Boxoffice Pro - CinemaCon 2021

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Q2 2021

01


CinemaCon 2021

CONTENTS

136

Coming Attractions

A Selection of Upcoming

Releases through the Back

Half of 2021

102

Giants of Premium Format

Premium Formats Welcome

Audiences Back to the Cinema

108

Tech to the Rescue

Technology Helps Cinemas

Compete in a Post-Pandemic

Climate

148

Making of a Made Man

Alan Taylor Revisits the World

of Tony Soprano with The Many

Saints of Newark

154

Dog Days

Clifford the Big Red Dog Comes

to the Big Screen in a Big Way

Q2 2021

03


CONTENTS

INDUSTRY THEATER ON SCREEN

10

14

16

20

26

NATO

The Industry Looks Forward to

Networking in Person Once Again

MPA

The Motion Picture Association Salutes

Theatrical Exhibition’s Recovery from

the Challenges of the Pandemic

Charity Spotlight

A Recap of Industry-Wide Charity

Initiatives

Now Streaming at a Theater

Near You

Exhibitors Embrace Streaming as the

Covid-19 Pandemic Recalibrates the

Cinema Industry

Art House On Demand

Temporarily Shuttered Art Houses

Turn to Virtual Cinema

96

102

108

116

124

130

Premium Formats

Premium Experiences Lead the Way

to Box Office Glory

Giants of Premium Format

Premium-Format Auditoriums Drive

Audiences’ Return to Cinemas

Tech to the Rescue

Technology Helps Cinemas Compete

in a Post-Pandemic Climate

Dolby: The Early Years

A First-Person Account of the Early

Days of an Audio Innovator

Boxoffice Barometer

Interview with Wim Buyens,

Chief Executive Officer, Cinionic

A Golden Anniversary

Proctor Companies Turns 50

136

148

154

160

166

169

Coming Attractions

Upcoming Wide Releases

Making of a Made Man

Alan Taylor Revisits the World of

Tony Soprano with The Many Saints

of Newark

Dog Days

Clifford the Big Red Dog Comes to the

Big Screen in a Big Way

Welcome to the Big Event

Event Cinema Makes a Post-Covid

Comeback

Event Cinema Calendar

A Sampling of Event Cinema

Programming Hitting the Big Screen

in 2021

Booking Guide

30

Indie Influencers

Brian Schultz Looks to the Future with

Look Dine-In Cinemas

34

Industry Insiders

The Motion Picture Association’s

Debi Bois Steps Down After 15 Years

36

A Century in Exhibition

The 2010s: The Great Disruption

CINEMACON

48

51

Curtain Raiser

After a Two-Year Hiatus, CinemaCon

Prepares to Go Live

Trade Show Directory

& New Products

CinemaCon Showcases the Latest

Products and Technologies for

Movie Theaters

“We are a social people—

we have a joie de vivre, a

passion for life and being

together. And where are

you together that’s a great

experience? At the movies.”

Curtain Raiser, p. 48

04 CinemaCon 2021


Q2 2021

05


BOXOFFICE MEDIA

CEO

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Chris Vickers & Craig Scott

at She Was Only

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VP Advertising

Susan Uhrlass

BOXOFFICE PRO

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Daniel Loría

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EXECUTIVE EDITOR

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MANAGING EDITOR

Laura Silver

CHIEF ANALYST

Shawn Robbins

ANALYSTS

Chris Eggertsen

Jesse Rifkin

DATABASE

Diogo Hausen

CONTRIBUTORS

John Allen

Patrick Corcoran

John Fithian

Charlotte Jones

Vassiliki Malouchou

Charles H. Rivkin

ADVERTISING

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06 CinemaCon 2021


EXECUTIVE LETTER

While the cinema industry

has yet to fully emerge

from the events of 2020,

this year’s CinemaCon is an

important milestone for the

industry’s recovery.

DARK DAYS

BEHIND US

With CinemaCon’s return to Las

Vegas, it finally feels as if the darkest

days of the pandemic are behind us.

While the cinema industry has yet to fully

emerge from the events of 2020, this year’s

CinemaCon is an important milestone for

the industry’s recovery.

There was nothing anyone could do

to prepare for the pandemic’s impact on

moviegoing, but thanks to conventions

like this we can come together and find a

way through the obstacles that remain.

In fact, CinemaCon 2021 may be

the most important convention in this

industry’s history, providing a timely and

invaluable occasion for industry leaders

to discuss the future of cinema amid a

recalibration of the previously established

theatrical distribution models.

There has been a lot written on

cinema’s death, but few have focused

on documenting its perseverance. For

generations, this industry’s resiliency and

commitment to innovation has seen it

through every threat it has faced. In this

issue, our editorial staff has compiled a

series of stories that profile that resiliency

and offer a look at some of the innovations

that can spur a global return to moviegoing.

A special section on cinema technology,

including feature stories on the role of

premium formats since the reopening,

sheds light on the work being done by

vendors and exhibitors alike to ensure the

big screen retains its status as a premium

destination for first-run content.

After a year as difficult as 2020, it would

be impossible to ignore the rise in the

adoption of streaming platforms by both

major circuits and independent cinemas.

Our editors Daniel Loría and Kevin Lally

worked together to report on this trend—

perhaps the best example of how cinemas

are leveraging the ubiquity of streaming to

form stronger links with their audiences.

This issue also includes the concluding

chapter in our Century in Exhibition

series by Vassiliki Malouchou. The final

entry in our 10-part series documents

the most recent decade of exhibition

history, as reported in the pages of our

magazine. Like all great franchises, it ends

on a cliffhanger—with movie theaters

facing the biggest existential threat in

their history. This story isn’t finished, and

CinemaCon 2021 will provide us with an

opportunity to begin writing the opening

lines in the next chapter of our history.

2020 was supposed to be the year

Boxoffice Pro celebrated its centennial,

commemorating 100 years as the reference

publication of theatrical exhibition. Last

year, however, was anything but a reason

to celebrate. We therefore decided to move

our centennial issue to the winter of 2021.

We are looking forward to bringing you

that issue in the coming months, and, if

you’re in Las Vegas this year, to celebrating

our 101st birthday a little bit early with you

in person.

Julien Marcel

CEO, The Boxoffice Company

Scan me

Scan this code to see a special

message from our editorial director.

CinemaCon 2021

07


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NATO 10 | MPA 14 | Exhibitor VOD 20 | Industry Insiders 34 | A Century in Exhibition 36

INDUSTRY

“I’m not out to compete against Amazon or Netflix; that’s

a fool’s errand. We’re trying to offer something different.”

Exhibitor VOD, p. 20

CinemaCon 2021

09


industry NATO

WELCOME TO

CINEMACON

2021

The Industry Looks Forward to

Networking in Person

Once Again

BY JOHN FITHIAN

In the last week of February and

the first week of March 2020, we

watched the news as an epidemic moved

from Asia to Europe and became a

pandemic. We planned new protocols for

CinemaCon 2020 based on the science

at the time, by ordering thousands of

hand sanitizer bottles and booking more

cleaning crews (no one was really talking

about masks back then). MGM/UAR and

Sony then announced the first two delays

of theatrical release dates, for No Time to

Die and for Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.

South by Southwest and the NAB show

both canceled. So, on March 10, the

NATO Executive Board made the difficult

but appropriate decision to cancel

CinemaCon 2020.

At the time, I thought that canceling

CinemaCon would be the most difficult

challenge of the year and that if domestic

movie theaters had to close, it would be

just for a few months and then we would

be up and running again. How incredibly

naive that now seems. The exhibition

industry today is still enduring the

longest existential crisis of its history, and

it will take a year or more from now to

fully recover.

Sixteen long months after we canceled

CinemaCon 2020, we are so very excited to

welcome back to CinemaCon those of you

who are able to attend. And for those of

you who couldn’t make it back to Vegas in

2021, we look forward to celebrating with

you at CinemaCon 2022 next April.

As I write this, 49 of 50 states in the U.S.

have allowed movie theaters to open at 100

percent capacity, 80 percent of our patrons

feel comfortable returning to the cinema

now, half of the federal grants for our

midsize and smaller domestic exhibitors

have been awarded, many different state

grant and tax relief programs have been

offered to exhibitors of all sizes, movies

are finally sticking to their release dates,

and more and more of those movies have

exclusive theatrical windows.

Internationally, progress is also being

made, though some territories are a few

months behind the U.S., while others

remain very challenged. In the important

European sector, most major cinema

markets have begun to reopen (for the

second time during the pandemic!) and

business is coming back. Asia has some

strong spots and some still-challenged

spots. Australian business has been

decent, but recent outbreaks have

caused some closures once again. Latin

America remains a mixed territory, with

some markets recovering and others

still completely down. But between the

open domestic and international markets

there is enough business to sustain movie

releases. And as vaccines continue to be

rolled out the situation hopefully will

continue to improve.

I believe we have reached the light at

the end of a very long tunnel. Though the

business will not go back to 2019 levels

immediately, we are experiencing growing

box office numbers in the Western world

when we have movies people want to

see. And moviegoers in China have

demonstrated for many months that open

and safe cinema markets recover strongly

with good movies. And that is the most

important thing about CinemaCon—the

movies. We are simply stoked and grateful

to have studio film presentations (in order

of the current schedule for the week)

from Sony, MGM/UAR, Warner Bros.,

NEON, Disney, Universal, Focus Features,

Paramount, and Lionsgate.

We are also so pleased to see the

majority of our trade-floor exhibitors

and sponsors back at the show. Sure,

challenging economic times mean some of

the trade-floor participants have cut back a

bit on space, and some can’t afford to rejoin

us until the April 2022 show. But most will

be in Vegas for the August 2021 show and

will be excited to reconnect with customers.

I know I will be thrilled to grab a Diet Coke

and some nachos on the trade floor and

check out the newest luxury recliner model.

And we have great public seminars,

many important private NATO meetings,

tasty food functions, and parties. Won’t it

be fun to finally network in person again

with so many industry colleagues? Four

full days with no Zoom. Just imagine.

So how did we survive those 16 months

and prove the aphorism that “what

doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”?

How is it that we can gather once again

in Vegas to learn, network, and celebrate

the moviegoing experience? Well, we did

it together. The NATO and CinemaCon

staff joined with hundreds of member

volunteers in daily crisis management

of epic proportion. Never in my 30 years

representing motion picture theater

operators have tasks so huge confronted

our industry—true existential challenges.

First there was the closure of cinemas

across the world and the resulting

10 CinemaCon 2021


hardship to our industry’s passionate

workforce. In the U.S. the Will Rogers

Motion Picture Pioneers stepped up with

an employee-relief grant program that

helped thousands of workers. NATO

and Sony each chipped in one million

dollars. Lionsgate held a very cool

fundraiser with Friday-evening films for

the home. And we helped our employees.

Then NATO supported legislation in

Congress to provide federal supplemental

unemployment compensation to

furloughed workers. Exhibitor leaders

internationally lobbied for similar

programs in their territories. This is an

industry that looks after its own people.

Next we needed to create a plan for the

safe reopening of cinemas. A task force

of members worked with NATO staff and

two leading epidemiologists to develop

“CinemaSafe,” a set of health and safety

protocols. NATO and our members backed

the program with public outreach and

selected digital advertising, supported

by money from NATO’s reserve fund.

(That reserve fund, by the way, has been

crucial in many ways during the pandemic.

Proceeds from ShoWest and then

CinemaCon, managed by the NATO Board

and Investments Committee members,

helped us develop the fund over the past

20 years just for a crisis like this.)

The CinemaSafe program gave our

patrons confidence to come back to the

cinema when they were allowed to open.

The various NATO-affiliated regional units

across the country worked tirelessly with

NATO and CinemaSafe to convince state

regulators that cinemas could be opened

safely once more.

CinemaSafe also helped us work

with studios to get some movies into

the marketplace. Warner Bros. and

Christopher Nolan deserve high marks

for Tenet, and so does Solstice Studios for

releasing Unhinged.

With the help of the Global Cinema

Federation, as well as important

international exhibition leadership

organizations such as UNIC in Europe,

exhibitors around the world compared best

practices and strategies on safety protocols,

reopening strategies, return-to-moviegoing

campaigns, and movie supply issues.

Then of course the second virus wave

hit in many territories, and we had to go

through it all over again.

Throughout 2020 and into 2021,

exhibitors confronted a revenue crunch

The exhibition industry

today is still enduring the

longest existential crisis of

its history, and it will take

a year or more from now to

fully recover.

of epic proportion, with many companies

losing more than 90 percent for many,

many months. Supported by hundreds of

friends in the creative community (thank

you Motion Picture Association, Directors

Guild of America, and your various

members!), NATO and our members

lobbied the federal and state governments

for help to keep motion picture theaters and

their many jobs alive to the other side of the

pandemic. Congress enacted the historic

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program,

as well as several important tax benefits,

and many states followed suit with their

own grant programs or tax-relief legislation.

With these various efforts the vast

majority of our domestic members have

stayed afloat. And many other countries

devised programs to help exhibitors and

their employees. Now, rising vaccination

rates and box office numbers offer the

promise of a return to profitability. But

where do we go from here?

Your NATO Board of Directors and

staff are working to ensure that theatrical

exhibition doesn’t survive the pandemic

only to be sacrificed on the altar of the

streaming wars. Release models and

windows necessarily changed during

the pandemic because distributors

couldn’t get the same returns on exclusive

theatrical releases. At the same time,

those studios with streaming services got

caught up in a battle for subscribers that

led to some bad business models for the

profitability of individual movies.

Coming out of the pandemic, these

models must change again. Windows

won’t go back to their pre-pandemic state.

But they won’t continue in their pandemic

model either. A new course that balances

a robust period of exclusivity with the

new in-home streaming ecosystem must

be set for the survival of the moviegoing

experience—and the art form preferred by

most filmmakers.

That is why NATO is working with the

federal government on an antitrust safe

harbor that would confirm the ability of

exhibitors to come together as a group and

sit down with distributors to chart this

path forward in a manner that benefits

everyone. The very future of the cinema

depends on it.

