Using Their Ymagination: From Eclair to CinemaNext, digital leader unveils new branding
When we hear about éclairs, people across the globe conjure visions of vanilla, coffee and/or chocolate custard-filled pastries. While that mouthwatering association would not be out of place in this magazine’s concessions section, covering the ever-increasing snack offerings at movie theatres, leave it to the French to associate the effects of “lightning” (the original meaning of the word) with delicious taste. Éclairageis also used in France to signify lighting on a movie set.
In our exclusive—and hopefully illuminating—report about Ymagis Group, the pan-European “specialist in digital technologies for the cinema industry,” “Éclair” refers to a storied French company at the heart of an inventive and inspired corporate rebranding. “Éclair is one of the most prestigious names in cinema history,” declares Jean Mizrahi, the Group’s chief executive officer. “It is the oldest lab in the world that is still in operation and has been an innovative company since it was created. Éclair was, for example, behind the first 16mm cameras that could be manipulated easily and thus paved the way for the French Nouvelle Vague.” The legendary film production, laboratory and movie camera manufacturing company was founded all the way back in 1907, or 100 years before the creation of Ymagis Group.
Since its founding in 2007, “Ymagis has been a rapidly growing organization with the acquisition of several digital-cinema services companies,” the company noted in March. “Our group is constantly expanding its products and services portfolio in addition to introducing our offerings in new markets.” So it made sense to Mizrahi, and the team of more than 675 employees, to channel that growth into an entirely new positioning—one that is based on the company’s manifold assets and traditional values. This rebranding encompasses all aspects of the visual identity of each brand, Mizrahi noted, as well as the reworking of their tagline, mission and vision statements. “It is essential to us today that all businesses be recognized by our clients, partners, investors and collaborators through powerful brands and symbols.”
Going forward, new naming and visual identities accompany three business units—Eclair, emboldened by a bolt of yellow (but without the accent mark), with a trustworthy-blue CinemaNext and a double-striking Ymagis Group. “We wanted to reflect the great and lengthy history of the Éclair brand,” Mizrahi elaborates. “Éclair’s original iconic logo in the early 20th century was a diamond shape with lightning bolts. We’ve retained this strong symbol of our legacy but have redesigned it to achieve a very modern and dynamic look. We are conveying that we have been in the business since the birth of cinema and are today a leading cinema company looking toward the future. The lightning bolt is an important legacy that we wanted to preserve and grow upon. It is anchored in our collective consciousness as a symbol of dynamism, strength, creation, speed… And it is easily recognizable the world over.”
Dynamic as ever, the revamped Group has also taken steps to fortify its organizational backbone. “Our goal is to increase synergies across our divisions,” explains Mizrahi. “We are in a unique position with a presence across the whole cinema value chain, from production to exhibition. No other company has such a wide experience. This helps Ymagis develop new concepts, and better understand the deep changes that this industry is going through since digital has taken over. We believe that the cinema industry is about to drastically change its business models; we want to help our clients transform themselves to take advantage of this evolution.”
The Ymagis trademark remains the parent brand of the holding company and will be used by all VPF and Financial Services, which currently cover over 6,400 screens by around 300 different European exhibitors. Ymagis comes from the old-English word that means “Image,” Mizrahi tells us.
Headquartered in Paris (France), the publicly traded company is managed by an executive committee that, in addition to Mizrahi, includes Pierre Flamant (chief financial officer), Till Cussmann (senior VP, CinemaNext), Christophe Lacroix (senior VP, Eclair) and Manel Carreras (senior VP, Eclair, business development and studio relations). Also on the committee and the Group’s deputy chief executive officer, Georges Garic sees the new brand identity and corporate architecture as speaking to their firm “commitment to quality, technology and vision as a ‘glocal’ partner for the motion picture and television industries.” The contraction of global and local defines the multinational group operating in 20 countries, Garic feels. “Éclair is a world-renowned brand that brings with it a lofty history dating back to 1907, only a few years after the birth of the motion picture itself… CinemaNext shows that our services are future-looking in our ability to offer smart and innovative global solutions to clients and implement them on a local basis.”
From the main office in Vanves (near Paris, France), all Content Services are operated under the name Eclair, offering additional operational entities in Paris, Strasbourg and Auxerre (France); Berlin and Karlsruhe (Germany); Barcelona (Spain), Liège (Belgium), Rabat (Morocco), London (England) and New York (USA). Now combining domestic and international content activities from the prior divisions, including Smartjog Ymagis Logistics and dcinex, Eclair covers motion picture distributors, producers, sales agents, advertising agencies, television broadcasters, VOD/S-VOD platforms, and video publishers. The business unit is divided into six divisions: Post-Production, Theatrical Distribution Services, Digital Distribution Services, Versioning & Accessibility, Restoration and Preservation.
