Comments from John Fink

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John Fink
John Fink commented about Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet on Jun 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Hillariously AMC is loosing their “flag ship” – haven’t been to an AMC in a few months, so I wonder if they’ll change their pre-show “magic chairs” ads. Good thing for the Power and Light District is they are getting a far better operator, Alamo Drafthouse is moving in:

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Bridgewater Commons on Jun 3, 2012 at 12:30 am

PS: some of the photos posted here ARE NOT OF THIS THEATRE but of Essex Green. First clue is this isn’t a Cinema Suites location. This should be taken care of and photos submitted (I suspect) should be taken by those providing them to avoid this type of mistake.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC to be sold to Wanda Group on May 22, 2012 at 11:51 pm

The comments on Facebook are kind of hilarious – especially ones about AMC deleting comments as a “communist” move. But I don’t see how this is any different than their present ownership. I remember Loews after Sony sold it (I think to Bain Capital….they there’s a name that’s been coming up lately) – over night it went from being well run to being dirty, short staffed with little care for presentation. There are other foreign firms running cinemas in the US – including Big Cinemas (from India) and Cineoplis (from Mexico), and a few chains run by owners whose values I don’t share (Kerasotes racist decision in certain inner-city neighborhoods for one).

With this said, culturally this is sensitive – AMC is one of the oldest exhibitors, an iconic brand that happens to be based right in the center of the country: I see this outrage even though I view the deal as nothing more than an equity stake in the company – if Wanda isn’t achieving a substantial rate of return on their investment they’ll sell it off to someone else. But because it is China (and I’ll give the protestors the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re mostly talking about human rights abuses in their opposition to China) – it presents a psychological problem.

Still the deal is slightly perplexing: I happen to think Wanda is achieving a few things – they are first testing the waters with a big American brand investment (they have been talking about acquiring hotels in the US next), and – to a lesser extent AMC’s management experience (which is somewhat spotty although perhaps they buy into Lopez’s new vision for the company). AMC has certainly learned from its mistakes (no more 20+ plexes), but a management team can be bought for much cheaper – a few million verses two billion+.

I don’t think Wanda will be involved in large day to day activities and programing as FB speculates, but I imagine American studios are excited and there is some synergy that might thaw US-China relations if we can expand the number of titles China allows us to export. Still, cultural protections are important for any film industry (I know, even communists) – but consider the mission of the NFB in Canada, it achieves roughly the same end (to foster talent and export an image of a nation to itself and abroad). It should be interesting to see what happens with this deal, but I imagine if AMC can’t perform (I don’t think its entirely a debt issue), Wanda will sell it off.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cumberland 4 on May 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Jon – wouldn’t Cineplex (which I don’t think can buy AMC outright – it’d have to be Empire or another player would have to enter the GTA) – insist on splitting product between Scotiabank and Younge & Dundas. Another theater that may benefit from the Cumberland’s closing is TIFF Bell Lightbox.

With that said, I’m sad to see this one go, I’ve had several good movie experiences here (this was the first theatre I ever went to in Toronto, on the eve of my first TIFF in 2007, in 2008 it was used for press screenings when AMC opened). Confusing and odd as its layout was, there was something of a classy vintage urban charm to it (not just a big box suburban type of multiplex in the middle of a city like Scotiabank). I’m not sure a new competitor could open in Yorkville/Bloor and get decent product, the Varsity will sometimes be showing films on the same weekend they’re exclusive in NY and LA. A dedicated luxury theatre like Cineplex’s VIP or iPic Theaters in the US would be a great fit for Yorkville.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cablevision looking to sell Clearview chain on May 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Theaters in plazas largely depend on if the plaza needs them – there are some theaters that anchor plazas as loss-leaders under operating agreements. Clearview seems to have not really followed the business model that other regionals do, which is acquiring leases at bargain basement prices as the theatre threatens to go dark. If a theater in a competitive zone goes dark for a few weeks (or years) it’ll have a hard to ever getting first run product, especially if there’s a theater within a mile. There’s also theaters like Phoenix/Big Cinemas that make a business out of managing theaters (taking a percentage of the gross) that could step in.

Sundance Cinemas another firm with money looking to expand in Westchester and Long Island – they do a complete top to bottom redo (in fact the first time Redford attempted a Sundance chain with General Cinema, he considered a General Cinema location in Scarsbrough but reject it on architectural grounds per Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures). Any ideas which one that was/what became of it?

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cablevision looking to sell Clearview chain on May 15, 2012 at 1:14 am

Not so sure about Landmark, if they picked up the whole chain it would double its size and from what I heard Mark Cuban was also thinking about selling it off. They did pick up two from AMC/Kerasotes but they were stadium seating multiplexes that would have added value.