I look forward to seeing you at the show,

to celebrate the return of moviegoing, and

to discuss how to protect its future.

John Fithian is the President & CEO of NATO

CinemaCon 2021

11


industry NATO

THE

BIG SCREEN

IS BACK

An Academy Awards Preshow Campaign

Continued to Spread the Word

BY PATRICK CORCORAN

A familiar face popped up on TV

screens during the 2021 Academy

Awards preshow, inviting us to join him

inside his favorite Austin, Texas, movie

theater. It was Matthew McConaughey,

and what he wanted to show us, after a

year of pandemic closures, was that the

big screen is back.

Or rather, #TheBigScreenIsBack. For

two minutes on Hollywood’s biggest

(though socially distanced) night,

McConaughey introduced us to movie

theater employees from around the

country, ready to return to work making

memories for moviegoers denied one of

their greatest pleasures. Framed by clips

of some of the year’s biggest and most

anticipated titles, the spot struck a chord

with viewers and lighted up Twitter with

emotional reactions.

The Oscars piece was the first step in

an unprecedented collaboration among

studios, exhibitors, publicists, stars and

directors, NATO, MPA, and mega-agency

CAA. The next step was an in-person

event at AMC’s Century City theater, on

May 19, with clips, actors, and filmmakers

celebrating the return to moviegoing. With

tireless work from MPA, CAA’s Bryan

Lourd and Megan Crawford and their team,

marketing professionals Terry Curtin

and Wendy Lightbourn, countless movie

industry volunteers, and CinemaCon’s

own Mitch Neuhauser and Matt Pollock,

the event brought presentations to the

press from 13 distributors large and small.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, naturally,

kicked off the event in his own inimitable

style; the big screen will be back—the

big screen is back. Arnold’s cheerleading

led to a memorable introduction of

NATO chairman Rolando Rodriguez’s

keynote, which set the tone of community,

togetherness, and the importance of

the movie theater to the art of film. J.J.

Abrams, Jason Blum, Zola director

Janicza Bravo, and Werewolves Within

star Sam Richardson appeared in person

alongside studio distribution chiefs

Chris Aronson and Jeff Goldstein and

prerecorded messages from various other

filmmakers and studio executives.

Blum closed out the day with a

compelling summary. “Our industry is at

an inflection point,” he said. “The collision

of the recovery from the pandemic and all

of the shifting business models and the

crazy corporate consolidation, especially of

the past week, puts us at this intersection

of recovery and also of change.

“It’s tempting, of course, to quickly

draw conclusions about what it all

means—I think it’ll take time for us

to all really figure that out,” Blum

continued. “But I think it’s great that all

the competitors collectively gathered here

to talk to all of you about one thing, which

is how much the theatrical moviegoing

experience matters.”

The McConaughey ad, studio clips,

and interviews from the event were

repurposed for distribution on YouTube,

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

and distributed as trailers for use in

movie theaters and preshows. NATO

of California/Nevada used a shortened

version of the Oscars ad in a multimilliondollar

ad campaign in July.

“The collision of the recovery

from the pandemic and all of

the shifting business models

and the crazy corporate

consolidation, especially of

the past week, puts us at

this intersection of recovery

and also of change.”

12 CinemaCon 2021


National NATO funded the creation

of the materials and production of The

Big Screen Is Back campaign, but, using

our experience from funding an ad

campaign for the CinemaSafe program, we

determined that earned media—stories

about the campaign and the event—were

a far more efficient use of our members’

dollars. From the beginning of the

campaign at the Oscars on April 25, and

through mid-July, The Big Screen Is Back

has been covered in media with a potential

reach of 3.85 billion people. Much of that

media attention was fueled by the Oscars

ad, with stories the first day having a

potential reach of 449 million. The Big

Screen Is Back event was even more

successful in garnering media attention,

with a potential reach of 849 million the

first day. Ongoing mention of “The Big

Screen Is Back” has netted an additional

potential audience of 2.5 billion people.

The monetary value of such exposure

goes far beyond what we could have

accomplished in ad spending. Meltwater,

a media tracking and measurement

firm, estimates the “advertising value

equivalent” of media coverage of The Big

Screen Is Back at $35.6 million.

“I think it’s great that all

the competitors collectively

gathered here to talk to

all of you about one thing,

which is how much the

theatrical moviegoing

experience matters.”

Of course, the greatest tonic for

moviegoing is movies. As we prepare

for CinemaCon, box office, driven by

increased vaccinations, decreased

infections, the absence of capacity

restrictions in cinemas, and, most

importantly, increasing releases of

crowd-pleasing movies, has continued

its upward trajectory begun in the spring.

And it is appropriate that we continue to

underscore at CinemaCon, a celebration

of the moviegoing experience, that The

Big Screen Is Back.

An industry think tank panel with

director Patty Jenkins, Marcus Theatres’

CEO Rolando Rodriguez, Cinemark’s

CEO Mark Zoradi, and a studio executive

will carry that theme forward. Look for

special video content and presentations

throughout the week at CinemaCon that

will continue to drive it home.

The Big Screen Is Back, and

CinemaCon is back in Vegas. I look

forward to seeing you here in person.

Patrick Corcoran is the Vice President &

CCO of NATO

CinemaCon 2021

13


Industry MPA

WELCOME BACK

The Motion Picture Association Salutes

Theatrical Exhibition’s Recovery from the

Challenges of the Pandemic

BY CHARLES H. RIVKIN

This isn’t the first time, of

course, that our industry has

faced adversity. And every

time we’ve been able to

evolve and innovate.

The movies. Those two simple words

open doors to some of my most

treasured and powerful memories. Nearly

every movie I have loved and enjoyed

is inextricably connected to the theater

where I first saw it, whether it was under

the stars at a drive-in theater in Fish

Creek, Wisconsin, as a kid, in a downtown

theater in Chicago during high school,

or, more recently, at our state-of-the-art

theater at the Motion Picture Association’s

headquarters in Washington, D.C.

It wasn’t just the great stories that

captured my excitement. It was the

experience of watching those movies with

an audience, all of us collectively holding

our breath, tearing up, or outright laughing,

depending on whatever we were watching.

Few things compare to that experience.

That’s why I could not be more excited

about the extraordinary resurgence this

great industry is experiencing right now, in

the wake of one of the most difficult years

in a generation. And it could not come at a

better time for theater owners.

I am writing this on the heels of

Memorial Day weekend, the traditional

kickoff to the summer movie season

and just a few weeks before we gather in

person at CinemaCon. I haven’t felt this

encouraged in a while. The numbers say it

all, thanks in part to the recent openings

of A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella.

And of course, moviegoers and the

industry alike are looking forward to

F9, which—at the time of writing—was

already closing in on $300 million

internationally, an encouraging harbinger

for the season of blockbusters. Godzilla

vs. Kong was the first big box office hit this

year, recently crossing the $100 million

mark in the U.S., with a total global box

office take of close to $350 million.

It’s early days yet, as many say. However,

these numbers are reassuring as they

reaffirm what we know in our hearts to be

true: The movies are an eternal comeback

story. There are many reasons for this,

but, first and foremost, the credit for that

belongs to the industry itself, which was

born making innovation out of necessity.

The pandemic proved that. Countless

jobs were lost, productions were either

curtailed or shut down altogether, and

cinemas shuttered around the globe.

Despite these enormous setbacks, our

industry once again proved to be as

adaptable and innovative as it is resilient.

We led the way in creating effective health

and safety protocols for our workers, in

cooperation with our union partners and

governments at home and around the

world, so that we could return to work

safely, responsibly, and sustainably. We

brought back much of our workforce at

a speed that outpaced other industries

and, at the same time, achieved one of

the lowest positivity rates in the country

among our workers.

Theater owners were very creative with

their business models. Many found new

ways to stay in business, from offering

popcorn pickup and delivery to renting out

their theaters to private groups. And the

National Association of Theatre Owners

(NATO) sponsored an alliance of more

than 425 companies, accounting for more

than 33,200 screens nationwide, to commit

to implementing expert-backed, industryspecific

health and safety protocols.

This isn’t the first time, of course, that

our industry has faced adversity. And

every time we’ve been able to evolve and

innovate. More than 70 years ago, we

were contending with the dawn of TV,

14 CinemaCon 2021


then VCRs, then DVDs, and yet films and

theaters continued to thrive.

While there’s no denying that 2020

was a win for streaming and home

entertainment, and a challenging year for

theatrical exhibition, there were positive

indications that all aspects of our industry

would once again thrive. Great stories kept

us entertained, connected, and inspired

throughout the last year. Audiences

demonstrated an intense desire to watch

those stories on any screen.

Even though most people—by

necessity—watched those stories at

home, on laptops, and on other personal

devices, they never lost their appetite for

enjoying the big-screen experience. For

example, drive-in theaters, as many news

stories have attested, enjoyed their highest

returns in decades.

Now that more and more theaters are

opening, the recent flurry of moviegoing

proves at least two things: Desire remains

strong, and the availability of home and

mobile entertainment does not diminish

it. In fact, as I’ve said for many years, the

theatrical experience and streaming

markets thrive together. Just as people

Just as people love to eat at

home, they also love to go to

restaurants. Streaming and

theaters are not at odds; they

complement each other.

love to eat at home, they also love to go to

restaurants. Streaming and theaters are

not at odds; they complement each other.

People are hungry for both.

As the Motion Picture Association

marks its 100th anniversary next year,

we will be highlighting the critical work

of our member companies that grow our

industry, protect creators and content,

and support theater owners who have

been the proprietors of the magic we call

the movies since the 1890s.

As we look to our next century—one in

which we will continue to innovate while

doing what we do best, by telling great

stories that we all love and that reflect

the diversity of our audiences, we will

continue to grow the important ecosystem

of producers, exhibitors, and audiences

that enables us all to thrive. We will

continue to strengthen every economy we

touch. And perhaps most importantly, we

will strive to tell everybody’s story.

Charles H. Rivkin is the Chairman and

CEO of The Motion Picture Association

CinemaCon 2021

15


Industry CHARITY SPOTLIGHT

CHARITY

SPOTLIGHT

Variety of Texas

Covid-19 continues to have a devastating

impact on fundraising revenues. Still

going strong, however, is Variety of

Texas’s Cinema Passport Campaign,

which allows moviegoers (plus a guest)

access to screenings at participating

Texas theaters over a limited period

with a $400 donation to Variety of Texas.

Thanks to theaters’ support of Variety

of Texas’s Cinema Passport Campaign,

Variety of Texas can provide lifechanging

support to children with

special needs.

Variety of New York

In collaboration with fundraising platform

Influence the Cause, Variety of New

York is raising money to help provide

life-changing equipment and services

for children in need. Donations of any

amount are accepted—but, in a fun twist,

prizes will be given in the categories

of Most Money Raised (a $100 gift card

from Showcase Cinemas), Most People

Influenced (a $100 gift card from Showcase

Cinemas), and Largest Individual Donor

over $200 (a 10-class pack at the Jersey

City Pure Barre location). The Variety

Children need your help to get this

pandemic behind us and get our kids

mobile again—so let’s get moving!

Donations can be made until September 22, 2021,

at influencethecause.com/campaign/varietythe-childrens-charity-mobility-hero-challenge.

Motion Picture Club

The Motion Picture Club, founded in 1939

as a social club for the entertainment

industry and more recently transformed

into a group that raises funds for industry

charities, took to the streets of New York

for the Big Apple’s first street fair since

the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the course of the day, the MPC

sold posters, T-shirts, DVDs, and other

assorted entertainment merchandise in

between welcoming visitors happy to see

the MPC’s “Day at the Movies” booth back

in action after a year’s forced hiatus. Says

David Ostrander, vice president, exhibitor

relations, at Screenvision Media and the

MPC’s president: “Now in our 26th year,

the annual ‘Day at the Movies’ street

fair is such an important event for the

Motion Picture Club to raise money for our

beneficiaries, such as Will Rogers Motion

Picture Pioneers Foundation, Variety – the

Children’s Charity of New York, and so

many other charity organizations. Based

on the success from ‘Day at the Movies,’

this event further exemplified people’s

genuine love and interest in movies. The

Motion Picture Club looks forward to

hosting our traditional industry events

such as ‘Day at the Races’ this fall and our

‘Annual Holiday Luncheon’ in the coming

months as our industry reemerges.”

Emagine Entertainment Raises

Money for Boys & Girls Clubs of

Southeastern Michigan

Throughout the month of July, Michiganbased

luxury exhibitor Emagine

Entertainment supported the Boys & Girls

Clubs of Southeastern Michigan (BGCSM)

by raising funds to help offset the cost

of yearly membership for local youth.

Guests to any Michigan Emagine location

throughout the month of July were

encouraged to make a donation; those

who did so were honored with signage at

the theater box office.

The funds raised went toward payment

for a full year of membership at BGCSM

for deserving children ages 6–18. After

95 years of service, Boys & Girls Clubs of

Southeastern Michigan remains a safe

place for youth to learn, have fun, and

reach their full potential. By providing

high-quality youth development

programs, BGCSM has reimagined

the future of afterschool learning and

continues to stay agile and expand

to better support the needs of youth,

ensuring that they are career-, start-up-,

and homeowner-ready.

“We are glad to continue our support

in giving back to the Boys & Girls Clubs

of Southeastern Michigan and their

mission. We are grateful to have such loyal

and caring guests who continue to offer

support to others in their surrounding

communities,” said Anthony LaVerde,

CEO of Emagine Entertainment.

“BGCSM continues to provide the youth

of southeastern Michigan with a safe,

positive, and engaging environment with

a variety of programs and opportunities

that allow our young people to feel

included, challenged, and entertained all

year long,” added BGCSM president and

CEO Shawn H. Wilson. “Emagine Theatres

has been a longtime champion of BGCSM

youth, and the funds raised will help

us care for and engage our youth to our

fullest abilities.”

