, Bardan is a leading cinema systems integrator in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an increasing presence in the U.S. market.  

According to Benitez, “For three generations we have worked intimately with our customers and vendors to continuously nurture and develop the entertainment industry in our region. As the landscape has changed, we have helped our market to adapt in new technologies and modes of operation while focusing on traditional, high-touch customer service as a guiding principle.”

Among those new technologies they are emphasizing and capitalizing upon is the growing popularity of laser projection. Recently, Bardan has noted tremendous positive momentum continuing to build behind laser-illuminated projectors, Benitez confirms.

More full laser complexes (cinemas where all of a facility’s auditoriums are outfitted with either laser phosphor or RGB laser projectors) have been opening in South and Central American countries such as Chile, Peru, El Salvador and Colombia, as well as in downtown Miami, just a stone’s throw from the company’s Florida offices.

“Not only are moviegoers beginning to take note of difference in image quality that RGB laser projectors provide,” Benitez affirms, “but exhibitors are now more intrigued than ever by the benefits an all-laser complex can afford them, from both an operational cost and maintenance perspective.”

Provided a system is properly designed for a customer’s specific needs, the total cost of ownership (TCO) can be very compelling when compared to Xenon-illuminated projectors, especially when combined with special warranty packages, such as the ones Bardan offers to its international clientele.  

In the coming months, the company plans to make some “exciting” announcements related to new cinema projection system product offerings, so 2019 promises to be an even stronger year ahead for laser, Benitez predicts.

Bardan’s technical arm—D-CinemaNOC—features a highly skilled team of technicians that are available on-demand and ready to provide a wide range of services to theatrical exhibitors. These include proactive equipment monitoring, remote support and onsite maintenance, system design and staff training. 

“With over 40 years in the cinema business, we know that we are an industry built on relationships, and at Bardan those relationships are paramount,” Benitez states.

“Though the times have changed, our core focus has always remained the same since the company’s inception: to provide our customers with the right products and the best service experience possible.

“We get to know our clients well, so that when we design a system for them, we know it is going to work for them from the very beginning and we follow through on that investment through the life of the products. We curate our list of vendors deliberately and thoughtfully, working with like-minded companies who understand the value of reliability and strong post-sale support.”

According to its corporate website, Bardan’s robust roster of industry partners includes Figueras, Strong/MDI, Dolby Atmos, Philips Lighting International, Cinionic/Barco Laser, Klipsch, Severtson Screens, Arts Alliance Media, DepthQ, APC by Schneider Electric, Dell and Cisco.

The Bardan team has grown dramatically over the years and the organization continues to expand its local presence throughout the regions it operates in to better serve customers. Says Benitez, “As the industry has evolved technologically, we have served as advisors to our clientele, helping them make the investments worth making and avoid the risks not worth taking.”

She continues, “We have leveraged technology to better serve our clients, utilizing tools like our Network Operations Center to further improve our post-sale support and technical service.  

“We have learned a great deal about how to grow over the course of the last four decades,” she says, “but in the end we have found a great deal of value in always remembering the importance of trust and reliability.”

So what lies ahead for the movie theatre industry in coming years, according to Benitez? “For the past decade, we have been focused on the conversion and expansion of digital cinema hardware, but I believe that in the coming years we will see a massive shift in focus. 

“With theatres fully integrated and interconnected, the opportunities to develop applications atop these platforms are limitless. When we first began installing digital projectors in our region, they were utilized much in the same way as the old film projectors, but we are only now beginning to truly explore what new modalities these technologies afford us in terms of how a theatre can operate.”