Class Laureate: CJ CGV Group brings exceptional cinemas to Korea


In our December edition, avid readers of Film Journal International enjoyed a first look at the contributions that South Korea’s CJ CGV Group made to the cinema “Class of 2013.” The introduction of their Cultureplex concept as part of our exclusive series about Cinema Entertainment Centers mentioned merely three new cinemas that CGV launched over the course of the past year (Cheonan Pentaport, Chunggye, Shinchon Artreon). In total, from Feb. 7 (CGV Daehan, featuring four screens and 661 seats in Busan) to Sept. 12 (CGV Hagye, four screens, 913 seats in Seoul), the circuit opened no less than 11 cinemas with 86 screens.

While this was in line with 2012 development in terms of locations albeit with more screens, and generally up over the past decade, 2013 could not reach the records of 2006-07 when CGV opened 24 cinemas with no less than 211 screens combined. What made last year special, however, was the June launch of CGV Shinchon Artreon as the 100th CGV location in South Korea. To acknowledge that accomplishment, this author decided to dedicate an entire special lesson to CGV, making the South Korean leader our “Class of 2013 Laureate.” (Similar honors go to Regal Entertainment Group in next month’s issue.)

“The hip and trendy interior elements,” Ik Jun Yun, executive of CJ CGV’s marketing division, told us back in December, make Shinchon Artreon “a perfect hangout spot for college students.” The “one-of-a-kind vintage look” was designed in collaboration with Siyoung Choi, “Korea’s most famous architectural designer,” he acknowledges. Featuring an entrance that “resembles an old train station, the raw look of metal structures, bricks and concrete creates a ‘modern retro’ atmosphere. He also points out “the high ceiling complemented by pendant lighting” and the “cozy” seating area en route to “another special place” in the complex. “Our Cinema Lounge can be used as a book café or an artsy party venue with a DJ booth,” he notes.

Designed with a “cinema platform” to recall the theme of “meeting the new world through movies,” the forward-looking venue (nine auditoriums, 1,468 seats) features the multi-sensory experience of 4DX and multiple screens at its “ScreenX” auditorium, alongside the premium “Sweetbox,” bouncy “Veatbox” (individual subwoofers embedded in each seat) and “Widebox” rooms (1.3 times larger than general theatre seating). CGV Shinchon Artreon also has equally premium offers for the cinema gourmet. The “Popcorn Factory” makes “delicious homemade popcorn with exclusive flavors and various toppings and sauces,” Yun explains. “In addition, of course, to a healthy ‘plain’ flavor with no salt and oil added.” As examples, he names Whiteberry (strawberries and white chocolate), Double Chocolate, Creamy Caramel and Real Cheese flavors. For those who just can’t decide, the combination drizzles caramel over the oh-so-cheesy popcorn.

“Another great eatery is the ‘Hot Dog & Pizza’ food-truck-like mini store… The menu includes CGV’s famous original hot dog, chili cheese dog, the New York-style hot dog, and hot dogs with garlic, roasted vegetables and/or spicy jalapeño. Our very own ‘Square Pizza’ easily makes a small meal combined with a cool and refreshing draft beer.”

Ever since building CGV Gangbeyon as their first multiplex in April 1998, the CGV teams have been refreshing the themes and ideas for their cinema developments. The general consensus has been that “the media and moviegoing public greatly appreciate and support CJ CGV for consistently leading and redefining the moviegoing experience and cinema lifestyle.” Asked for a brief history lesson in view of their tenth anniversary, the public-relations department happily obliged. The first generation of CJ CGV design was developed in collaboration with Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest and Australia’s Village Roadshow, the founding partners of CJ’s cinema endeavor, from 1998 to early 2000. “The two companies applied their theatres’ existing interior designs to create a colorful and vibrant space. The star as the design motif was repeated in yellow, red and blue on the walls as well as on the ceilings. The idea was to create a bold, elegant and exuberant atmosphere that breaks away from the traditional dark and dull theatre atmosphere. The star became the symbol of the multiplex.”