16 CinemaCon 2021


HEARTS OF GOLD:

VARIETY PARTNERS

WITH UNIVERSAL FOR

2021 GOLD HEART PIN

CAMPAIGN

In 1991, Variety International board

member Marsha Rae Ratcliff had an

idea for expanding the work Variety – the

Children’s Charity had been doing since

its founding in 1927. Simple and elegant,

Ratcliff’s idea was to sell heart-shaped

gold pins at movie theaters, with proceeds

going to Variety’s mission of assisting

children in need. In the 30 years since

its inception, the Variety Gold Heart Pin

Campaign has become one of the most

enduring symbols of the film industry’s

commitment to charitable giving.

The story of the iconic gold pin is

one of the worldwide film community

coming together for a good cause. The

campaign, which started in Great

Britain, made its way stateside when

actress Maureen Arthur-

Ruben—then-president

of Variety of Southern

California’s board of

directors—attended

a Variety conference.

Her chapter adopted

the program, and

support from studio

executives— Erica

Lopez, executive director

of Variety – the Children’s Charity of the

United States, cites Clark Woods, Mike

McCartney, and Jeff Goldstein—helped

get the pin in theaters.

Woods, then in the thick of his decadeslong

tenure at Paramount, had the idea

to “put a campaign behind

[the pin] like they would

put a campaign behind

a film,” Lopez recalls, in

part by giving the pin

prime placement in-theater

to boost sales. Handling

of the campaign went from

Paramount to Disney, whose

V.P. of exhibitor relations Nancy

Klueter helped get the pin campaign out to

theaters nationwide. A rollout to Variety’s

global chapters followed. “Over time, each

studio helped open doors to new theater

partners, and Variety executive directors

at the individual chapters throughout the

United States formed relationships with

their local theaters to gain their support as

well,” says Lopez.

Variety’s collaboration with Disney

introduced a second key component to

the Gold Heart Pin Campaign. In 2002,

at the suggestion of Arthur-Ruben and

the late Jody Reynolds, Disney gave

permission for the pin to depict an image

of Mickey Mouse. The addition of I.P.

proved a turning point for the campaign,

as sales that year reached 700,000 pins. In

the years since Mickey’s Variety’s debut,

different characters have popped up on

the pins, including Spider-Man (Sony;

2005); Yoda and Darth Vader (Disney;

2014); E.T. (Dreamworks;

2004), and—by far the

most popular pin, to

the tune of $3 million—

Universal’s Minions, who

were a hit in 2015.

Universal is represented

yet again in this year’s

Variety Gold Heart Pin Campaign,

featuring the characters of Ted (voiced

by Alec Baldwin) and Tina (voiced by

Amy Sedaris) from The Boss Baby: Family

Business, out July 2. Pins are available for a

minimum donation of $3 at movie theaters

across the U.S. Says Lopez, “Each Gold

Heart pin sold means that Variety can

provide things like custom-fitted adaptive

tricycles, communication devices, and

activities such as camp for kids and

teens with special needs.”

“The Boss Baby: Family

Business celebrates the child

inside each of us and the

families who love and support

us throughout our lives,” says

Eric Carr, senior vice president of intheater

marketing for Universal Pictures.

“Universal Pictures and DreamWorks

Animation are proud to partner with

Variety – the Children’s Charity in its

vital, ongoing mission to make the lives

of children with special needs, and their

families, a little easier and a lot brighter.”

A full list of participating cinemas can be found

at usvariety.org/gold-hearts.

CinemaCon 2021

17


Industry CHARITY SPOTLIGHT

CANADIAN PICTURE

PIONEERS: 2020 IN

REVIEW

Founded in 1940, the Canadian

Picture Pioneers has been helping

movie theater exhibitor and distributor

employees across Canada for over 80

years. Below, the CPP reviews the efforts

they made in 2020 to help the Canadian

exhibition community make it through

the unprecedented crisis presented by the

Covid-19 pandemic.

As with many other organizations, 2020

was a challenging year for the Canadian

Picture Pioneers. As we entered our 80th

year of operation, it became clear very early

on that the Covid-19 health crisis was going

to have a severe impact on the theater

exhibition and distribution industries.

The CPP has always been ready to assist

people facing financial crisis—but never

on so wide a scale. We started planning

a CPP assistance response in the early

days of the pandemic. With government

restrictions in place throughout 2020, we

had to reassess how we would continue

to host events to help people to keep in

touch. We are happy to report that the

CPP was able to meet the challenges that

2020 presented.

We geared up with CPP’s first-ever

national, wide-scale assistance program.

Along with our regular assistance

program and our student assistance

program, we helped more than eight

times the number of industry employees

than we have ever assisted before. We

more than doubled the amount of total

assistance funding, providing close to a

quarter of a million dollars in 2020. We

knew that students who had been laid off

from their theater jobs would need extra

support, so part of our 2020 mission was

to increase funding to SAAP (Student

Assistance Awards Program) by 40

percent and provide assistance awards of

$5,000 each to 25 student essay winners.

To further help our members, we

waived all 2020 membership dues for

members across Canada.

From the first few weeks of the

pandemic, we kept in touch with industry

members and held regular online events.

These events not only brought people

together but were the source of muchneeded

donations.

The CPP remained very active during

2020, communicating with and supporting

industry members. We were helped

by a great team of volunteers, without

whom we could not have accomplished

this important CPP goal. The CPP was

very fortunate to have a loyal group of

members and industry partners, whom

we thank for their continuing support. We

would not have been able to do the work

we did last year without their generous

donations. We received four times the

number of individual donations than in

prior years, mostly driven by donations

made as part of online events.

As we move forward toward the end

of this health crisis, we will work hard to

stay in touch with industry community

members. We will continue our assistance

programs to help and support each other.

We hope to see everyone out soon at one of

our industry events.

We also want you to know that we

have continued work to make sure this

organization lasts another 80 years or

longer. Our board continues to work on

organizational improvements to attract

industry employees from all corners of the

industry and supporting companies. We

thank the board members for this work,

especially some long-term directors who

have decided to step off the board this year.

We also need to thank our very

dedicated group of volunteers and branch

members across Canada. We had many

people pull together and make sure that

2020 was another successful year for the

CPP. Thank you!

18 CinemaCon 2021


Q2 2021

19


Industry HOME ENTERTAINMENT

NOW STREAMING

AT A THEATER

NEAR YOU

Exhibitors Embrace Streaming as the Covid-19

Pandemic Recalibrates the Cinema Industry

BY DANIEL LORIA

As pervasive as streaming is

today, it was only in 2007 that

Netflix—then known as a mail-delivery

DVD rental service—began offering its

users the ability to watch films through

a high-speed internet connection. The

timing couldn’t have been better for

Netflix, which was in the midst of a fierce

competition with its brick-and-mortar

rival, Blockbuster Video, for supremacy

of the home video market. At the time,

most consumers in the United States

streamed content on their desktop

or laptop computers. That same year,

however, Apple launched a revolutionary

new product that would soon change the

future of e-commerce and entertainment.

The iPhone’s popularity launched the

smartphone era in telecommunications,

giving consumers the ability to connect

to the internet instantly and almost

anywhere. Being off-line and online

were now indistinguishable. Netflix’s

bet on streaming—originally considered

a complement to, not substitute for, its

mail-delivery service—was perfectly

positioned to benefit from this sea

change in consumer behavior. By 2010, as

streaming solidified its dominance in the

home entertainment market, Blockbuster

Video had filed for Chapter 11.

Blockbuster’s bankruptcy solidified

Netflix as the leading home entertainment

player in Hollywood and accelerated the

growth of streaming as the primary home

entertainment distribution channel. In

2010, only two months after Blockbuster

filed for Chapter 11, Cineplex, the largest

exhibition circuit in Canada, announced

the launch of its own streaming portal: the

Cineplex Store.

As opposed to Netflix’s subscription

video on demand (SVOD) model, the

Cineplex Store adopted a transactional

video on demand (TVOD) approach that

facilitates digital rentals and purchases

through their platform. Cineplex’s entry

into the digital home entertainment

market was never positioned as

competition for Netflix but as an extension

of their brand into the home. The circuit

had already been selling DVD and Blu-

Ray discs on their website; expanding

into streaming was the logical evolution

of those efforts. “When Canadians think

of movies, we want them to think of

Cineplex,” said Ellis Jacob, president and

CEO of Cineplex, in the 2010 press release

announcing the launch.

Branding alone wasn’t at the center

of Cineplex’s foray into the home. The

circuit was a pioneer in integrating its

loyalty program, Scene, into digital

transactions, linking moviegoers’ intheater

and at-home watching habits.

Scene members could earn and redeem

points across the circuit’s locations and

its online store, further enhancing the

value of the circuit’s loyalty program.

Two years later, in 2012, Mexico’s

leading exhibition circuit, Cinépolis,

launched its own TVOD streaming service,

Cinépolis Klic. Despite launching five

years after Netflix introduced streaming

to its users in the United States, Cinépolis

Klic appeared comparatively early in the

adoption of streaming in Mexico.

“There was already a sector of the

audience who was looking to stream

content when we first entered the

market,” says Marco García de la Cruz,

managing director of Cinépolis Klic.

“While other streaming

algorithms bring you more of

what you already like, mk2

Curiosity introduces you to

movies that you may not

know you’d like.”

20 CinemaCon 2021


“That was the first group of people we

targeted after launching, which helped us

gain a foothold with audiences primarily

looking for commercial and independent

movie releases. As the years passed, we

reached new audiences through a wider

range of programming for all ages and

tastes. We now offer more than just a

slate of films, with programming choices

that have helped our business and [have]

grown our user base.”

Rather than limit its selection of titles

to just movies, Cinépolis Klic has since

partnered with other content providers

to offer television series and even sports

programming through its platform. In

this regard, Cinépolis Klic has grown to

become one of Mexico’s leading over-thetop

(OTT) media services, offering channel

subscriptions to services like Starzplay,

Paramount Plus, and HBO Max.

By the end of 2020, Cinépolis Klic

counted more than 4 million registered

users in Mexico. The circuit expanded the

streaming service to Chile, Colombia, Peru,

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and

Costa Rica last year. “We’re on a path to

grow in territories where we already have

a presence through our theaters, as we are

doing now in Latin America, and we’re ready

to pursue any other opportunities that arise

along the way,” says García de la Cruz.

In Europe, where the streaming market

is significantly more fragmented due

to content licensing restrictions across

multiple territories, major circuits have

been more tentative in launching their

own in-house services. The most notable

exception is the United Kingdom’s

specialty circuit Curzon Cinemas, which

debuted its own TVOD platform, Curzon

Home Cinema, in 2010.

Curzon’s early entry into streaming

solidified its position in home entertainment

among consumers. Its established reputation

as an art house brand was reflected in its

curated offerings, which included an array

of eclectic and diverse titles that were harder

to find on other platforms. Curzon began

implementing an SVOD tier to Curzon

Home Cinema in 2017, Curzon12, a rotating

selection of 12 titles available to paying

members of its loyalty program. The circuit

revised its approach to SVOD earlier this year,

adding credits for cinema visits or streaming

rentals to its paid membership scheme.

Curzon’s approach to streaming is

similar to the one employed by French

specialty circuit mk2 when it launched

its own advertising video on demand

(AVOD) platform, mk2 Curiosity, last

year—during the height of the Covid-19

pandemic. As an AVOD service, Curiosity

is free to users and is monetized through

advertising. According to mk2 co-CEO

Elisha Karmitz, the service allowed the

circuit to stay connected with its audience

by emphasizing curation at a time when

home viewing habits were dominated by

an overload of algorithm-driven content

from the major streaming services. “Each

week, we have a rotating selection of five to

seven movies people can watch for free—a

lot of these titles coming from our catalog.

The goal is to propose some rarities, some

curiosities, some movies that an algorithm

would never show you,” he says. “While

other streaming algorithms bring you more

of what you already like, mk2 Curiosity

introduces you to movies that you may not

know you’d like.”

Another pandemic-era innovation

was La Vingt-Cinquième Heure’s virtual

theatrical platform, launched in France in

March 2020, just as the country’s cinemas

were ordered closed for the first time. As

independent cinemas in the United States

began experimenting with the virtual

theatrical model in the first weeks of the

pandemic (detailed in our article on page

26), La Vingt-Cinquième Heure’s platform

allowed French cinemas to run their own

virtual cinemas through geolocked digital

screenings, streamed live during fixed

showtimes. The earnings generated from

virtual theatrical were far from covering

the losses incurred by the pandemic, but

they did provide an economic lifeline

to independent cinemas during the

closures—and could continue to generate

supplemental revenue after the pandemic.

CinemaCon 2021

21


Industry HOME ENTERTAINMENT

The art house sector has been an

important source of innovation in

bridging the streaming gap for European

cinemas. In 2015, Germany’s Rushlake

Media partnered with local art house

cinemas for the 2015 launch of its TVOD

platform, Kino on Demand. The service

rewards users’ first and each fifth

subsequent transaction on the platform

with a €5 voucher to one of its more

than 850 partner cinemas. Today, it has

over 43,000 users in Germany and is also

available in Austria and Switzerland.

Kino on Demand’s model was used as

the basis for an upcoming partnership

among four of Europe’s leading art house

cinema circuits: Sweden’s Folkets Hus

och Parker and Folkets Bio, Ireland’s

Access Cinema, and Slovenia’s Art kino

mreža Slovenije. The group, acting under

the working title Project Cinnovate, will

launch a streaming service based on Kino

on Demand that will cover their combined

308 screens across the three countries.

“We are, of course, open to collaborating

with many more cinemas,” says Jan Runge,

the former CEO of UNIC, the European

cinema trade association, who is acting

as an independent consultant for Project

Cinnovate. “Our partnership has already

received €380,000 in innovation funding

from the European Union to experiment

with new content and digital tools to

help European cinemas reengage with

their audiences. We will design and

test a range of solutions, including new

gaming concepts, crowdsourced cinema

screenings, online watch parties, virtual

“We strongly believe that

now is the time for the

wider film industry to come

together and experiment

with release strategies.”

film talks, and cinema-driven VOD offers.”

