Thinking positively at Cinema Expo

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Positive thinking is the key to success in nearly all endeavors. And the movie industry is finding it easier than most to think positively, since it traditionally performs well during challenging economic times. This certainly has been proven once again during the past 12 months.

Conventions for the movie industry are really great big “pep rallies.” They provide the perfect venue for theatre owners and film distributors to come together and speak about all the positive things that are happening in the industry—like new state-of-the-art cinemas, upcoming product from the Hollywood studios and the independents, and new technological improvements like satellite distribution.

Conventions offer the ideal opportunity to network with your partners in business and your competition and to come away with new knowledge that will make you better at what you do. They allow executives to learn from others how they are reviving their businesses in order to maximize efficiency and to drive incremental profit through new initiatives. And isn’t that what your business is about—satisfying your customers and drawing profits? Cinemas provide an opportunity for their patrons to be transported into a whole new world. Leave your problems at the door and escape into the greatest entertainment vehicle in existence—the magical movie.

When digital cinema was introduced nearly a decade ago, no one envisioned the ancillary benefits that would come along with it, and today digital is being driven by 3D, alternative content and cinema advertising. Going to the movies is a whole new experience and continues to evolve.

Cinema Expo International begins on June 22 in Amsterdam, and it promises to be a meeting place where delegates will experience exciting product reels from the film studios; all four major 3D systems in action; seminars on digital cinema, 3D and alternative content; a trade show with all the new bells and whistles of motion picture equipment and all the major players in the European film industry. Now, that is quite positive.

One of the areas that is covered regularly at CEI is concessions. Not enough emphasis is placed on this topic, although the profit derived from sales of candy, food and beverages is one of the most important areas of income for the theatre owner. As one of the major sponsors of CEI, The Coca-Cola Company does as much as any company to help drive patrons to their local cinemas. This year Barry Jones, Coca-Cola’s director, international cinema, global customer and commercial leadership, Europe, will lead a program that will focus on four distinct issues, all of which have a significant impact on the bottom line.

As exhibitors converge on Amsterdam, there is a genuine positive feeling as cinema attendance has achieved genuine real growth in the past couple of years, rather than a rise in box office coming primarily through price inflation.

2008 was a consistently strong year for exhibition in Western Europe. Admissions in the key 12 countries come to 824 million, an increase of 1.5 million over the previous year. The standout result came from France, where Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis became the most successful film of all time in that nation and helped boost admissions by seven percent.
It is evident that these markets have reached maturity thanks to the investment in screens across the region. Screen numbers rose by 852 between 2003 and 2008, according to Dodona Research. The most marked increase was in the U.K., which developed 292 more screens, followed by increases of more than 100 screens in France and Italy.

Exhibition in Central and Eastern Europe enjoyed a largely positive year. Russian cinema admissions continued their extraordinary rise, increasing 16 percent in 2008 and nearly tenfold since 2000. With almost 124 million admissions in 2008, Russia overtook Western European counterparts Spain and Italy and now stands behind only France, the U.K. and Germany in the European admissions race.

With the economy showing signs of rebuilding and box office off to a great start in 2009, the global motion picture industry seems on track for another banner year in 2009. Cinema Expo offers a huge opportunity to meet face-to-face with all the important exhibitors and industry technological experts at this important juncture in motion picture history, the Digital Age.

Saluting a European leader
What characteristics are readily noticeable in a theatre circuit to earn it major recognition from its peers? There are many, but probably the most important are service to the customer and acceptance of new technologies.

Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group fits this bill perfectly and is the logical recipient of Cinema Expo’s award as International Exhibitor of the Year for 2009. With 202 cinemas and 1,800 screens in seven countries, Odeon/UCI is the leading European movie chain and one of the largest exhibitors in the world. Odeon/UCI has been a pioneer in digital and 3D technology. The company has rolled out 150 DCI-compliant screens and is growing its 3D capabilities and is adding IMAX screens.

The company is consumed with customer service and has implemented a Mystery Shopper Programme that evaluates everything from restrooms to customer service to theatre presentation. The company also has roots in alternative content, as their original cinemas were combinations of film and live variety performance.

Odeon & UCI is also the largest Ben & Jerry’s franchise in the world and now does 30 percent of its weekly transactions online. Film Journal International salutes Rupert Gavin, CEO of the company, and his executive team on receiving this prestigious award—one which is richly deserved.