Industry

  • March 24, 2006

    Sundance Cinemas Returns

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Sundance Cinemas, the on again, off again project from Robert Redford’s Sundance Group, seems ready for its close-up after nine long years. The group, led by former Landmark Theatres executives Paul Richardson and Bert Manzari, has announced the purchase of the Kabuki 8 Theatres from AMC.

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, the theater is scheduled to reopen in late summer and early fall—just in time for the bulk of independent and art house film releases.

    Sundance Cinemas was first announced in 1997 as a joint partnership with General Cinemas, but never opened a single theater. The project was put on further hiatus whne General Cinemas filed for bankruptcy protection and was eventually sold to AMC.

    News surfaced last year that under Manzari and Richardson’s guidance (they departed Landmark with its acquisition by Mark Cuban), Sundance Cinemas would be relaunched.

  • March 17, 2006

    2006 ShoWest Round Up

  • February 22, 2006

    AMPAS chooses S. Charles Lee design for Oscar set

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that this year’s set for the Oscars will be a “no-holds-barred return to classic Hollywood glamour, paying homage to old movie theaters.”

    “When designing the Oscars, I try to make the current show as different from the year before as possible,” said Christopher. “Last year’s show was distinguished by a hi-tech, ‘cutting-edge’ style. So this year, there’s nothing hi-tech — it’s a no-holds-barred return to classic Hollywood glamour, paying homage to old movie theaters.”

    “I wanted to celebrate the movies and to include great movie houses and screens,” said Cates. “So Roy went back to the classic ornate movie houses for his inspiration, which, I think, is superbly reflected in the final design.”

    “I have always loved the movie theaters of the ‘30s, '40s and '50s,” Christopher said. “The man who designed many of them was S. Charles Lee, who was remarkably imaginative and architecturally daring, making movie theaters in styles ranging from the ornate Hollywood baroque to the sleek art-moderne. His spaces were exciting places that upon entering made you feel that something extraordinary was going to happen.”

  • January 27, 2006

    Mark Cuban asks “What business are theaters in?”

    In his latest blog entry, Mark Cuban, the spirited owner of Landmark Cinemas, takes a frank and fascinating look at the state of the exhibition industry.

    On collapsing the “release window” between theatrical exhibition and other release formats (DVD, iTunes, Cable, etc.)…

    How sad is it when the President of the National Assoc of Theater Owners doesnt think his members can create a better movie going experience than what we can see in our houses and apartments ?

    Guess what John, I can whip up a mean steak, but I still like to go to restaurants. Because I enjoy it. I enjoy getting out of the house with family, friends, who ever.

    On shifting demographics…

    The experience that a 16 year old expects is going to be completely different than what a 35 or 55 year old expects.

    When a 16 year old goes to a movie, there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with answering your cellphone, talking back to the screen and texting your heart away during a movie. The movie is just there because its better than doing the same thing sitting or walking at the mall, or hanging in your buddys smelly bedroom again, listening to his mom yell at him.

    All of the above drives anyone not in that demographic crazy. So when a couple of 35 year olds go to see King Kong, not only can you pretty much bet that they arent going to have a great experience during the showing of the movie, but they probably didnt have a great experience before they even got their seats.

    On giving theaters a piece of the DVD business…

    Its also probably a good time to take steps to be paid for the role you play in promoting the sale of DVDs and TV. You already know that you platform movies and create demand for future sales. Your problem is that you dont get paid for it. DVD sales now exceed box office sales and you dont get a nickel of those DVD sales. Its time for that to change.

    On what business theaters are in…

    First of all, I dont think they know what business they are in any longer. It appears they believe they are in the business of showing the movies Hollywood gives them and praying that Hollywood makes good movies and spends enough money to drive people through the doors so they make some money on the boxoffice and concessions. They arent.

    So, what do you think Cinema Treasures fans? (Read the full blog post and then comment below!)

  • January 16, 2006

    AMC – Loews Merger to Close Soon

    Loews Cineplex theatres will close at the end of the business day on Thurs. 1/26 and on Friday 1/27 will re-open as AMC Theatres. This will effectively relegate the Loews name, probably the oldest name in exibition, to the trash heap.

    Marcus Loew, a furrier, opened a nickelodeon on the second floor of a commercial building in Cincinnati in 1905, and the rest, as they say, is history. He went on to establish Loew’s, Inc., building some of the most opulent and ornate vaudville-movie theatres ever seen. “We sell tickets to THEATRES, not movies”, he was quoted as saying. Loew also formed the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios through a series of aquisitions and mergers, to supply product to his theatre empire.

  • January 5, 2006

    Slate on the ‘Popcorn Palace economy’

    In a new article on Slate, Edward Jay Epstein looks into the economics of the exhibition business.

    While most of you are probably aware that theaters make much of their profits from the concession stand, there’s plenty in this article you might not have thought about before.

    Once upon a time, movie studios and movie theaters were in the same business. The studios made films for theater chains that they either owned or controlled, and they harvested almost all their revenue from ticket sales. Then, in 1948, the government forced the studios to divest themselves of the theaters. Nowadays, the two are in very different businesses. Theater chains, in fact, are in three different businesses.