For those not from NJ/NYC: most of Clearview is on par with Cinemark’s discount houses. It must be tough to get a large exhibitor interested in a chain comprised of sites that exhibitors in large part ceased operating (many of their sites were acquired from United Artists, General Cinema, Nelson-Firman, CGM, and AMC) – essentially in a three year period they spread like the plague taking over many independent theaters quickly. While others would have retrofitted their top performing theaters with stadium seating as a strike against a new AMC in the market, Clearview renovated without stadium seating while opening a brand new theater without stadium seating (like SOPAC).

Once positive: after all the complaining I did about their operations, they slightly improved where they could – meaning MOST OF THE TIME if the theater was properly constructed you might get a picture that was in focus. this is the reason I’m pissed every time I buy a ticket at The Clairidge and see they film I want to see that’s only playing there and in NYC is in Auditorium 4 – – oh and the managers were morons who would actually say things like “oh the movie was sent to us that way” and “we don’t have to show the credits, you’ve seen the whole movie”.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cablevision looking to sell Clearview chain on May 14, 2012 at 9:00 pm

The Ziegfeld is a great theatre and I hope it remains a first class showplace (although from what I’ve read it doesn’t turn a profit).

Mike, I don’t think AMC can buy Clearview, that would present (or should present) a huge DOJ conflict especially in Northern New Jersey, where it pretty much is AMC or Clearview. (Kerasotes and National Amusements have one theater each in North Jersey – and there’s a handful of independents – I imagine they’d have to sell off half the Clearview chain for that deal to happen).

Secondly: I don’t know who’d want Clearview. They really haven’t proactively been converting to digital last I’ve seen (a few of their smaller theaters are all-digital, I think Cinema 12 is half digital). Their theaters were cobbled together from smaller operators, many converting downtown theaters or retail space (such as one of the worst theaters in America, the Kinnelon 11). Many were so cheaply converted with awkwardly placed projection booths that you get really awkward keystoning that has gone uncorrected since Clearview acquired the properties (ironic that they offer a less clear-view than any other chain). They’ve gotten better and classed up many of their sites but while they’ve installed new seats, new tiles in the rest rooms, carpets and concession stands, they’ve neglected projection and sound problems (especially sound bleeding from theater to theatre at Cinema 10 and Cinema 12) – and never converted their sites to stadium seating. Cablevision admits the theater assets are under performers (they do well on Free Movie Tuesday which surely will go away when someone acquires them).

There was talk years ago of selling off Clearview with City Cinemas/Reading as a potential buyer. Regal Cinemas once tried a Northern NJ presence (and failed with their “let’s build a multiplex just for the hell of it” business plan in the 90’s that saw a 13 plex and a 12-plex in the same town become discount houses – and then they were eventually saved by Bollywood). These theaters are not good assets: they own two theaters they kind of/sort of have stadium seating in the traditional sense. Perhaps Bow Tie or Frank Theaters might be the right fit in terms of size and operations, but who’d want this mess of a chain?

Let’s rationalize this: it can’t be AMC, probably not Regal, Cinemark probably doesn’t want it (although they did want Loews before AMC took them over), Carmike has never shown an interest in NYC metro, I could see National Amusements taking over a good location like Cinema 12 (but not any of the smaller theaters), Landmark would be a good fit for Montclair and Red Bank, I couldn’t image Rave having any interest, Starplex is again dipping its toe into New Jersey by taking over Mega Movies (Central NJ) which is a little out of market (even though they ran the Columbia Park 12 for a little while)…so, I can see Reading wanting the NYC theaters like the Chelsea 9 (and they do operate another movie palace, The Paris), and of coarse I’d think it’d be very cool if any of them became an Alamo Drafthouse because Tim League is a genus (Morristown would be a cool town for that). Also there is a possibility if sold off individually some of these theaters could become independently owned and operated which I think could be a good thing for lowering prices and creating a better experience.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Bow-Tie Red Bank Cinemas on May 11, 2012 at 11:11 pm

This was I believe owned by Music Makers (who built crappy looking theaters in the 70’s/80’s) – then became Loews / Sony Theaters (it was one of its few art houses, along with the Community Theatre in Fairfield CT) and eventually it was sold to Clearview Cinemas. If an art release became popular or warranted an extra week in those days, Monmouth Mall was its “move over” theatre.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC said to be talking to Chinese buyer on May 9, 2012 at 10:32 pm

PS: we should be worried who will take over Clearview. I can only think of two exhibitors who might want that mess.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC said to be talking to Chinese buyer on May 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm

AMC is owned by JPMorgan, Apollo Management, the Carlyle Group, Bain Capital, and Sepctrum Equity Investors under “Marquee Holdings”. Those capital firms are essentially looking to cash out (same happened last year with Kerasotes, instead of refinancing they sold to AMC to provide their investors a return). Wanda, like any investor is looking for a rate of return, not cultural imperialism. And while China is in the process of developing multiplex screens, perhaps AMC’s global development can provide some assistance in that capacity (although their “global development” hasn’t exactly been a home run – the 24-30 screen complex has pretty much flopped around the world, and its been reported in a few places AMC might be looking to offload their Canadian operations).

