International savoir faire: FJI goes global for final survey of 'Class of 2012' cinema openings
For its final lesson, the cinema “Class of 2012” is brushing up on its language skills. With CinemaCon bringing the global exhibition community to Las Vegas, Film Journal International is taking our readers to the eastern regions of the globe. As with the preceding entries in our ninth annual series, this survey is selective and personal and in no way lays claim to being comprehensive.
Landing at Terminal 2 of the Hong Kong International Airport, our students have the opportunity to catch the latest giant-screen adventure at the IMAX. Having unveiled the market’s largest screen in July 2012, the 350-seat auditorium is the third IMAX in Hong Kong for UA Cinema Circuit and the world’s only one located in an airport (www.uacinemas.com.hk/eng/imax/index.jsp). James Law Cybertecture International, the firm that has brought many of the most exciting projects to our “Class” reviews over the years, is the conceptual designer.
“Travelers can enjoy the ultimate movie experiences with IMAX before and after their journey,” the company founder opines. “The cinema’s main color is the same blue as the IMAX logo. This universal eye-catching color guides its visitors to and through the entire experience.” Equally eye-catching, if not more so, are the different “curve fins” that Law says “reflect the same design as the airport, which, in turn, was inspired by the shape of air flow.” He particularly likes “the organically shaped gate of the entrance as it welcomes people by way of stimulating the passing through to another destination.” Law calls this destination “A Movie World” as brought to you by UA Cinemas.
Upon entering through the gate, he continues the tour, another “row of blue fins guides visitors to the box office, creating a journey of discovery to the entrance of the cinema auditorium. The box office and concession area are designed as an island with the signature blue fins placed all over to create another destination point. UA IMAX is a breakthrough project in design to provide the audience with the ultimate in comfort and The IMAX Experience.”
The experience that CinemaCon honoree Cinépolis offers across India (www.cinepolisindia.com) is one that its country director, Javier Sotomayor de Zavaleta, calls “the first truly international experience for cinema patrons.” He names “spacious lobbies, bright interiors and easy access to all the auditoriums and services,” such as a gourmet café inside the cinema premises under the proprietary “Coffee Tree” brand. Alongside stadium-style seating with the “largest leg room,” he says, Cinépolis has the only cinemas with 100% DCI-compliant digital projection, including 4K projectors installed at Bangalore and Mumbai.
“Our cinemas provide the best in technology and experience. What a cine-goer expects in developed markets, we bring the same technology to all our projects in India. Cinépolis has been very well-received by our patrons. Our theatres command a handsome lead over the competition in market share, in terms of both footfall and revenues. The better 3D technology that we deploy has been the most prominent UPS [unique selling proposition] that has caught on with audiences. Cinépolis has the highest share of admits for 3D movies.”
Throughout 2012, Cinépolis launched three new locations in Ludhiana (five screens/1,378 seats; opened June 1, 2012) Bhopal (seven screens/1,421 seats; June 15) and Mangalore (five and 1,233; Dec. 8), bringing the total number of screens at nine locations to 49.
“More than 100 screens are under different stages of fit-outs,” Sotomayor looks ahead. “The true Cinépolis experience is going to ‘go live’ this year with our megaplexes in Pune, Thane and Kochi, to name a few. Another 300-plus screens are signed and in various stages of developer activities. This will take us to our initial target of 500-plus screens in India by 2017. The journey for us in India has just begun.”
With five new locations in four of the seven countries that Cinema City International covers, the journey certainly continued apace in 2012 for the largest multiplex operator in Central & Eastern Europe and in Israel. On March 22 in Ostrava, Cinema City opened its 14th multiplex and screens number 112 to 119 in the Czech Republic. The 1,195-seat, all digital cinema at Forum Nova Karolina represents “great opportunity to offer our best standards of cinema-going across the whole country,” noted Moshe J. Greidinger, chief executive officer of Cinema City and another great alumnus of our Class. “We are currently in the process of repositioning our chain, which includes major refurbishments of our prime locations.”
About the chain’s May 1 and Dec. 7 launches in the Romanian cities of Constanta (eight screens/1,774 seats; all digital and all 3D) and Ploiesti (12/2,089; all digital/3D), Greidinger noted, “We are excited to open…where we are always welcomed very warmly and our cinemas are serving enthusiastic audiences from the first day of operations. I am convinced that Cinema City in Ploiesti will enjoy the same success like our multiplex in Constanta.” With 146 screens in 15 multiplexes, and some 20 more planned, “Romania is the country where Cinema City progresses with the most intensive organic growth,” it was further noted in December.
On May 15, Cinema City 10 (1,164 seats) at Galleria Burgas became the sixth multiplex in the fifth city in Bulgaria, before July 19 marked the opening of Yes Planet in Rishon LeZion, Israel. With 3,632 seats and 24 screens, including the first digital IMAX theatre in the country and the first “wild” 4DX multi-sensory cinema in Europe, alongside “the elegant and quiet atmosphere of the VIP halls,” the megaplex was deemed the new flagship location for Cinema City International. On opening day, Greidinger was “exceptionally happy and proud to open our largest-ever built cinema, which is at the same time the highest-end cinema offering ultimate cinema-going experience and standards.”
Bringing KinoPark Esentai with 11 screens and 2,144 seats to Almaty, Kazakhstan, was a “long and arduous project for everyone involved,” says designing architect Walter Achatz (www.atelier-achatz.de), mainly because of the world economy. “After seven years of planning and building,” the Munich, Germany-based architect, his client and their partners, “very happily celebrated the opening with a big party” on Dec. 14. A sign measuring 45 by 7 m (148 by 23 feet) was placed “Hollywood-like in the hills above,” he recalls. “In order to have a luxury cinema that matches the luxury mall developed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Atmaty’s Aliance Bank and KinoPark invested some $20.5 million.”
Among the luxurious offerings are a 400-seat IMAX 3D auditorium with the largest screen in Kazakhstan (22.5 x 11.5 m, or 74 x 38 ft.) and a 400-seat house with NEC 4K projection and 23.1 immsound system (four others feature 13.1 immsound). NEC and MasterImage 3D are used throughout the complex, Achatz further notes. One VIP and one “semi-VIP” screen with 48 and 98 seats, respectively, have been named La Dolce Vita and La Strada. Not too surprisingly, the cinema restaurant is called “Fellini” and was placed between the two. Under construction is KinoPark’s GameQPark that will offer 2,700 sq. m (29,000 sq. ft.) with a gourmet burger station, Café Americano and Red Bull Racing simulators. Of the 180 computer game stations, several will be catering to business and VIP clients, Achatz says.
“In 2013, KinoPark has three more cinemas and entertainment centers under construction,” he notes, providing a positive outlook for next year’s graduates. “In Russia as well, we are experiencing a restart. Together with a group of investors, our client Paul Heth has acquired Karo Film and has exciting plans to rework and freshen up the brand. Four large theatres of between 18 and 22 screens are on the drawing boards or under construction already. Even in Germany, after so many years of standstill, we will be building a multiplex in the Bavarian city of Fürth. As you can see, things are moving again.”