“We strongly believe that now is the

time for the wider film industry to come

together and experiment with release

strategies,” adds Philipp Hoffmann,

managing director and founder of

Rushlake Media. “It may sound watery,

but we do believe in creating a win-win

model and that this will ultimately help

the theatrical community to rebuild an

even more successful and sustainable

exhibition business. The film industry

should not create an internal competition

between cinema and streaming but

strengthen the film in a world where our

viewers and fans have an overabundance

of choices on how to spend their time.”

A similar concept that uses vouchers

redeemable at partner cinemas was

launched by the specialty SVOD provider

Mubi in 2018. Originally piloted in the

United Kingdom, Mubi Go acts as a

premium tier for subscribers of the

streaming service that includes a ticket

for a specifically curated film each week at

participating cinemas. Mubi Go expanded

the program to India with PVR Cinemas

in 2019. In January 2020, just before the

pandemic wreaked havoc on the global

cinema industry, Mubi representatives

attended the annual Art House

Convergence conference in Salt Lake City

to discuss the concept with U.S. exhibitors.

Back in the United States, the second

wave of streaming adoption among

leading players in exhibition began

in 2016, with digital ticketing giant

Fandango’s acquisition of TVOD provider

Left. Cinépolis Klic

established an early

presence in Mexico’s

highly competitive

home entertainment

sector.

Right. The launch of

Showcase Now was

fast tracked during the

pandemic.

22 CinemaCon 2021


M-Go. The deal came amid an acquisition

streak by Fandango that kicked off

in 2015 and included a pair of digital

ticketing platforms in Latin America—

review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes;

the YouTube channel Movieclips—and

culminated with the 2017 purchase of

rival ticket seller MovieTickets.com. At

the time, Fandango’s acquisition of

M-Go—rebranded as FandangoNow—

seemed counterintuitive: the largest

digital ticketing network in the world’s

top box office market adding TVOD to

its portfolio. On the whole, however, a

streaming presence fit perfectly within

Fandango’s ambitions to remain a leading

digital hub for moviegoers. As was the

case with Cineplex and Cinépolis, the

intention was never to overtake or even

compete with Netflix but to integrate the

home viewing habits of their extensive

user base of moviegoers in the United

States. In 2018, the company launched

a new loyalty program, Fandango VIP

Plus, which also extended to users’

transactions on FandangoNow. It has

even leveraged its streaming presence to

assist with its digital ticketing business

at cinemas through promotions like

discount pricing on rentals of upcoming

high-profile film releases. In 2020,

Fandango acquired its second TVOD

platform, Vudu, from Walmart.

Fandango’s entry into the streaming

market in 2016 was overshadowed,

however, by the launch of a controversial

new company. The Screening Room, a

startup backed by tech alums from

Napster and Facebook, crashed into the

market by proposing a PVOD release

model for first-run movies to the home at a

premium price point. Early reports pegged

the PVOD rental price at $50 per title, with

a portion of that revenue allocated to

exhibitors who partnered with the service.

Representatives from The Screening

Room attended and took meetings with

exhibitors at CinemaCon 2016, according

to a source present at one of those

meetings, but the company was never able

to get off the ground. The Screening Room

was dead on arrival, unable to get past

contentious attitudes of the time around

the theatrical exclusivity window, but it

did succeed in sparking a conversation

about how cinemas could share in profits

of first-run PVOD rentals.

First-run titles weren’t available as part

of AMC Theatres’ own streaming service,

AMC On Demand, when it launched in

the fall of 2019. Initially, AMC On Demand

followed the general strategic blueprint

of existing exhibitor VOD services: a

transactional model integrated with its

loyalty program, AMC Stubs. Once the

pandemic hit, however, the circuit’s

streaming presence was leveraged as part

of its decision to sign a groundbreaking

deal with Universal Pictures that reduced

the theatrical exclusivity window to as

little as 17 days. The AMC-Universal

deal followed tensions between the two

companies that had played out in the

press, following Universal’s unilateral

decision to push the release of Trolls

World Tour to PVOD in the early days of

the pandemic. Eventually, the companies

came to an agreement that resulted in

AMC participating in the PVOD revenues

of future Universal releases.

“Although the financial terms of the

Universal agreement are confidential, I

can tell you that the agreement allows

AMC to participate handsomely in the

entirety of the economics of this new

structure, including receiving a share of

each film’s PVOD revenue stream, whoever

may be the retailer, as well as receiving

considerable additional economics when

the film is retailed on our own AMC

Theatres On Demand service,” said CEO

Adam Aron during the company’s secondquarter

call with investors in 2020.

“Exhibitor VOD will help guard against

inevitable cannibalization: How much can

moviegoing and viewing increase with

PVOD? As AMC will meaningfully share

in that new revenue stream, this potential

dramatic expansion of revenues should

protect AMC against the cannibalization

that admittedly will occur as some people

shift from theatrical to home viewing. This

is something that we have very carefully

researched, very thoughtfully modeled,

and that our company has been thinking

about for almost five years,” he said.

The pandemic was the catalyst for

several other top U.S.-based circuits to

launch their own streaming services.

“We had thought about it, but like a few

different projects we had been considering,

we took it off the back burner and put it

on the front burner as we started looking

for additional ways to engage with our

“This potential dramatic

expansion of revenues

should protect AMC against

the cannibalization that

admittedly will occur as

some people shift from

theatrical to home viewing.”

CinemaCon 2021

23


Industry HOME ENTERTAINMENT

customer base,” says Mark Malinowski,

vice president global marketing at National

Amusements’ Showcase Cinemas. The

Massachusetts-based circuit—which also

operates theaters in the U.K., Argentina,

and Brazil—launched ShowcaseNow in

the U.S. and Showcase at Home in the U.K.

in 2020 through ScreenPlus, a service by

Vista Group and Shift72.

Alamo Drafthouse signed on with the

same service to launch Alamo On Demand

in May 2020, only a month after starting

to develop it. Tim League, the circuit’s

co-founder and executive chairman, cites

the influence of seeing Auckland, New

Zealand’s, Academy Cinemas’ streaming

platform, released in 2019, as one of the

deciding factors that convinced him to

move forward with the project.

“The central construct for us is that

Alamo On Demand is a reflection of our

tastes and an avenue for our curation,” says

League. “I’m not out to compete against

Amazon or Netflix; that’s a fool’s errand.

We’re trying to offer something different.

... we look at ourselves like a modern

incarnation of a classic video store. Video

stores were run by the movie-obsessed who

live to make deep-cut recommendations

and share the movies they love. I love

Netflix, but that’s not who they are.”

Alamo’s approach to streaming borrows

from the strategies employed by Curzon

and mk2 in Europe in prioritizing eclectic

programming and specialized curation.

It is an extension of the circuit’s identity

as a cinema chain that can regularly pack

houses across the country by booking

obscure cult titles and niche genre films.

A chain with a specialty brand like

Alamo Drafthouse stands in contrast to

the Hollywood-driven catalogs pushed

by the algorithms of the world’s leading

SVOD streamers. Other circuits with more

mainstream followings, like Showcase

Cinemas, have found similar success in

their TVOD platforms with content that

wouldn’t necessarily sell out as regularly in

their theaters, such as music concerts and

documentaries.

Mark Walukevich, senior vice president

of film and event cinema at Showcase,

notes that the transactional nature of

exhibitor VOD has helped drive additional

web traffic to the circuit’s website while

boosting films that would have otherwise

struggled to keep consistent showtimes

across the chain. “We aren’t going to

compete with Netflix, Amazon ... or any

of those other guys,” he says. “We’re not

a subscription service; it’s pay as you

go. I think we’re finding out as people

are getting roped into subscription

services, they have too many and don’t

want another one. Prior to the pandemic

people might have had three subscription

streaming services; now they’re up to six.”

As Walukevich observes, although

TVOD may not bring in revenue on a

consistent basis, it doesn’t have the

same need to retain subscribers as

SVOD does. The pressure to avoid

subscriber churn has ignited an arms

race in exclusive content licensing and

original productions among the leading

SVOD platforms and rival upstarts from

legacy studios—a fierce competition

that now includes SVOD offerings from

Disney (Disney Plus), Universal (Peacock),

Paramount (Paramount Plus), and Warner

Bros. (HBO Max).

That pressure was what led Warner

Bros.’ parent company, WarnerMedia, to

open its entire 2021 theatrical slate to

the home simultaneously through its

SVOD service, HBO Max, at no additional

cost. It has also pushed simultaneous

day-and-date PVOD releases of major

Disney titles on Disney Plus throughout

this summer. Some previously scheduled

Disney movies, like Pixar’s Soul and

Luca, were removed from the theatrical

schedule entirely to become available

at no additional cost for Disney Plus

subscribers. In these instances, studios

prioritized promoting their in-house

streaming platforms at the expense of a

traditional theatrical release while the

box office continues to recover from the

economic fallout of the pandemic.

“I certainly don’t doubt that consumers

like day-and-date, I’m just not convinced

it’s revenue maximizing—and I’m

certainly not convinced studios or

exhibitors want to go all-in on it,” says

John Calkins, CEO of Row8, a company

that provides streaming platforms for

cinema chains, who previously held

executive roles at major studios and

circuits. “The forcing device on all of

these discussions has been the collapse

of the home entertainment window and

the related economic problem in greenlighting

all but the biggest tentpole movies.

You have a world where the structure of

the window limits economics for all but

the top films, reducing film flow.”

Row8 signed its first exhibitor

client, Southern Theatres, earlier this

year. Southern’s streaming platform is

linked directly to its loyalty program

under the chain’s Grand Theatre and

AmStar Cinemas brands. “Once the

window structure is better established

and understood, it will again raise the

question: To what extent and how do

exhibitors want to participate in the other

80 to 90 percent of their loyalty program

members’ movie-viewing behaviors

that they currently don’t participate in?

Exhibitors have relationships with the

most valuable and interested consumers in

the world—but they’ve historically limited

engaging with those consumers once per

month, at best, while turning a blind eye to

all their other movie consumption.”

For that reason, Calkins says he

believes that exhibitor VOD addresses

a structural problem in a film industry

increasingly reliant on global blockbusters.

While the pandemic might have

accelerated adoption of exhibitor VOD, its

value isn’t limited to Covid-19 closures.

If streaming can help more films find an

audience at home, why wouldn’t cinemas

want to be part of that transaction?

“The true power of the platform

will come when we are back to normal

operations,” says Alamo Drafthouse’s

League, citing 2019 Academy Award

“I’m not out to compete

against Amazon or Netflix;

that’s a fool’s errand. We’re

trying to offer something

different.”

24 CinemaCon 2021


winner Parasite as a case study. “We did

really well on the film theatrically, but we

know from our data that only about 30

to 40 percent of our guests who watched

the trailer or visited the showtimes page

for Parasite got out to the theater to

watch the film. If Alamo customers have

an opportunity to see films like Parasite

when they enter the VOD window, and

support their local cinema by doing so,

we believe many of them will. And if we

couple that Alamo On Demand screening

with a great preshow, cocktail delivery,

director Q&A, and additional content,

we’ve given our at-home guests a version

of the Alamo experience. We’re taking the

same approach we have with the cinema

to Alamo On Demand: craft and curate

a special, memorable experience built

around movies we love.”

The moviegoing experience is often

cited as one of the main advantages

cinemas have over the leading SVOD

streaming platforms, and with the rise

of exhibitor VOD, that advantage could

potentially extend to the home as well.

“Let Disney, Warner, and Netflix

worry about producing original content.

Cinemas don’t need to be content creators,

they just need to focus on creating

experiences,” says Mihai Crasneanu, CEO

of Beem, a streaming platform that helps

cinemas organize co-watching events

online. These events, billed as “Watch

Parties,” allow users at different locations

to host and attend feature film screenings

that can include Q&As, moderated

discussions, or live commentary. The cowatching

feature gives users the chance

to interact with other viewers as they

watch content. [Disclosure: Beem’s cowatching

events are offered to cinemas by

Boxoffice Pro’s corporate parent, The

Boxoffice Company.]

“Movie theaters have the opportunity

to deliver online experiences that are

connected with physical experiences,”

says Crasneanu. “‘Online’ is not a bad

word. As human beings, we’re both online

and offline all the time. Each time you

look at your phone, you’re online. And

whenever you’re not looking at your

phone, you’re offline. It’s not about offline

versus online; it’s about reaching people

where they are at any given moment.”

Crasneanu built Beem around the

concept of eventizing home viewing,

allowing venues to turn the saturation

associated with streaming content

into unique experiences through their

brands. The service has been busy adding

additional innovations to its platform,

like the inclusion of non-fungible tokens

(NFTs), or collectable digital souvenirs, of

their co-watching events for viewers. If

streaming at home can seem routine and

anonymous, the equivalent of ambient

television playing in the background,

services like Beem are a way for exhibitors

to leverage their status as experiencedriven

entertainment destinations to

influence home viewership habits.

While co-watching events can occur

either simultaneously with a physical

event at a theater or be held exclusively

online, Crasneanu doesn’t believe cowatching

could cannibalize moviegoing.

He views co-watching as a different type of

communal viewing experience altogether.

“Maybe I can’t go out that night for some

reason: I need a babysitter, it’s too far

from home, I’m sick, whatever. There

is no reason why a movie theater can’t

provide a version of that experience to

the home. It’s a different experience, yes,

but it creates additional engagement with

their customers that can’t, or don’t, go

out to theaters very often but still want to

engage with their brand and participate in

experiences from home.”

Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League

also sees a future in which exhibitor

VOD complements, not supplants, the

moviegoing experience. “We’ve always

operated under the guiding principle that

no matter how good your TV and sound

system are at home, everyone wants and

needs to get out of the house and have

memorable experiences. Cinema is an

out-of-home experience. We compete

against bars, restaurants, comedy clubs,

and the like,” he says. “I’m not naive

enough to think the rise of streaming

during the pandemic won’t have any

effect. But we’re going to continue to

focus on offering a great experience for a

night out, and I am confident that we will

return stronger than ever.”

Right. Beem brings the

communal aspects of

moviegoing to the home.