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Interchange 30 on Apr 23, 2012 at 11:15 am

I’m not sure what AMC’s longterm plans are for the Canadian market, there hasn’t been a wide commitment to digital projection apart from Younge & Dundas which opened as “all digital” (it does have some 35MM used at TIFF). I saw a film at the Winston Churchill and was taken back by the lack of pre-film ads (not a complaint but unusual), the fact my Stubs card wasn’t valid (They did give the movie watchers price however) and how little staff there was (maybe about 10 people on the floor between box office and concessions for a 24-plex on a Saturday afternoon). But AMC is in an odd position should it want to get out of Canada, maybe Empire can right size them.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Alamo Drafthouse moving into vacant Metro Theater on Apr 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm

So much as been said about Alamo, I’ll just add this: they live up to the hype. The food isn’t gourmet and upscale like iPic/Gold Class but is excellent, fresh bar kind of food, along with the extensive beverage menu (the prices are still cheaper than Fork & Screen, at least they were in Austin). It’s been a long time coming, but I’m sure it’ll be well worth the wait, the presentation and service is always excellent and Tim League and company really do care about the experience, this is what so many exhibitors forget. I’m excited to see how they’ll tailor it for NYC, which I’m sure will have its own vibe (hopefully showing some experimental films in the line up, matching the type of filmmaking done in NYC in the 60’s). There’s so much that can be done without infringing on the domain of Anthology Film Archives, and I can’t wait to take my friends (Nitehawk is also another high quality Alamo-like theatre in Brooklyn, on a somewhat smaller scale, but I like that theatre very much – – in fact they pushed for NY state to remove the ban on alcohol in movie theaters opening the doors for this and other plans AMC and the Angelika have).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Movieland 8 Theatres on Mar 3, 2012 at 10:03 am

I’m wondering how long it’ll be around – a few discount houses in other areas have gone digital (at least for a 3D screen or two, if not completely). Not sure if this one will make it. (although Buffalo has been about on schedule with digital adoption)

John Fink
John Fink commented about Digital Film switch could signal end of historic movie theaters on Feb 28, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Wasn’t this article previously posed? Regardless – the problem is the classics are rarely being provided in the form of film prints unless its a serious reparatory house like Film Forum, Dryden or TIFF Bell Lightbox. I’ve seen presentations at The Riviera that were projected right off a DVD (as are many of the classic screenings as I commented on in the Buffalo area including The Hamburg Palace, Market Arcade and the early digital adopters at The Screening Room).

The Buffalo market is maybe about half-converted with 100% digital projection at AMC Maple Ridge, Regal Walden Galleria, Regal Quaker Crossing, Regal Transit Center (including an awful D-IMAX) and Dipson Flix.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Bridgewater Commons on Feb 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Those would be old photos – – I’ve seen pictures of the new front and didn’t see a box office in them – the Essex Green location removed the box office and has automated ticketing in the lobby – if you must use cash (i.e.: if you’re a drug dealer) you can purchase a ticket at guest services….

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Bridgewater Commons on Feb 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I also think this one is Essex Green, I’m fairly certain Bridgewater does not have stadium seating and has different seats – Jeterga please verify…..

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Bridgewater Commons on Feb 22, 2012 at 5:59 pm

The dinner and movie experience is only awful because AMC does it (like many other things) wrong – the service is terrible and overly complicated but the dinner theatre concept – I can assure you all is done way better at the Alamo Drafthouse and the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. The food selections are over priced and mediocre Applebees kind of fare, things are better at the aforementioned theaters as is service. Here they have this stupid light-up button system they never follow up on, at Alamo and Nitehawk – if you want something during the flick you write it down on a little piece of paper and stand it up at your table, they swing by – take a look it, lean in quietly ask if they had a question about the order (if not they give a thumbs up) and its out in a reasonable time. Here they complicate things with too much technology (which is probably wired for some button pusher to analyze back in Kansas City) – – of coarse these comments (like a few of the associated pictures) are in regards to Essex Green. I had been there one other time since they had opened and the service was better, the food not so much. In fact to experiment I had the same type of grilled chicken and fries as I had at AMC at Nitehawk in Brooklyn a few nights later and observed two things: Nitehawk’s was tastier and leaner (AMC’s had a lump of chewy fat) and cheaper. Nitehawk like Drafthouse also shows eccentric ads and short films (a film I made a few year ago was at Nitehawk before shows of Martha Marcy May Marlene in November) instead of ads and infomercials for TV shows – over all its a much more pleasant experience and a great way to see a movie (beer and wine also help but aren’t required). AMC has ripped off part of the concept without understanding that what makes the Alamo successful is the combination of Austin film fans, great programing, good service, good food, and a fun atmosphere. Upscale dinning this is not – for the same price you can get an excellent meal elsewhere and go see a movie at a far better theatre.

