Landmark Programming: Kevin Norman knows about films and big screens

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For someone who “was booking 16mm films for three high schools in Vancouver, British Columbia” while he was still in high school, to become the head of filmed entertainment at Landmark Cinemas does not seem like much of a stretch. Nonetheless, Kevin Norman toyed with distribution briefly before moving into exhibition with Landmark Cinemas and affiliated companies in 1981. “I booked independent theatres and assisted with the Landmark bookings. By 1987, I was booking the entire circuit.”

Working in the film-buying business for over 40 years, he must have seen more films than we can possibly imagine. Did he discover any favorites along the way? “That’s a hard question to answer,” Norman admits. “I have several favorites in many different categories.” While there are just “too many to list,” he does narrow it down for Film Journal International. “My guilty pleasure has always been the James Bond series. I saw my first Bond film when I was ten years old and I was hooked ever since. I am a big fan of the original Sean Connery films, George Lazenby’s, and I even enjoyed the Roger Moore comedies! My favorite Bonds are the ones where 007 is up against Spectre and Blofeld. Needless to say, I am looking forward to November when the series returns with Spectre. Seeing a new film in a series that has been going on for as long as I can remember cannot help but bring back a lot of great movie memories.”

Continuing on that track, Norman confirms, “I was attracted to the industry at an early age. I was almost born into it. My mother and father were live stage performers and also took small parts in old movies when they lived in England. I became a film buff at an early age and loved to see movies on the biggest screens of the movie palaces.” Not surprisingly, then, “70mm was always a preferred presentation, but there weren’t a lot of choices in that format. Now, with IMAX and Premium Large Format, it is like a filmgoer’s dream given so many choices available in these large formats. And today’s 3D on these large screens looks spectacular, putting you right in the movie. We’ve come a long way since House of Wax.”

Fifty years is a long way to come for a company as well. And Norman is excited about how it is all playing out. “2015 is a Landmark Year! What a year to have for our 50th, with a release schedule filled with event pictures that look to set a new record. In addition, Landmark has recently added a larger slate of alternative entertainment in our locations.” Asked for some examples, he names “great success” with the “Globe on Screen” series. “The word has spread and a new series is just going to start in May. As demand grows for this product, we are looking to expand into other markets later this year.”

What about art-house programming and theatres for specialized product? “We also have locations where art and upscale product excel. North Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Kitchener and Waterloo are a few locations where we dedicate screens to these more upscale titles. We make these titles available in our smaller markets as well, through limited-engagement and art-series dates.”

In the movie business, art or otherwise, Canadians are generally considered the American “cousins” from up north. Norman has the experience and expertise to tell us how similar and/or different these two markets actually are when it comes to moviegoing. “I think that Canadians and Americans share most of the same moviegoing habits, but different titles can work better in Canada and vice versa. For example, we have always had added success in Canada on British films, whereas a film like American Sniper overperformed stateside.”

What are his thoughts on how the industry can assure overperformance on all things theatrical? Kevin Norman wants to see more films in more theatres, he says. “As windows shrink, we actively pursue opening films wide in as many markets as we can. In this digital age, I hope that in the near future we will be able to open films on the break in all markets when they are new and hot, with marketing and awareness at a peak.” For Norman, this is certainly a good way to fight shrinking windows and film theft. “This would be a change I would like to see, as I think it would increase attendance for all.”