CinemaCon 2021

25


Industry HOME ENTERTAINMENT

ART HOUSE

ON DEMAND

Specialty Exhibitors Turn to Digital

Platforms in the Pandemic

BY KEVIN LALLY

The independent and art house

theater communities were true

pioneers in establishing virtual screenings

at the very start of the pandemic

shutdown. One driving force was the

respected independent distributor Kino

Lorber, which had just opened its Cannes

award-winning dark comedy thriller

Bacurau in New York City on March 6,

2020. According to CEO Richard Lorber,

some 60 to 80 additional theaters had

been slated to show the acclaimed film

when everything halted in mid-March.

As Lorber told Boxoffice Pro in April

2020, those theaters “had already spent

funding sources to promote the film and

engage their membership base. We came

to the conclusion that we could, in effect,

hybridize our theatrical distribution

26 CinemaCon 2021


Left.

Tori Baker, CEO and

president of the

nonprofit Salt Lake

Film Society

“The purpose of a digital

screen is not the same as

your bricks-and-mortar

screen. Does it still play

films? Yes. But the question

is, what is the purpose?“

model with our VOD technology.” The

“totally theater-centric” platform, branded

as Kino Marquee, was up and running

within days and used by more than 100

theaters by the end of March 2020. To

date, more than 750 theaters and festivals

have used the platform, with revenue from

virtual screenings split 50/50. In December

2020, the New York Film Critics Circle

gave Kino Lorber a special award for this

service “designed to help support movie

theaters, not destroy them.”

One exhibitor immediately inspired

by Kino Lorber’s initiative was Tori

Baker, CEO and president of the nonprofit

Salt Lake Film Society, which runs the

Broadway and Tower theaters in Salt Lake

City, Utah. Her colleague Miles Romney

had already created an online media

accelerator studio for the Film Society,

which they adapted into a new streaming

platform called @homeArts.

“I started to see the innovations of

companies like Kino Lorber, where they

immediately pivoted to helping the art

houses,” Baker recalls. “Unfortunately,

the sacrifice the art house had to make

was to allow the audience out from under

their wing and off to those other services.

Which is a problem we were facing long

before the pandemic—people going to

Netflix or Disney Plus or whatever. It was

amazing and innovative of Kino, but at

the same time it wasn’t really solving

our problem of managing cash during a

crisis. In the model where you’re sending

customers off to other services, you’re

sending your most valuable asset out the

door and asking them to participate in

a thing that you had no control over in

terms of quality service. And it was also

not pulling in the cash the way box office

does—the business model of theaters is

[that] the cash hits the box office first. It

was literally a business model that was 180

degrees off from what we were used to. So

I was looking for a way, technology-wise,

to build a fundraising support system

that allows everybody to also support

the filmmakers and the distributors that

maybe don’t have screening [platforms] 90

percent done like Kino did.”

Baker closed her theaters on March 13,

2020, and had the @homeArts platform

up and running on April 3, joined in this

venture by the Coolidge Corner Cinema in

Brookline, Massachusetts. By August 2020,

they had added nine more art houses,

including Film Forum in New York, the

Avalon in Washington, D.C., and the

Roxie in San Francisco. At its peak, the

@homeArts cohort boasted 34 participants,

including non-cinema members like the

Salt Lake Acting Company.

This platform mimicked a real-life

theater, with virtual box offices and films

opening on a Friday for a limited run.

“The key point,” Baker notes, “was the

fundraising ask. At what point do you say,

in addition to your ticket, can you support

the cinema coming back? That was the

key success of the digital platform for

us—in our case, 40 percent is our average

of donations to the ticket buy. Most of

the other cohorts are hovering around 35,

some less, some more—it depends on how

robust they were in their fundraising and

engagement processes before they took on

the technology.”

Now it’s time to look toward the future,

Baker says. “The purpose of a digital

screen is not the same as your bricks-andmortar

screen. Does it still play films? Yes.

But the question is, what is the purpose?

I’m trying to educate our cohorts that the

purpose is multifaceted and has a lot of

abilities for growth. And that growth is

going to be more of the mission space—

how you impact your local community—

than the high revenue-generation space.”

As part of its mission, Salt Lake Film

Society has conducted what Baker

calls “cultural tours,” festivals of films

from Mexico, Israel, the Pacific Islands,

and other regions. Taking those tours

digital “taught us a lot about accessibility.

It taught us about how to reach into

diverse communities that aren’t able to

access our capital city, or maybe even

don’t feel welcome in the capital. Art

house audiences are primarily plus-45,

white, fairly affluent. That’s not without

exception—there are college towns and

rural towns. … We’d had Filméxico at our

bricks-and-mortar for the past 10 years and

were successful with it. But when we took

it virtually and made it accessible on our

digital screen, something else happened.

People were able to access us because

they didn’t have to come into our physical

home where they might not feel welcome,

or maybe they’re intimidated about

navigating the city, or maybe they don’t

have the economic means to come here.”

Baker says she tripled attendance for

her cultural tours by going virtual. “I’m

limited on an opening night to 250 seats

in one auditorium. I’ve brought in one

CinemaCon 2021

27


Industry HOME ENTERTAINMENT

director to talk about the movie. With

the digital screen model, we were able to

access every single director from every

single film.”

On a broader level, Baker says a digital

screen can bring access to “health-risk

groups in this pandemic who can’t leave

their homes, groups that have mobility

issues, low-income groups, and elderly

facilities that can’t take their residents

out anymore.” She adds, “Maybe in the

case of a snowbird, when you run a

theater like I do where it’s winter most

of the year, they can take your theater

with them to Arizona now. So those

screens can serve a purpose for your core

audience as well.”

Baker suggests another possibility for

widening a theater’s mission. “Let’s say

you put a program together with films like

I Am Not Your Negro or Freedom Riders,

and you’re a company that’s interested in

sharing with your employees the Black

experience in America. Your digital screen

could help your entire community in

a different way. People in the business

sector could have access to a diversity

project that uses the art of film instead of

just a lecture.”

An active member of Baker’s

@homeArts cohort is Diana Martinez,

artistic director of Film Streams, a

nonprofit that operates the Ruth Sokolof

Theater and the historic Dundee Theater

in Omaha, Nebraska. She already had a

working relationship with @homeArts

booker Connie White of Balcony Booking

and didn’t need much persuading to join

the cohort.

“Film Streams @Home gives us an

opportunity to expand our mission and

engage our patrons even while closed,” she

says. “We pivoted our new releases and

repertory programming to the digital space,

were able to adapt education and special

programs with discussion components

like ‘Science on Screen,’ and created a

virtual fundraiser event. These all proved

successful. Likewise, our administrative

staff adapted to the rhythm of virtual

cinema, from box office reporting to

providing tech help to customers. Though

it was a great deal of work, @home became

an extension of our brand.

“The focus of @homeArts on user

experience was key for us. Before

@homeArts, we were sending patrons

directly to different distributors’ sites,

where the patron had to make a separate

“When you spend so much

time building an audience

and gaining that trust, it’s

great to know that that

connection can carry far

beyond our physical space

in a tangible way.”

account each time. @homeArts really

streamlined and improved the user

experience by offering a one-site, one-login

solution, and we saw sustained engagement

and positive feedback from that.”

Martinez notes that “our audience on

the platform gravitates toward tonally

lighter fare, or choices anchored with

indie stars—films like I Used to Go Here

and Black Bear play really well in a

setting with more distractions. That was

a bit of a learning curve for me, because

curatorially it demands a different kind

of viewing than theatrical, and I had

to program to that. I had to consider:

If people have to pause the film or get

distracted, does this story have the

narrative momentum for them to press

play again?”

28 CinemaCon 2021


She says the online platform “helped

immensely” in the marketing of her

December 2020 fundraising event with

the Oscar-winning director of Nomadland,

“Icons: A Conversation with Chloé

Zhao.” “We have over 55K views on that

interview. … We filmed introductions to

films as part of our ‘Science on Screen’

series. We had an interview series

highlighting community partners. We

began creating content that could take

the place of our in-person events; offering

those for free alongside films went a

long way to differentiate us from being

just another streaming service. We’re

currently discussing what other content

we can make now that we’re open that

complements our theatrical films and inperson

events.”

Film Streams @Home seems to be here

to stay. “We have two venues with two

screens each, but we will always be limited

by how many seats we have to sell when

there’s lots of good film to play, so our

virtual screen can be that fifth, unlimited

space. As a local theater, we also hadn’t

found a way to stay connected to patrons

who move away or are less able to get to

us physically. People can take us along

wherever they are. And when you spend

so much time building an audience and

gaining that trust, it’s great to know that

that connection can carry far beyond our

physical space in a tangible way.”

Martinez says, “I personally think

the pandemic amplified issues already

present in the theatrical model rather

than created wholly new ones. Art houses

probably could have tried to respond

to streaming sooner, to have stronger

national brands outside our local contexts,

to become more accessible, to think

more deeply about funding structures

and diversifying sources of revenue. A

great advantage of being an art house or

an independent theater is our ability to

be nimble, so even though the theater

business will continue to be in flux, I

think we’re more adaptable.

“We began a phased reopening of our

two locations in late May—opening our

biggest screen at the Dundee Theater

and then our smallest screen at the same

location in early July. The Ruth Sokolof

Theater will open fully by late July. I

hope we can play films with the regularity

we used to, but the movie business is

unpredictable. There is always a sense of

the unknown, but I remain optimistic.”

Back on the East Coast, another

resourceful @homeArts member

is Amherst Cinema, a three-screen,

nonprofit cinema in Amherst,

Massachusetts. “We pivoted to streaming

films within three weeks of our closure,

and at that time it was truly the Wild West,”

recalls Yasmin Chin Eisenhauer, executive

director. Then they joined the Salt Lake

Film Society’s initiative. “Like a startup,

it took some time to help our filmgoing

community navigate and understand our

new platform. While the revenues from

this innovation did not fully make up for

income, it did keep us connected to our

community.”

George Myers, general manager, says,

“We were certainly affirmed in our belief

in the power of cinema. That in difficult

times art is not disposable and people

turn to cinema for entertainment, healing,

escape, and learning. Though it was

clearly a different experience than being

in the cinema in person, our patrons still

relied on us to provide great films and

engagement with film culture. The support

and concern for our future well-being was

immense, and we’re grateful to be here and

of service to our community and region.

It was also a good opportunity to review

ways in which we could alter what we do,

including virtual Q&As, online seminars,

and rethinking many of the systems we

had inherited as an industry.”

The Amherst Cinema strove to bring

excitement to its virtual programming.

“We were thrilled to be able to offer

multiple presentations of live scored

silent shorts with [silent film historian

and accompanist) Ben Model,” Eisenhauer

notes. “We’ve long admired his work

in the New York City area but were

never able to get him up here to western

Massachusetts. He developed an entire

digital broadcasting rig on his piano

in his living room to live-score and

stream these wonderful silent shorts. A

digital retrospective and interview with

filmmaker Andrew Bujalski was also a real

highlight. In addition to those events, we

were able to host some truly wonderful

Q&As with filmmakers from around

the world, often multiple times a week,

including legendary jazz bassist Buster

Williams, journalist Jaan Uhelszki, and

director Spencer Nakasako.”

Eisenhauer continues, “I think one of

our takeaways [from our period of closure]

is to remain agile, nimble, and openminded

to the ways we might deliver our

programming. We’re certainly looking

forward to and will be prioritizing our inperson

operations but will also continue

virtual programming for the foreseeable

future. Virtual cinema enabled program

continuity in uncertain times and was also

a pathway to greater inclusivity.”

Myers adds, “The addition of the

virtual space helps in some ways with

the limitations of screen time/space that

we face as independent theaters. Being

able to broaden what you’re able to play

may allow theaters to realize their vision

and mission more fully and help attract a

broader audience or create more impactful

relationships with existing communities.

On the other hand, the curation of the

virtual space needs to be treated with the

same care and consideration as your firstrun

films, so audiences see that you hold

the films in the same regard. Additionally,

there’s an opportunity to reach audiences

beyond your traditional footprint, which

is a great opportunity to touch lives

beyond your normal catchment area.”

Does Myers see his in-person business

returning to normal? “That’s the milliondollar

question. It depends on what

‘normal’ means, but I think the easier and

honest answer is no, and likely that should

be true of all theaters. If the pandemic

didn’t reveal some shortcomings,

oversights, deficiencies, or other

information, I would wager you’re not

looking closely enough at your operations

or listening hard enough to your staff. This

was a monumental event, and I hope that

with all that happened and was lost over

the past 18 months, we at least use it as a

teachable moment in ways we can do our

work better.”

In conclusion, Salt Lake’s Tori Baker

declares, “The good news is that at the

end of the day this technology is not

going anywhere, and we have a pathway

to continue to develop the components

that make it even more valuable to

distributors, more valuable to the art

house community, more succinct in its

fundraising components. But in order to

develop [@homeArts], we want to make

sure that we’re impacting enough people

nationwide.”

CinemaCon 2021

29


Industry INDIE INFLUENCERS

INDIE INFLUENCERS

Brought to you by

As the cinema industry begins to emerge from the Covid-19

pandemic, Boxoffice Pro and Spotlight Cinema Networks are

partnering to profile movie theaters and influential industry

figures from across the country and asking them to share their

first-person accounts of bringing the movies back to the big screen.

LOOK DINE-IN CINEMAS

Interview with Brian Schultz, CEO

Veteran exhibitor and dine-in cinema

pioneer Brian Schultz talked to

Boxoffice Pro about his latest cinema

project, Look Dine-In Cinemas.

Can you tell us about the first job you

had in the exhibition industry—how

you came to it and how it evolved

into the career you have now?

I always loved going to the movies. Believe

it or not, my first job was taking over a

one-screen, sub-run movie theater that

was built in 1948 here in Dallas, Texas.

I was traveling from Washington, D.C.,

on my way back to Southern California,

where I grew up. I was supposed to run

a theater there, but I never quite made it

back to California.

How did that evolve into your work

in the dine-in space, which you’ve

been instrumental in launching in

North America?