From early 2000 to 2008, the next design for CJ CGV not only offered various themes for the interior design—such as the universe, sea and nature—but also introduced luxury offerings through CJ CGV’s Gold Class, Cine de Chef, and other premium theatres. During the ensuing years to 2011, “our third generation was based on the concept of ‘minimal.’ The combination of black and gold stood out in a toned-down but upscale atmosphere.” The company history states that “this created a differentiated branding image in comparison to other theatres.”

Finally, the “symbolic design” of CJ CGV and its current, fourth iteration debuted with CGV Cheongdam Cine City in November 2011. “CJ CGV chose a vintage design to portray the various cultural lifestyles that the ‘Cultureplex’ offers,” Yun details. “The timelessness of this design overall and the use of vintage items from the 1950s and 1960s create both a comforting and cozy feel, as well as excitement. On top of that retro-inspired base, we added casual, modern and industrial attributes to evolve the theatre to become a multicultural center.”

In addition to said Cultureplex, CGV has since deployed various new concepts as well. “First, we consider local characteristics and market conditions of the area,” Yun explains, “before coming up with the appropriate concept based on our customers’ needs. For example, the city of Cheonan is lacking arts and entertainment venues, so we created a ‘Cinema Gallery’ at CGV Cheonan Pentaport. We also built ‘Cinema Bridge’ at CGV Chunggye because we knew there was high concentration of family-oriented customers with young children living there. Located in one of the most populated residential areas of Seoul, CGV Chunggye also promotes diverse events with family-oriented content.”

At CGV Hagye, that concern for kids goes even further. One of the four auditoriums there is customized for children. In addition to custom-sized and colored seats for the attending “Cine Kids,” CGV allocates staff in the auditorium as guardians, Yun confirms. There is also a dedicated library area for children.

“Once we conceptualize the appropriate main theme for the location,” Yun further notes, “we work on design components. Largely divided into interior design, furniture, signage and decorations,” this process is about making sure that “all those elements align with the designated theme. We also pay careful attention to the functionality of our designs. Going back to our ‘Cinema Gallery,’ for example, we applied white colors on the lobby walls so that the artwork can stand out. We also installed a picture rail on the upper part of the wall to easily hang different works. We also allocated space for displaying multi-dimensional art and selected structural elements for support, such as partition panels, hanging boxes, showcases and projectors,” all of which, he correctly emphasizes, are “design elements uncommonly found in theatres.”

The selection process of the types of special auditoriums—also not necessarily found in other theatres—is equally determined by the characteristics of each location. “We built a premium ‘Sweetbox’ because couples appreciate special and luxurious dates at CGV Cheongdam Cine City.” CGV Yeoeuido features a ‘Business Auditorium’ because of its location in the financial district of Seoul, as well as providing another case of location determining design. “Since CGV theatres are usually located in a leased property,” Yun notes, “we always need to consider and respect the original building structure and condition.” Located at IFC Mall, CGV was asked by the operators not to change a long entranceway to Yeoeuido. “To keep our customers entertained during their walk,” Yun says, CGV came up with the idea of “Cinema Street.” “We placed various cine shops and our ‘Twosome Place’ café along the way so that our guests would indeed feel as if they are walking the streets of London’s Soho filled with vintage shops, cafés and galleries.”

All that and more, Yun opines, is “the best feature of our theatres. We move our customers beyond the movie experience. CJ CGV is an entertainment and cultural hub with one-of-a-kind conveniences and friendly customer service.” For six years, CJ CGV has, in fact, been ranked the number one brand in the theatre industry by NCSI (National Customer Satisfaction Index) as organized by Korea Productivity Center. That makes another laudable achievement by our laureate. “Corporate culture and branding are usually all about everything representing a unified look and feel,” Yun says in conclusion of our special Class. To create each cinema differently “is to meet the diverse needs of our customers and provide them with new lifestyles. CGV customers come to our theatres not only to watch movies, but also to read books, grab brunch and/or watch a special showcase. In other words, CGV is a place for enjoying and sharing a wide range of entertainment and culture-related content."