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Bridgewater Commons on Feb 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Actually this is likely Essex Green – – Bridgewater Commons does not have stadium seating nor do they have Cinema Suites.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Digital Film switch could signal end of historic movie theaters on Feb 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Most of the Buffalo Film Seminars at Market Arcade are shown on Blu Ray DVDs, not sure about the projector quality – its passable if not a bit wimpy on what is a pretty big size General Cinema circa late 80s screen (the theatre seats about 300). Most of the time they are screening a high quality Criterion Blu Ray (of coarse prints that weren’t properly cared for will have their own issues, but I agree the magic is gone). They occasionally show film prints (as was the case a few semesters ago with A Women Under the Influence) – fortunately Buffalo is sandwiched between two great film cities where film projectors will never be ripped out of the reparatory houses – Rochester (with the Dryden) and Toronto (with TIFF Bell Lightbox).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Digital Film switch could signal end of historic movie theaters on Feb 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Well what the article doesn’t mention is in many of these venues digital media has replaced film for archival screenings – to the credit of Ed Summers who is quote in the article the Buffalo International Film Festival did screen a film print at the North Park, and our alternative spaces (Squeaky Wheel and Hallwalls) in Buffalo are capable of 16MM, however more often then not, when you see a “classic” film presented at the Market Arcade for the legendary Buffalo Film Seminars and their new program Midnight Beacon, its projected digitally. I’m not sure where the disconnect is in the distribution chain but there will always be some screenings rooms in Buffalo that will be capable of 35MM along with digital even after a full DCI conversion (at least the CFA Screening Room I teach in at UB is ready for 16, 35 and digital – – I’ve shown 16MM when I can, but our department doesn’t own any 35MM)

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cinema smarts in Buffalo on Feb 21, 2012 at 5:35 pm

I like that Watson points out AMC’s ever change price policy at its last 80’s hold-out, Maple Ridge. Dipson for what its worth, is the best chain we have in Buffalo by far – both on discounts, customer service and of coarse their season pass program.

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cicero Cinema 13 on Feb 7, 2012 at 10:56 pm

According to the ad it was one of those Regals with “Stadium Style Seating in Select Auditoriums”

John Fink
John Fink commented about AMC Maple Ridge 8 on Feb 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I’d say so – AMC converted the place to all digital (although not Sony 4K digital, oddly enough – I suspect Regal has gone full Sony 4K at least at Transit, Galleria and Quaker Crossing). The only strange thing is AMC otherwise withdraw from Buffalo, giving up all the sites they inherited from General Cinema (University closed, Galleria went to Regal, McKinley went to Dipson) – this is the only hold out, an original 1980’s AMC at that, 10 years after they sold off many theaters of this era.

With that said – Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst would be an excellent place for a multiplex, what with that UB2020 scam just passed (which calls for building the University via rapidly raising tuition and implementing strange new fees the administration can’t justify like the “Academic Excellence Fee”) – if UB expands in Amherst as some developers like American Campus Communities are betting on with new properties – is a 10-14 plex in Amherst out of the question?

John Fink
John Fink commented about Regal Elmwood Center 16 on Feb 5, 2012 at 11:12 pm

10 are stadium – the 6 back theaters aren’t. Regal came to Buffalo in a big way in 1997-1998 opening Transit Center, Elmwood and Quaker Crossing all within a month or two of each other. 2 years later (I believe) Niagara Falls opened and the area would not see another new theater for some 8 years with the opening the new Walden Galleria Stadium 16. Regal saw an opening a market with no stadium seating theaters and pounced before Cinemark (which had a theater on the drawing board for Hamburg) and AMC had a chance. They did roughly the same thing in 99-2000 in NYC when they ran a big ad in the New York Times advertising 3 new complexes at once – Battery Park 16, Kaufman Astoria, and Columbia Park (at least two of them ended up to be under performers, I assume Regal probably regrets over building Buffalo – – this one really should have been a 12-plex, however they probably really regreat Quaker Crossing, an 18-plex which has to fight with a 6-plex a mile away for product).

John Fink
John Fink commented about Cumberland 4 on Feb 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm

More complex than I had thought (I’d always been up stairs with two-side by side theaters)….. here’s the layout for the record – street level, the concessions stand and box office, down a floor – theater #2 (which is the largest), down another floor restrooms and theatre #1. Up a half-flight of stairs from the concessions are restrooms, and theaters #3 and #4 are on what I suppose would the third floor. An odd set-up but they do show very good films, first run before they are bounced over to the Magic Lantern Carlton.