I’ve been doing this for 29 years. It’s a

passion project for me. It was love at first

sight. I saw a movie theater/restaurant

in Bethesda, Maryland. They had some

frozen chicken fingers. They had some

warm draft beer. I don’t know why, but

I fell in love with it, and I couldn’t think

of anything else. I said, “Boy, what

would it be like if you could combine a

great hospitality experience with a great

moviegoing experience?” And we’ve

spent the last 29 years trying to evolve

that. Not only for the moviegoing public,

but also for in-theater dining, which is

an important way that people can enjoy

film, especially those that maybe don’t

like concession stands. They want a whole

hospitality entertainment experience.

Theatrical isn’t always the fastest to

innovate. I really enjoy that space of

pushing the industry and continuing to

re-create. When we talk a little bit about

Covid, what a horrible time for all of us,

but also a time for the entire industry to

reinvent itself.

When you start something new in the

cinema space, what are the hurdles

you encounter in bringing your vision

to its full potential?

I don’t look at things as hurdles. I actually

look at them as additional tests, so that we

can continue to evolve. I like a philosophy

of plan, do, check, adjust. We make a plan.

It sounds really good. It looks good on

paper. We think it’s going to work. And

then we do it. And then we check it. And

then we make adjustments. That constant

reflection and improvement, continuously,

makes a huge difference in how a concept

can move from one point to another.

30 CinemaCon 2021


Industry INDIE INFLUENCERS

There are always going to be

things that you learn the hard way,

especially when you’re bringing the

hospitality sector and the cinema

sector together into one unique

concept. What are some of those

early management lessons that are

still part of your philosophy today?

A lot of lessons come from the movie

theater business. It’s really feast or famine,

with huge peaks and huge lulls. From

a staffing perspective, it’s tough. From

a food and beverage preparation and

ordering perspective, it’s tough. Bringing

that all together to make sure that we can

pick films, schedule them properly, and

then schedule the right number of staff

and purchase the right amount of food is

always the challenge.

If you think about serving 800 of your

best friends in a one-hour period—fresh,

hot, made-to-order meals—you can see

where that challenge is. And the solution

that I came up with was, instead of always

trying to optimize or cut labor or be the

most efficient financially, I focus on the

team member: making sure that they

always earned a living wage and had a

great place to work. And that created a

hospitality environment that made the

difference. That made guests want to

come. It really differentiated us from being

solely dependent on the film. Although

the film is obviously such a critical point

of what we do and really represents why

people come to a dine-in theater, there’s

[also] the hospitality aspect. We’ve always

had a lot of our guests just show up to the

brand: “We’re coming to Look Dine-In

Cinemas. Now, what’s showing?” It is a

tough thing to execute. Eight hundred

meals, high-quality, fresh, made-to-order,

delivered to your seat without distracting

from the main thing, which is the movie.

“If you think about serving

800 of your best friends in

a one-hour period—fresh,

hot, made-to-order meals—

you can see where that

challenge is.“

bit differently. Unfortunately, through

my daredevil background—racing

motorcycles and various things—I had a

few extra that I prefer not to replicate.

But it always made me think—combined

with growing up not the wealthiest,

not the poorest, but on the lower end of

the socioeconomic [spectrum]—“Let’s

take care of the team, because the team’s

the actual one that’s serving the guest.”

And then I was blessed with some great

mentors. Right when I came to Dallas, a

gentleman named Norman Brinker—who

was the founder of [Steak and Ale and]

Brinker International, [which owns] Chili’s

and Maggiano’s [Little Italy]—taught me

how to build a great organization that’s

team-focused. We used to meet weekly at

the theater, and we would create this infrastructure.

Whether it’s training, financial

awareness, or just general kindness. We

learned that all got embedded and became

an important part, maybe even the important

part. It affected so many different

things that we did at the cinema.

Even our—what we call “sensory

friendly” now, but we called them “special

needs screenings” in the past—that all

came out of one of my managers not being

Throughout the projects you’ve

worked on in your career, you’ve put

an emphasis on corporate social

responsibility (CSR). Can you talk

about why CSR is such an important

part of your business philosophy?

What’s a little bit strange is I’ve had five

certified near-death experiences. With

every near-death experience, there’s an

internal transformation or learning that

happens. What’s so fascinating, as we

look forward, I think the entire world’s

had a near-death experience and a chance

to really reflect and look at life a little

32 CinemaCon 2021


able to take his family to a movie. For me,

movies are a platform for learning, for

opening perspective and really being able

to venture into different types of lives

that can be educational. I know that I’ve

learned so much from movies. So that’s

part of that motivation. Even though a lot

of the programs that we do sound good,

and they’re great initiatives, it’s really

movie by movie, guest by guest. We try to

create this opening of perspective and an

escape that allows people to continue on

their journey.

Cinema is really a populist

experience—it’s an affordable form of

entertainment, and everyone should

be able to take part in it.

I love that the movies really are for the

population. And for different generations

concurrently. Now, I also love food. And

I love beverages. And I think that that

rounds out the experience. But I’m taking

this opportunity to re-create, in Look

Dine-In Cinemas, the ability to have a

distraction-free dine-in experience. By

making some transitions, where before we

had beautiful interior parts of the theaters,

now we’ve really stripped that down to

be more of a black box concept, so that

you can really disappear and focus into

the film. Not taking orders after the main

feature begins. Really having the systems

and processes. Ninja-like servers in their

black shirts and black pants can get the

food on the table before the movie really

begins. All those things so that we can

really honor the moviegoing experience

and allow people to not be distracted

in any way. That was really the chief

drawback of dine-in that we heard. There’s

a distinct population that thought it was

distracting. So, at the start of Covid, that

was one of the main things that I wanted

to overcome at Look Dine-In Cinemas.

The pandemic gave us all a chance

to step back and recalibrate our

future activities. That was the case

for you. Can you walk us through how

you got the Look Dine-In Cinemas

concept together?

In April of 2020, when Covid was really

going on, I took a step back, started to

reflect, and knew that this was going

to be a tough road. I hired a consulting

group called Jump, and we had one

question, which was: If we were going

to try to re-create the entire moviegoing

community, what would we do? That’s

the core playbook for the future of Look

Dine-In Cinemas. Now, I always loved

Look Cinemas. They had one location

in Dallas, which oddly enough ended

up replacing my original theater. They

built an absolutely gorgeous location

there. I always loved the feel of it, the

brand, which is a little bit of an elevated

food-and-beverage concept. I talked to

the founder, Brian Mason, who’s a good

friend, [and] Covid really wiped them

out. There was a great relationship where

we could get together, and I decided that

this would be the perfect vehicle in the

perfect brand to really extend and bring

across the country. And that’s exactly

what we’re doing. But the ethos of what he

developed and that reputation for being

future-forward innovation, high-quality

food [remains.]

I love that idea of starting from

square one and figuring out what

you want to do from there. Because

there’s a lot to experiment with in how

the traditional theater is run.

Change is tough. A lot of things have

been baked in for decades. Being able

to start from a fresh piece of paper and

just build from there was really a treat. A

little bit scary. But a lot of fun. It got me

really thinking, talking, learning, and

trying things from all different kinds of

industries that we could piece together

into what we think is something really

special that’s going to help lead our

industry out of Covid and onto bigger and

better things.

That’s a question that every

exhibitor around the world is asking

themselves right now: What can we

do as an industry to emerge from this

pandemic in a positive way? What is

in your mind that cinemas can do to

move forward past the pandemic?

So many of us are still tethered to the

past, where there are big Hollywood

blockbusters and we show them five

times a day. It has to be in the largest

auditorium for a certain amount of time.

There are all these rules. I think the move

is going to be from film booking to content

programming. Our theaters hopefully will

become kind of community centers. With

the audiovisual improvements, with folks

like [event cinema distributors] doing

different things, I think we’re going to be

bringing a lot more content to the screen.

And with the shrinking of windows, I

think that there’s going to have to be

mutual flexibility to really bring to the

communities what they want and to be

more of a community gathering place that

can use technology to bring us forward.

Whether that’s video conferencing and

training, concerts, education. And,

obviously, our main thing is film.

From a moviegoer’s perspective, you

show up to a theater and you see a

movie—people don’t really have an

idea of the complex relationships

that go into this business and how

financially challenging it can be at

times. One of the things that helps

on that latter front is in-cinema

advertising. Could you fill us in on

your connection with Spotlight

Cinema Networks and how cinema

advertising can help Look Dine-In

Cinemas as it expands?

That’s a great relationship. It’s an example

of a chance to really start from a blank

page of paper and focus on, “Who would

the best partner be?” And I don’t think

of Spotlight as cinema advertising. I

think of it as part of the show. Bringing

our guests information about products,

films, all different kinds of things that

are educational. They’ve done a great

job partnering and creating a preshow

that’s both entertaining and informative.

But not just hawking national brands or

general products that you can see on TV.

They’re really trying to tailor the content

to that customer base.

“Change is tough. A lot of

things have been baked in

for decades. Being able to

start from a fresh piece of

paper and just build from

there was really a treat.“

CinemaCon 2021

33


Industry INDUSTRY INSIDERS

DOWN TO THE

LAST DETAIL

DEBI BOIS AT

THE MOVIES

The Motion Picture

Association’s Debi Bois Steps

Down After 15 Years at the MPA

BY DANIEL LORIA

After 15 years overseeing special

projects at the Motion Picture

Association, including the MPA’s annual

presence at CinemaCon, industry veteran

Debi Bois is stepping down from her role

as she enters retirement. Her connection

to the MPA dates to 1985, when she was

the executive assistant of MPA board

member and then-Paramount Pictures

executive vice president Bob Pisano. Bois

continued working as Pisano’s assistant

through executive appointments at MGM

and the Screen Actors Guild before they

both landed at the MPA in 2006.

By that time, Bois had already become

a seasoned veteran in coordinating the

intricate logistics ahead of the biggest

convention on the industry’s calendar.

Working from Los Angeles, Bois was

responsible for arranging Pisano’s schedule

at ShoWest, the predecessor to CinemaCon

in Las Vegas, getting him to and from every

location on the executive’s daily agenda.

In addition to the early lessons absorbed

from that experience, Bois also recalls the

studio’s gift baskets during the ShoWest

days. “It was fabulous,” she says, “and one

year I managed to land one. I still have

some of the pieces from it today!”

Bois was promoted to director of

special projects–West Coast at the MPA

in 2011, following Pisano’s departure

from the association. In that role, Bois

was responsible for a variety of detailed

tasks with multiple moving parts. “My

role primarily focused on logistics,” Bois

says. “I managed West Coast logistics for

our chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin

after he joined the MPA in 2017, worked

with the COLCOA French Film Festival to

bring French cinema to the United States,

led our events committee, ran logistics

for large executive and board meetings,

and, of course, managed all of the MPA’s

presence at CinemaCon.”

Bois attended her first CinemaCon in

2012, where she was tasked with handling

the entirety of the MPA’s logistics at the

conference. “The first big event I staffed

was the joint NATO and MPA State of

the Industry presentation that took

place in the over-4,000-seat Caesars

Palace Colosseum, filled to capacity. The

enthusiasm that filled the venue was

incredible, and you could instantly tell

how much the theater owners loved these

events. I remember how welcoming John

Fithian, Mitch Neuhauser, Matt Pollock,

Matt Shapiro, and Patrick Corcoran were

that morning and how thankful I was that

they guided me through the process. All

of them are still with NATO today, and I

think it is a true testament to how special

that team is that the leaders and staff have

been there for years and years.”

The biggest challenges Bois faced in

the role are familiar to anyone who has

attended CinemaCon: finding a place to

host a lunch or hold a private meeting

on the fly. “CinemaCon is always so well

attended that finding a last-minute place

to host something can be difficult,” she

says. To ensure the MPA’s schedule could

be followed as closely as possible, Bois

went as far as carrying a pedometer at

her first CinemaCon. She recalls walking

almost 13 miles a day as she timed

and mapped walking routes between

meeting sites at Caesars Palace. “After all

my years at the event, I typically knew

how to address any challenges quickly

and could always tell you the fastest way

to get somewhere depending on the time

of day,” she says.

As the head of the event committee in

L.A., Bois was responsible for organizing

Moviegoing Memory

I grew up in a very small

town. There was only one

theater—the Scenic Theatre.

On Saturday afternoons it

catered to the children in the

community, and as a little

girl I can remember dancing

and costume contests there.

They also used to hide little

tags under the seats where

we could win prizes. At

Christmastime, the theater

would be open for parents

to leave their children while

they went holiday shopping.

Growing up with something like

that was very special.

As I grew up, I visited California

to see if I wanted to move

there. I saw my very first movie

in a theater in Westwood. It

was Foul Play, starring Chevy

Chase and Goldie Hawn. I was

21 then, so you can imagine

the excitement of sitting in a

gigantic theater—with stereo!

So very different from the

Scenic Theatre I was used to!

At the Concession Stand

The minute I was old enough

to pay for my own concessions,

I would order a giant popcorn

with extra butter and water—

and, of course, I wouldn’t

share with anyone! My tip

to everyone is, don’t eat the

popcorn until the movie starts!

34 CinemaCon 2021


what she calls “modest but fabulous

holiday parties.” Doing so required

the special touch that defined all her

assignments at the MPA: making sure that

member studios and industry partners

always felt taken care of in Los Angeles

and were treated like family.

Among the career highlights she

lists during her tenure at the MPA was

her first trip to an industry event in

Washington D.C., where Will Smith

served as a keynote speaker and former

MPA chief Jack Valenti, then retired,

was in attendance. “It was a great first

introduction to Washington, with such

a lively and energetic environment,”

she remembers. The biggest highlight,

however, came when the MPA organized

a luncheon for Ban Ki-moon, the former

Secretary General of the United Nations.

“I had the privilege of working with his

advance staff and security,” she says. “It

was definitely a highlight, not only in my

career, but in my life.”

