Very Important Projects: VIP Cinema Seating sees rapid growth

Features
Technology

Although the theatrical exhibition industry is in the midst of a challenging mid-year box-office slump in terms of annual revenue against all-time record receipts in 2016 (in the U.S.), one part of the business that continues in bull market trend is the global luxury seating sector, which shows no sign of a decline on the horizon...only a recline.

In order to help entice patrons away from competing entertainment streaming options and other options for disposable income, worldwide cinema owners continue to upgrade their facilities at a rapid rate, and one of the clear beneficiaries of the so-called “recliner revolution” has been New Albany (population 8,716 per Google), MS-based VIP Cinema Seating.

“Recliner seating has been game-changing for the cinema industry and we feel there is a significant amount of runway ahead,” says VIP’s chief executive officer and founder, Steve Simons. “Exhibitors continue to recognize the financial benefits this is having on their business model,” he adds.

The company has completed over 500 custom cinema projects to date, finishing 2016 with an impressive 44.2 percent year-over-year increase in overall shipments, according to a recent company news release.

VIP Cinema Seating continues to “strike while the iron is hot,” recently announcing its fifth domestic plant expansion in just eight years. The company now has a Mississippi manufacturing footprint north of 600,000 square feet, factoring in the addition of 190,000 more resulting from its latest growth spurt.

This increased capacity allows the company to produce as many as 2,000 luxury seats each day to help meet the significant demand for luxury seating from the global exhibition industry. Helping fund its future growth, VIP announced that it was the recipient of an undisclosed investment by an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital, a Miami-based private-equity and alternative-assets firm with a war chest of $21 billion under management.

Back on the home front, VIP has not been shy about proudly publicizing its “Made in the USA” ethos. Says Simons, “From the very beginning we have been committed to building high-quality products that are made in the USA. I am proud that we employ over 500 people in small-town USA. This has had a meaningful impact on many families in our community.”

Concurrent with its ongoing focus on domestic manufacturing expansion, there is still the matter of accommodating international premium-seating solution requirements. To better address overseas orders and stay ahead of the demand curve, VIP has elected to open its first manufacturing outpost outside the U.S., with plans to set up shop in Europe next year.

Tenno Tsai, managing director of H.I.G., recently stated, “VIP is the clear leader in a rapidly growing market and has a compelling customer value proposition. We see tremendous opportunities in the business and are excited to support their continued growth, particularly in international markets.”

So what has been the secret to the organization’s worldwide seating success and fairly rapid ascension to its acknowledged luxury leadership role…putting the company on a proverbial roll, so to speak? According to Simon, it’s as simple as the company’s “ability to work closely with our customers, listening to their needs and building an innovative and highly experienced team who can bring these ideas to market.”

A wide range of luxury seating options is also an important component of VIP’s overall corporate strategy, and their aim is to fulfill a variety of different space requirements, since auditorium shapes and sizes tend to vary. Audiences also seem to rave about the company’s “living-room comfort,” states Simon.

Speaking of “at home” amenities targeted to appreciative moviegoing audiences, “We have the ability to configure all of our chairs into loveseats or continuous rows,” Simon notes. VIP can also adapt a wide range of custom tables and premium features into any of its chair models. Their team also works closely with its customers to develop the ideal combination within their design parameters.

In addition to input from its clientele, Simons points out that a key lesson learned along the way is that “great ideas can come from any customer comments or employee suggestions. It is very important to listen to individuals at all levels of the organization.” He should know, having grown up in the furniture industry and spending an entire career in sales, manufacturing and product-development roles.

Looking ahead, Simons indicates that VIP will not rest on its laurels but will continue its focus on innovating. “We have a number of significant products in development that we are excited about as this concept evolves. We look forward to meeting with your [Film Journal International] readers at CinemaCon 2018 as we launch our next series of innovations,” he concludes.