Vue@10: Leading U.K. circuit expands on the continent

“One thing I always loved was the headline in The Times of London on the front page of the business section,” says Tim Richards, chief executive officer of Vue Entertainment. “It took us two-and-a-half years to negotiate and complete,” he notes about the seminal deal that became the foundation of the company that we are celebrating with this special section. “What they wrote in the headline was: ‘Unknown Bit Player Buys Warner Village Cinemas.’ I always loved that,” he heartily laughs. “It keeps us humble and helps us remain true to our entrepreneurial roots.”

Today, under the continuing guidance of Tim Richards and his deputy CEO and chief financial officer, Alan McNair, Vue Entertainment operates 144 state-of-the-art cinemas with over 1,300 screens in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Portugal, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Taiwan. With 66 million customers and more than £550 million (US$830.6 mil.; €642.4 mil.) of annual turnover, Vue has remained “a very entrepreneurial company at its core.”

Before providing additional details in our exclusive interview, Richards tells our readers one of the reasons why. “Everyone that joined our company left senior positions with top companies. They really rolled the dice with Alan and me because we had nothing other than a dream to build something. That doesn’t pay your bills, especially when you have young families,” he notes, giving credit to the Vue executive team. “We didn’t even have an office during the first three years because we wanted to keep our costs down.”

In those early days, Richards managed to keep his spirits up until all that hard work of the founding team was well-rewarded. “When we signed the Warner Village deal on May 13, 2003,” he recalls with obvious pride, “it was not only the end of what felt like an endless journey on that deal, it was the beginning of what we knew then was going to be something much bigger. We had laid our foundation… No one thought we would ever be able to acquire the Warner Village circuit. To be able to complete that acquisition with the support of everybody at Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, who put their trust in us, was a really big thing and a major turning point for all of us.”

“It sounds clichéd, but it is absolutely true,” Richards continues regarding the team effort. “As a company, Vue Entertainment has succeeded completely through the strength and efforts of a passionate group of executives who have worked seriously hard and love what they do. It’s not about me or Alan…it’s about the entire team: We have built this company together. Alan and I have been a large part of its success by steering and directing it, but this has ultimately been completely the result of a team effort.”

With teamwork at the core, does Richards have any other secrets to share with our readers about Vue’s success? “One of our qualities that we pride ourselves in is how highly analytical we are. We analyze the hell out of absolutely everything,” he says. “We also pride ourselves in being highly innovative. Every day of the week of every month, we are constantly trying to find some new way of doing business: a different way of operating, some new product, services or whatever it might be. We are constantly [trying to] find a better way.”

The following conversations with key executives on his wayfinder team—Stuart Boreman, Roland Jones, Steve Knibbs and Geoff Moore talking about programming, networks, operations and design—wholeheartedly support Tim Richards’ vision. “We have always set out to be the best that we could possibly be. Our goal was never to be the biggest, although becoming bigger is frequently the byproduct of being the best. But you have to manage your growth very carefully. Professionally and personally, it has always been far more important to us to be the best operator than to be the biggest operator. And that’s why we have managed our organic and acquisition growth in order to maintain the high level of quality at our cinemas that is so important to us.”