“I get emotional about [my retirement]

because I’ve truly had an incredible

time at the Motion Picture Association

and at CinemaCon,” Bois says. “I have

“The enthusiasm that filled

the venue was incredible,

and you could instantly tell

how much the theater owners

loved these events.”

learned so many things about advocacy,

teamwork, and having trust and respect

for everyone I’ve met at the MPA. I

certainly never thought spring 2020

would be the last time I would see anyone

before my retirement. I actually planned

that I would attend CinemaCon 2020 and

announce my retirement after the 2021

dates were announced. As for the people

at CinemaCon, they were so helpful,

responsive, flexible, organized, and

professional. I have nothing but praise for

CinemaCon staff and events. Overall, I had

such a fabulous experience. Though it was

a tremendous amount of work, it was also

the time of my life.”

CinemaCon 2021

35


INDUSTRY CENTURY IN EXHIBITION


0

s

12020 marked the 100th anniversary of

A CENTURY

IN EXHIBITION

The 2010s: The Great

Disruption

BY VASSILIKI MALOUCHOU

the founding of Boxoffice Pro. Though

the publication you hold in your hands

has had different owners, headquarters,

and even names—it was founded in

Kansas City by 18-year-old Ben Shlyen

as The Reel Journal, then called Boxoffice

in 1933, and more recently Boxoffice

Pro—it has always remained committed

to theatrical exhibition.

From the 1920s to the 2020s, Boxoffice

Pro has always had one goal: to provide

knowledge and insight to those who bring

movies to the public. Radio, TV, home

video, and streaming have all been perceived

as threats to the theatrical exhibition

industry over the years, but movie

theaters are still here—and so are we.

We at Boxoffice Pro are devotees

of the exhibition industry, so we couldn’t

resist the excuse of a centennial to

explore our archives. What we found was

not just the story of a magazine, but the

story of an industry—the debates, the

innovations, the concerns, and above

all the beloved movies. We hope you’ve

enjoyed our 10-part series, A Century in

Exhibition, which concludes in this issue.

36 CinemaCon 2021


The 2010s were eventful for the

exhibition industry, full of rapid,

profound transformations, innovation,

and ingenuity, most notably the

digitalization of the economy. Thanks

to new platforms, social media, and big

data, exhibitors and studios harnessed

the power of information to better

communicate with and understand

their audiences.

But with new opportunities also

came new threats, as third parties and

streaming platforms “disrupted” the

cinema industry, largely from the comfort

of the audience’s home. The disruption,

however, pushed exhibitors to innovate

and offer unique cinematic experiences

in their theaters. A key element of that

innovation had been under way since

the previous decade in the form of digital

projection. In 2009, only 15 percent of

screens worldwide had been digitally

converted. Ten years later, the digital

transition was nearly complete, as 97

percent of the world’s 200,000 screens

were digitized. Digitalization established

a new standard for cinema technology

and raised the bar for premium offerings

like 3-D, premium large-format screens,

and immersive seating.

The digital transition was a global

endeavor, and exhibition gained a

distinctly multinational identity through

increased technological exchanges and

innovations and an expansion of global

markets, which in turn transformed

Hollywood films and the studio system.

The Digital Road Map: Reaching

the Connected Moviegoer

The switch to digital tools, especially the

smartphone, ushered in a second digital

revolution for the movie theater industry.

The adoption of new technologies

expanded the reach of exhibitors, who

were now able to communicate directly

with their customers anytime and

anywhere, giving them, perhaps for the

first time in the history of the industry, the

power to better know their audiences.

The push to innovate initially came

from outside players, as third-party digital

companies rushed to fulfill market needs

that had been neglected by exhibition.

Digital ticketing was such a market. In

2010, Fandango and MovieTickets.com,

the biggest online ticketing companies in

the U.S., celebrated their 10th birthdays.

Their first decade had been marked by

growth and innovation. In the 2010s,

Fandango’s expansion was particularly

aggressive: it acquired Ingresso and

Cinepapaya to ground itself in Latin

America, established a presence in the U.K.

and Canada, and diversified its content

with the acquisition of leading YouTube

channel MovieClips, streaming platform

M-Go, and review aggregator Rotten

Tomatoes. By the end of the decade,

Fandango had created a comprehensive,

international film hub with a strong,

identifiable brand meant to accompany

the movie fan on every step of their

moviegoing journey. In November

2017, it acquired its longtime rival,

MovieTickets.com, becoming the

indisputable leader in digital ticketing.

Fandango, like MovieTickets.com, was

an early adopter of one of the biggest

trends of the decade: mobile ticketing. The

results of mobile ticketing were promising

as early as 2010. In an April 2010 article,

West World Media CEO and founder Brett

West shared encouraging figures: “In

January, our daily average of all mobile

users served was 13,846. In February,

our daily average was up to 42,957.” The

interest in mobile ticketing not only

coincided with the popularization of

smartphones but also with a new, mobilecentric,

start-up culture. Companies

such as Atom Tickets, which understood

e-commerce primarily through mobile

platforms, experimented with mobile apps,

group ticketing, and dynamic pricing.

But Silicon Valley was not the only

influence for this shift to mobile; China

was leading the way. Per a December 2016

article, in 2015, 57.9 percent of movie

tickets were bought online (as opposed

to 20% in North America), and 9 out of 10

of those tickets were purchased using a

CinemaCon 2021

37


INDUSTRY CENTURY IN EXHIBITION

“Engaging with audiences

on social media has to be

done on the consumer’s

terms, through the

networks they use and

sites they visit.”

mobile phone. “Mobile will be the key to

the next stage of the cinema evolution,”

said Will Palmer, CEO of Movio, in an

interview in May 2016. “I was just in

China, and there’s been a huge step

forward in mobile ticketing there, and

that will continue to gain importance for

a number of reasons. One, it’s convenient,

customers can transact quicker. And

two, it enables you to capture all the

data information you need to capture a

consumer’s purchase behavior.”

In the 2010s, digital ticketing became

more than a way to avoid long box

office lines; it was all about reaching

and understanding the “connected

moviegoer.” A 2019 Boxoffice Pro

white paper found that the entire

journey of the moviegoer, from the

discovery of the film to the purchase of

tickets, increasingly took place online.

From third-party ticketing companies to

the growing trend of exhibitor apps and

websites, one of the essential attributes

of the mobile-first strategy was its

overall convenience for the tech-savvy

moviegoer. That meant a seamless,

enjoyable, interactive, personalized

platform that was always available.

In addition to reserved seating,

exhibitors (like AMC in May 2019) and

third parties, such as Atom Tickets

for select theaters, introduced mobile

concession ordering. In the latter half

of the decade, it became clear that the

next frontier was about finding the

moviegoer at the source, on any platform

where their cinematic research started,

including search engines and voiceactivated

assistants like Amazon’s Alexa.

According to Marine Suttle, SVP chief

product officer at The Boxoffice Company

(Boxoffice Pro’s parent company), in

2019, Google was the third most common

source of showtime information for

moviegoers, behind exhibitor websites

and Fandango. In a September 2019

article, she summed up what that meant

for the future of digital ticketing: “[It will

become] easier for consumers to find

showtimes and buy their tickets through

a number of digital platforms, none of

them necessarily exclusive to the cinema

sector. The entry of digital publishers

into the cinema e-commerce ecosystem

signals this shift, as tech titans like

Amazon, Facebook, and Google have

begun to dip their toes into the business

with unique offerings.”

Websites, mobile apps, third-party

platforms, search engines, virtual

assistants—the days of the unique

sales channel for exhibitors were long

gone. With a rapid multiplication of

platforms throughout the decade, it

became imperative to target moviegoers

on as many of them as possible. Social

media became an essential part of this

strategy. In April 2011, the magazine’s

publisher, Peter Cane, noted, “everybody

knows that social networking is changing

the landscape, but nobody can tell you

definitively how important it really is, how

much of a change it’s really made, and

how far the change will go.”

The impact of social media on the

entire cinema industry was nothing

short of revolutionary. Social media

changed marketing, programming, and

even content itself. Boxoffice Pro

documented this trend closely. To help

exhibitors navigate these new tools,

Boxoffice Pro started integrating

Facebook and Twitter analysis into box

office predictions in September 2009,

presented the “Giants of Social Media,”

with data and insights from exhibition’s

most active social networkers, and

launched the “Boxoffice Social Club”

series in August 2014, with profiles of

individuals and companies that made a

difference in the way they harnessed the

power of social media. Boxoffice Pro

also gauged the interest of early “social

networkers.” In a November 2010 article,

an exhibitor from Alabama explained his

enthusiasm: “Do it! At this moment, there

is no better way to communicate with

your customers—if for nothing else, think

about how valuable it would be to have

your customers read your name daily. Just

think about that!”

The advent of social media allowed

exhibitors to establish a direct line

of communication with their fans,

empowering them to enhance their

brands and launch grassroots marketing

campaigns. As audiences in North

America and Europe became older, social

media was a way to attract younger

moviegoers. Social media metrics also

became key to predicting box office

performance. Facebook, Twitter, and

later Instagram allowed exhibitors and

studios to quantify “word of mouth.” The

platforms gave moviegoers the power to

make or break a film: Their ability, or lack

thereof, to generate “buzz” could strongly

38 CinemaCon 2021


impact a film at any point of its release,

especially on the opening weekend.

“Engaging with audiences on social media

has to be done on the consumer’s terms,

through the networks they use and sites

they visit,” wrote Daniel Loria in June 2015.

Similarly, “The internet is a place where

users have a great deal of control,” said

Jake Zin, V.P. of digital marketing for 20th

Century Fox in July 2010. “That’s a good

thing, but it’s also a challenging thing as a

marketer—we have to be very strategic.”

Fortunately for marketing specialists,

studios, and exhibitors, the tools that

gave audiences more control were also

the ones that granted the industry the

power to be strategic. The key behind

this was big data. Though cinemas

often served as cultural centers for their

communities, exhibitors had historically

little information about their customers.

With social media, mobile ticketing, and

other digital tools, it became possible to

use analytics to gather information about

patrons and decipher their behavior,

habits, and preferences. In October

2014, Marcus Theatres’ president and

CEO Rolando Rodriguez highlighted the

importance of data. “We should know

our customers, including how they

prefer to purchase tickets, and we should

customize our conversations to them.”

Never had decision making in the

industry been driven by data as much

as in the 2010s. Reflecting the closer ties

between exhibition and data, Boxoffice

Pro was acquired by Webedia Movies Pro

(later The Boxoffice Company), the world’s

second-largest publisher of web and

mobile movie platforms, in 2015. Naturally,

the focus on data was already evident

throughout the magazine, but it boosted

its coverage of box office grosses, started

using data for its predictions in 2010, and

regularly profiled the main data players in

the field.

Data greatly contributed to the

development of loyalty programs and

an experimentation with different price

points. Using the data, however, required

access to the data first. “The key word

here is control,” said Malcolm MacMillan,

at the time chief marketing officer of

Webedia Movies Pro. While data was

a potential gold mine for the industry,

exclusive proprietary data and “data

silos” were sometimes impediments

to effective strategies and growth. In

particular, the collaboration between

distribution and exhibition was crucial for

better programming, marketing, and the

development of content. Julien Marcel,

CEO of Webedia Movies Pro, stressed

the importance of sharing in a panel on

Big Data at 2017’s CineEurope, noting

that “this data only is valuable when we

can share it; digital is an economy of

collaboration.”

The Digital ‘Disruptors’

The question of data and its control was

central to the development of subscription

services. In 2011, San Francisco–based

MoviePass launched a subscription

service that allowed audiences to attend

up to one screening a day for a fee of $50, a

price point later to be adjusted downward,

depending on the market. Five years later,

former Netflix and Redbox executive

Mitch Lowe took over as CEO. MoviePass

truly took off after the summer of 2017,

when it was acquired by the data firm

Helios and Matheson, which leveraged

data from their subscribers for the purpose

of targeted advertising and providing

analytics to studios. The program was

revamped, and membership prices were

slashed to $9.99 per month. By January

of 2018, MoviePass had gained more than

one million subscribers, passing that

milestone faster than Spotify, Hulu, and

Netflix. The trade press quickly labeled

MoviePass a “disruptor.” In February 2018,

at the height of MoviePass’s popularity,

Julien Marcel noted that “‘Disruption’

is an often-repeated buzzword in any

business publication. (…) MoviePass

isn’t new to the industry, and neither are

subscription models, but its influence is

stronger now than it has even been.” As

proof that anything that sounds too good

to be true usually is, in June of this year,

the operators of MoviePass agreed to settle

CinemaCon 2021

39


INDUSTRY CENTURY IN EXHIBITION

Federal Trade Commission allegations

that they developed tactics to deny service

to subscribers and failed to secure users’

personal data.

Subscription models, which were

starting to pop up in every sector of the

economy, were already well established

on the other side of the Atlantic. In

France, UGC launched its UGC Illimité,

an unlimited subscription plan, in the

1990s as a response to the popularity of

the cable channel CanalPlus. Cineworld,

Odeon, and Gaumont Pathé also enjoyed

success in implementing the concept.

MoviePass brought the trend to the United

States. Its early success revealed what

could happen when the price factor was

taken out of the equation and moviegoers

were able to choose the theaters and films

they truly enjoyed. As Boxoffice Pro’s

editorial director Daniel Loria wrote in an

interview with Mitch Lowe in February

2018, “The MoviePass effect sheds light

on one of the biggest challenges facing

American exhibitors after a 2017 marked

by a downturn in attendance. After years

of upgrades to the moviegoing experience,

what can the industry do to drive more

people to the cinema? And what can be

done to have them come back more often?”

Subscription services skyrocketed in

2018. Following the rapid rise of thirdparty

providers, North American theaters

introduced their own in-house offerings,

often as expansions of their loyalty

programs. In December 2017, Cinemark

became the first major U.S. circuit to

launch its own unlimited subscription

service with Cinemark Movie Club, which

experimented with concession discounts,

shareability, and rolling credits. Just a

few months later, AMC launched its own

service with AMC Stubs A-List, a premier

tier of its loyalty program. Studio Movie

Grill, Studio C, Showcase Cinemas, Regal,

and Alamo Drafthouse also introduced

their own subscription services.