    First, they are in the fast-food business, selling popcorn, soda, and other snacks. This is an extremely profitable operation in which the theaters do not split the proceeds with the studios (as they do with ticket sales). Popcorn, for example, because of the immense amount of popped bulk produced from a relatively small amount of kernels—the ratio is as high as 60:1—yields more than 90 cents of profit on every dollar of popcorn sold. It also serves to make customers thirsty for sodas, another high-margin product (supplied to most theater chains by Coca-Cola, which makes lucrative deals with theater owners in return for their exclusive “pouring” of its products). One theater chain executive went so far as to describe the cup holder mounted on each seat, which allows customers to park their soda while returning to the concession stand for more popcorn, as “the most important technological innovation since sound.” He also credited the extra salt added into the buttery topping on popcorn as the “secret” to extending the popcorn-soda-popcorn cycle throughout the movie. For this type of business, theater owners don’t benefit from movies with gripping or complex plots, since that would keep potential popcorn customers in their seats. “We are really in the business of people moving,” Thomas W. Stephenson Jr., who then headed Hollywood Theaters, told me. “The more people we move past the popcorn, the more money we make.”

  • December 30, 2005

    ABC News: No Happy Ending in 2005 For Hollywood

    ABC is reporting the bad news that everyone has been pretty much expecting… ticket sales continued to drop this year:

    The bad news is that audiences did not exactly go ape over the rest of 2005’s cinema offerings, making this the third straight year of decline in Hollywood ticket sales — the first such stretch of bad news in 40 years. Because of the continued falloff — sales are down 12.6 percent from 2002 — a growing number of analysts are wondering whether America’s movie habits are changing permanently.

    “The industry has to consider whether or not American audiences are sending a message about the quality of the movies they are getting — or just the way and the place in which they get them,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, a firm that analyzes box-office trends. “You can bet that producers, writers, directors and studio heads are all huddling intensely to consider what this means and change their behavior to keep it from continuing.”

  • December 23, 2005

    Loews and AMC to Sell 10 Theaters

    Loews and AMC have agreed to each sell five theaters as a condition for the government to approve their merger next year. From the official press release:

    “Five theaters from each circuit have been selected by the [uS Department of Justice and various state attorneys general] for sale as a condition to enable the companies to proceed with their transaction. The theaters are as follows:

    AMC Fenway 13 (Boston)
    AMC City North 14 (Chicago)
    AMC Union Station 9 (D.C.)
    AMC Kabuki 8 (San Francisco)
    AMC Van Ness 14 (San Francisco)
    Loews Webster Place 11 (Chicago)
    Loews E-Walk 13 (New York City)
    Loews (Cineplex Odeon) Meridian 16 (Seattle)
    Loews Keystone 16 (Dallas)
    Loews (Cineplex Odeon) Wisconsin Ave. 6 (D.C.)

    It is anticipated that the sales process could take at least four months.

  • December 20, 2005

    Neighborhood Theaters in Lower Hudson Valley

    A feature article, “Pressure increases on Lower Hudson neighborhood moviehouses” by Candice Ferrette, ran on December 16, 2005 in Gannett’s The Journal News. (You can read it here, but I’m not sure how long the link will be active.)

    The impetus for the article is the opening of the new 14-screen multiplex, The Waterfront at Port Chester, just one of a number of new multiplexes in the area. It focuses on the three-screen Larchmont theater, but also includes a list of all the smaller venues in the lower Hudson Valley. As the article says, “…in the age of the multiplex — and the even bigger megaplex with more than 15 screens each — size, selection and stadium seating may matter more than the ability to walk to the old picture house on Main Street. … neighborhood theaters in some Sound Shore communities are caught in the classic struggle between the ‘quaint and charming’ and the ‘bigger with more selection.’”

    As the article points out, Clearview Cinemas, whose parent company is Cablevision, is owner and operator of nearly all of the smaller theaters in the Lower Hudson Valley—seven in Westchester and one in Rockland. Many of them have fewer than five screens per location, including the Mamaroneck Playhouse, the Rye Ridge Cinema in Rye Brook and the Larchmont Playhouse. These compare to the 15 screens at National Amusement’s Cinema De Lux at the City Center in White Plains, the 18 screens at the Regal New Roc City in New Rochelle and the 14 new screens at the Loews theater in Port Chester.

  • December 19, 2005

    No Cell Phone Signals in Theaters?

    The National Association of Theater Owners has requested that the FCC allow the blocking of cell phone signals inside movie theaters, according to this report from United Press International.

    John Fithian, the president of the trade organization, told the Los Angeles Times theater owners “have to block rude behavior” as the industry tries to come up with ways to bring people back to the cinemas.

    Fithian said his group would petition the FCC for permission to block cell phone signals within movie theaters.

    Some theaters already have no cell phone policies and ask moviegoers to check their phones at the door, Fithian said.

    The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association — a Washington-based cell phone lobby that is also known as CTIA-the Wireless Association — said it would fight any move to block cell phone signals.