Eclair remains the only provider with a content-delivery service (via broadband or satellite) across Europe thanks to its network of 3,300 connected cinema sites. “We are also expanding our content-delivery network to U.S. cinemas,” Mizrahi says about its broadband network that started operations in 2015 and is about to reach 100 connected cinemas. Not in the least, “Eclair is one of the leading companies active in HDR post-production in Europe, and is working on new concepts to offer HDR solutions to the cinema industry.”
Exhibitor Services activities are offered by CinemaNext, which has become the largest provider in Europe with over 7,000 screens currently under service contracts. Delivering on the previously stated promise of “global reach with local support” that is close to the 9,500-strong base installed by its technicians, the headquarters at Pôle Image in Liège guides 17 additional offices: Düsseldorf (Germany), Cuijk (The Netherlands), London (England), Montrouge (near Paris, France), Valencia (Spain), Athens (Greece), Bucharest (Romania), Budapest (Hungary), Casablanca (Morocco), Istanbul (Turkey), Lausanne (Switzerland), Lodz (Poland), Moscow (Russia), Prague (Czech Republic), Rome (Italy), Vienna (Austria) and Zagreb (Croatia).
Just in May, CinemaNext opened its first French regional sales and technical support office at the Pôle Pixel in Villeurbanne, a suburb of Lyon. Guaranteeing “onsite service within three hours or less” strengthens CinemaNext’s relationship with clients such as Adira, Megarama and CNP Terreaux and Bellecourt, said Olivier Douet, head of sales for France, Switzerland and Africa, on the occasion. “Thanks to our stock of consumables [he went on to mention Barco, Christie, NEC, Sony, Ushio, Osram and Dolby], we will be able to further develop our logistical and technical services offer, including maintenance and onsite support.”
Under the leadership of senior VP Till Cussmann, CinemaNext encompasses four divisions with Sales & Field Services, Software Solutions, NOC Services and Consulting. The latter is tasked with advising “private-equity firms, investment/property developers, real estate companies/owners and cinema exhibitors” from its London base.
Mizrahi credits the CinemaNext team for covering the entire range of exhibitor needs—from projection equipment, audio systems, central systems, cinema outfitting, content management, 3D projection systems and glasses, TMS, digital signage, screens and seating to consulting services including design and project management. After equipment sales and financing, and installing it all, CinemaNext covers maintenance and support, their list continues, providing online monitoring and content management, as well as supplying spare parts and consumables.
“It only takes one stop for cinema operators to access first-class services in order to create new cinemas, maintain or refurbish existing ones, and plan future developments.” Mizrahi says. The company also intends to become a software provider. “From its existing TMS and digital signage solutions, CinemaNext has plans to develop a wide range of solutions that will help exhibitors improve their operations.”
“Smart Solutions in Action”
In addition to reorganizing all three business units and lighting up its visual identity, Ymagis Group has also redefined the company’s key message with a new tagline. “The three words synthetize the spirit of the company,” Mizrahi feels. “We provide solutions more than products to our customers, want to be innovative, and rapidly bring the best ideas so that all our customers can take advantage of the technological changes in the industry.”
In closing, there is no better way to “Ymagine” all the possibilities when one company is so “Dedicated to Digital Cinema” than to look at what the most recent quarterly report had to say. Published on May 11, Exhibitor Services, which is dearest to our readers’ hearts (and wallets), saw a “strong uptrend” for the sales and installation business of 41.4% at €11.2 million (US$12,54 mil.). Apart from the consolidation of its respective units in France and Spain (R2D1, Proyecson), revenue was boosted by “new cinema builds in Europe and investments made by cinema owners in new image and sound technologies,” naming Dolby Atmos, 4K and laser projection. Ymagis Group called this performance “all the more notable as it does not yet include the positive impact of the replacement of first-generation digital projection systems, which is anticipated to be implemented on a large scale beginning in 2017.” During this year still, “VPF activities will be impacted by the recoupment in a number of smaller territories… This will translate into a progressive lowering of revenues generated by these activities and will enable…the Group’s massive deleveraging and a significant increase in free cash flow.”
Free cash flow and new sales…sounds like the course is set for more success. “Ymagis Group intends to continue its investment in cinema technology, and remains very optimistic on the future of the cinema industry,” Jean Mizrahi agrees. “Digital has helped exhibitors improve the profitability of their operations. Across Europe we now see existing cinemas adding more screens, and exhibitors creating new cinemas. We expect a rapid growth of the installed base as digital provides more content available to cinemas, and greater flexibility in programming,” he foresees. “In this context, we want to provide the best options to the market and make sure this trend will translate into more tickets sold, and higher margins for cinema owners as well as film distributors.”