The idea behind in-house subscription

services was to boost the attendance of

frequent moviegoers. Jean-Marie Dura,

who was part of the UGC team when they

first launched their subscription service,

explained in April 2019 that to increase

the frequency of attendance, you need to

appeal to the audiences who support you

the most. “The airline industry perfected

this: If you’re a frequent flyer, you get a

first-class experience all around. Similarly,

we need to take care of our most frequent

moviegoers. Our best customers are our

greatest allies.” Ultimately, while in-house

solutions remained, MoviePass, after

internal power struggles and a reckoning

with the reality of an unsustainable

business model, interrupted its

service on September 13, 2019. Cash

shortages, emergency loans, and a

plummeting stock price led to a series

of decisions by MoviePass executives

to secretly limit customers’ use of the

service, irreparably damaging its brand

reputation and ultimately leading to the

above-mentioned FTC ruling. Despite

its short-lived success, MoviePass was a

catalyst in the introduction of exhibitor

solutions. But MoviePass’s experiment

also underscored the resilience of the

exhibition industry against the big threat

of the 21st century: “disruptors.”

At the January 2017 Art House

Convergence, producer/screenwriter

James Schamus detailed the “latest”

headlines from the trade press

emphasizing the imminent demise of

theatrical exhibition. The catch was that

the entire presentation used clippings

from 1916. “The alarmist, doom-andgloom

storyline has been around for over

a century, renewed by today’s increasingly

tired tropes of tech stories vying to break

the latest ‘disruption du jour,’” commented

Boxoffice Pro’s editor in the May

issue. In his State of the Industry address

at CinemaCon in 2018, NATO’s John

Fithian reassured the audience: “The

word ‘disruption’ is thrown around way

too much. Nothing needs to be disrupted

when it comes to the basic goal of our

industry: bringing people together to share

a communal experience,” he proclaimed.

His comments were also pointed toward

streaming and exclusivity windows.

40 CinemaCon 2021


“The world has fundamentally

changed, we are told. The

internet—and now the myriad

of devices that connect to

it—has altered forever the

relationship between content

creators and the people that

consume it.”

The debate began with premium

video on demand (PVOD), an experiment

proposed by a handful of studio

executives in the early 2010s to counter

the declining sales of their cash cow,

DVDs, affected by piracy and the low

cost of streaming outfits. The idea was

to make films available via video on

demand or streaming following a much

shorter theatrical window, just 30 to

60 days after a film opened in theaters.

While “exhibitors and the creative

community responded aggressively, and

the experiment failed,” as summarized

by Fithian in May 2012, the threat of

streaming was just beginning.

In August of that year, Patrick

Corcoran, vice president and chief

communications officer at NATO, wrote,

“The world has fundamentally changed,

we are told. The internet—and now

the myriad of devices that connect to

it—has altered forever the relationship

between content creators and the people

that consume it.” Streaming platforms

had surely changed the way films were

consumed at home. But their challenge

to exhibition began in 2014, when

Netflix announced a deal with Imax

and The Weinstein Company to release

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword

of Destiny simultaneously in theaters

and on the streaming platform. Netflix’s

chief content officer, Ted Sarandos,

provoked the ire of the industry when

he announced that “movie distribution

is pretty stuck in old models. We need

to stop distinguishing the experience by

access. Many movies are just as good, if

not better, at home.” Corcoran critiqued

Sarandos’s position in a December 2014

article stating that “the entire argument

for simultaneous release is founded on

bad faith, shoddy data, and mysterious

bookkeeping.” Fithian also rebutted

the economic argument put forward by

Netflix, saying that “it makes absolutely

no business sense to accelerate the release

of the lowest value in the chain.” In May

2016, in his takeaways from that year’s

CinemaCon, Fithian argued that “third

parties will not decide movie distribution

models. … To be sure, more sophisticated

window modeling may be needed for

the growing success of a modern movie

industry,” he wrote. “But those models

will be developed by distributors and

exhibitors in company-to-company

discussions, not by third parties.”

At that CinemaCon, another unlikely

“disruptor,” Amazon Studios, made a

point in front of exhibitors with the

presentation of its upcoming films,

including Manchester by the Sea and The

Neon Demon. “Amazon simply gets it,”

wrote Fithian in March 2019. “Though

Apple [which entered streaming in 2019]

does not have an established record of

release patterns yet, the company has

begun to entertain theatrical windows as

it enters into movie deals. … The one clear

exception to all of this, of course, is Netflix.”

In a strategic shift, in 2018 Netflix

announced a limited theatrical run

prior to a streaming release to boost the

chances of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, the

Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster

Scruggs, and Susanne Bier’s Bird Box.

While the plan allowed a small period of

theatrical exclusivity and gave Netflix its

first Academy Award for a feature film,

exhibitors condemned the move because

of the shortness of the window, as well as

Netflix’s refusal to divulge its data.

Despite the tension between

exhibitors and SVOD players, toward the

end of the decade the conversation on

streaming moved from pure antagonism

to complementarity—if the rules of the

game were respected. In fact, an Ernst

and Young survey commissioned by

NATO in 2018 revealed that the more

time people spend streaming at home,

the more times they go to the cinema. At

2019’s CinemaCon, Fithian also noted that

streaming platforms could help audiences

get exposed to more content that would in

turn boost theatrical attendance. That was

the case with the documentary renaissance

of 2018, when 14 documentaries grossed

over $1 million each.

Then came November 12, 2019. In

a watershed moment for the industry,

Disney launched its own streaming

platform, Disney Plus. As explained by a

Boxoffice Pro writer, Disney’s capacity

to leverage millions of fans due to its IPs

“will not only drive subscriptions but help

drive interest in further theatrical films.”

He concluded, “Disney Plus might be

the first streaming service to show how

the two can coexist and thrive together.”

Other studios quickly announced their

plans to launch their own platforms

in 2020, altering the dynamic with

exhibitors. On the exhibition front,

exhibitors also understood the value in

building a platform that not only allowed

CinemaCon 2021

41


INDUSTRY CENTURY IN EXHIBITION

them to adapt to the streaming and

data era, but also to enhance their own

brands and build a stronger, more direct

relationship with their fans. Already

in the late 2010s, circuits like Canada’s

Cineplex, Mexico’s Cinépolis, and, since

November 2019, AMC, had launched their

own streaming services for the members

of their loyalty programs.

Toward a Premium-Experience

Economy

Just as it came to pass with the advent

of radio, TV, Betamax, VHS, and DVDs,

streaming revealed that the resilience of

theaters lies, at least partly, in the unique,

communal experience they provide. The

experiential value of exhibition was

frequently defended by exhibitors and

filmmakers, including Christopher Nolan,

Steven Spielberg, Aaron Sorkin, Sean

Baker, Greta Gerwig, and Jordan Peele.

With this new context of heightened

competition with home entertainment

and a better knowledge of the expectations

and habits of their loyal customers,

exhibitors fully embraced the “experience

economy.” To provide a moment that

could not be replicated at home, it became

necessary for exhibitors to create a

unique and memorable experience at a

premium price point. Jay Baer, a digital

marketing and online customer service

expert, highlighted this at the 2018

CinemaCon. “It’s not about providing a

better experience than another theater

chain or the cinema across town,” he said,

“but about how your experience compares

to everything else.” Just as exhibitors

were improving the moviegoing journey

with digital ticketing and mobile apps,

they were improving the moviegoing

experience at the theater with large-format

screens, luxury and immersive seating,

and premium food and drink options.

The digital transition introduced the

concept of premium ticket prices with 3-D.

The industry had James Cameron’s Avatar

to thank for their new moneymaker. “Any

remaining doubt about the power of 3-D

exhibition evaporated with the runaway

success of Jim Cameron’s Avatar, a name

applauded so often in Vegas, it would

have made Elvis jealous,” wrote Fithian

after the first-ever CinemaCon in May

2010. Opening in 2009, Avatar became

the top-grossing film of all time with

$2.7 billion in global ticket sales, more

than 80 percent of which came from 3-D

screenings. Critics within the industry

like Roger Ebert and Walter Murch took

the view that 3-D was nothing more than

an overpriced gimmick. Yet its effect on

the box office was astounding. In 2010,

according to NATO, 8 percent of box

office revenues came from the 3-D/2-D

ticket price differential. In March 2014,

MasterImage 3D estimated that the

surcharge for 3-D added $1.5 billion to box

office sales worldwide in 2013, increasing

profits as much as 30 percent in some

markets. In that year, more than a third

of U.S. screens were equipped to display

the format. Nevertheless, the 3-D hype

did not last long in the U.S. Disappointing

performances of films like Star Wars:

Episode I – The Phantom Menace and

Titanic compelled studios to scale down

their investments. But 3-D had already

left its mark on the premiumization of

the industry. “The proliferation of [PLF]

formats in the last half-decade has to be

considered alongside the decline of 3-D

box office revenue in recent years,” wrote

Daniel Loria in May 2019. The rise of PLF

and immersive seating in the last part of

the decade showed that premium pricing

at cinemas wasn’t eradicated—it merely

diversified.

Data from IHS Markit showed that the

number of PLF auditoriums worldwide

nearly doubled between 2014 and 2017,

jumping from 1,667 to 3,202. Imax, a

pioneer of PLF, solidified its presence

throughout the North American market

and abroad in the 2010s. In 2015, Dolby

ventured into the market with the

launch of its branded premium cinema

offering, Dolby Cinema, in Barcelona

and Eindhoven, Netherlands. Dolby

Cinema coupled Dolby’s immersive sound

system—Dolby Atmos, introduced in

42 CinemaCon 2021


2012—with its high dynamic range (HDR)

projection system, Dolby Vision. More

PLF solutions, including RealD, ScreenX,

CGS, and Samsung’s Onyx LED cinema

screen, proliferated, employing the latest

developments in projection technology,

including laser, HDR, and RGB. Though

these global PLF brands accounted

for 57.4 percent of total PLF screens in

2018, exhibitor-branded screens such as

CinemarkXD rose 16.8 percent, creating a

more cluttered space. The rise of in-house

PLF solutions was often motivated by a

desire for greater control by exhibitors.

A case in point is CGR’s ICE technology,

which adds ambient light effects and

peripheral video to a large-format screen

and allows exhibitors to keep control of

their ticketing revenues, as it is based on

a zero third-party royalty business model.

The concept was introduced in 2018 in

France before expanding to the Middle

East and North Africa in 2019 and finally

reaching Los Angeles in early 2020 at

Regal’s L.A. Live flagship.

The PLF trend was preceded by a boom

in luxury seating. “For years now the

home-theater market has been trying to

bring the movie theater experience into

the home,” said Gaylord Stanton, V.P. of

sales at First Class Seating in December

2014. “Now, exhibitors are bringing the

comfort of home to the theaters.” The

concept of luxury seating was already

present in premium theaters like iPic and

Cinépolis, but it was truly popularized

after 2014. For instance, luxury seating,

mostly comprising an array of premium

recliners, was a key component of Marcus

Theatres’ $50 million investment in

premium features in 2014–2015. The

investment was aimed at boosting

attendance and adding revenue. In a

December 2014 article, AMC credited

recliners as a catalyst for enhancing the

productivity of its existing assets after

the average attendance in theaters with

premium seating went up by 76 percent

despite a seat loss of 62 percent.

Luxury seating coincided with the

rising trend of high-end cinemas. In

the middle of the decade, boutique

cinemas—a new take on art house and

luxury theaters—offering premium

amenities for a more general audience

emerged in North America. Chains such

as iPic Theatres, Alamo Drafthouse,

Movie Tavern, and Landmark Theatres

differentiated themselves with premium

amenities and expanded and elevated

their menus. The trend had originated

a few years earlier in Asia, just like

immersive seating, which after its success

in the APAC region and Latin America

began to pique the interest of North

American exhibitors. “Since synchronized

sound in the 1920s, we’ve been only

using hearing and our vision; we haven’t

been using the other senses,” said Mervi

Heinaro, CEO of the Finnish immersive

seating company Flexound in September

2019. Immersive seating became a way

to expand the moviegoing experience by

adding another amenity that could not be

replicated at home. According to European

cinema trade body UNIC, immersive

seating grew 39 percent worldwide in

2018. All major 4-D companies expanded

their footprint in the 2018–2019 period.

CJ 4DPLEX, with its 4DX immersive

seating concept, announced a major deal

with Cineworld in 2019 to increase its

presence at Regal locations in the U.S.,

grew in Saudi Arabia, and entered the

Latin American market with Cinépolis.

Canadian immersive seating provider

D-Box, which celebrated its 10th birthday

in 2019, clinched high-profile deals with

major players like Cineplex and Hoyts,

extending its footprint in Canada and in

Australia. MediaMation’s MX4D did so

in five continents with deals with B&B

Theatres, Cine Colombia, and Nigeria’s

Filmhouse Cinemas. Emerging markets,

where the construction of new theaters

was still on the rise, witnessed the largest

growth, while Western Europe and its

mostly saturated market lagged behind.

A Global Industry: Between Uniformity

and Diversity

The digitalization and the premiumization

of the industry in the 2010s shared a

common strategy: optimizing individual

admissions instead of trying to maximize

mass admissions. They shared another

commonality: they both had global roots

and a global reach. Mobile ticketing

started in China, subscription services

in France, immersive seating in Asia and

Latin America. The 2010s made clear that

exhibition was now a globalized industry.

“Exhibition is itself becoming a global

business,” proclaimed John Fithian in

March 2017. “U.S.-based AMC is going into

Europe with the acquisitions of Odeon

and Nordic. Chinese company Wanda

has invested in AMC and has acquired

“Since synchronized sound

in the 1920s, we’ve been only

using hearing and our vision;

we haven’t been using the

other senses.”

CinemaCon 2021

43


INDUSTRY CENTURY IN EXHIBITION

Hoyts in Australia. Korean-based CJ

CGV has acquired Mars in Turkey and is

opening cinemas in the U.S. Mexico-based

Cinépolis operates now in four continents,

with cinemas across Latin America, India,

Spain, and the U.S.” Mexico’s secondlargest

circuit, Cinemex, opened its

CMX upscale dine-in theater in Miami

and acquired Cobb Theaters in 2017, the

same year that Kinepolis Group acquired

Canada’s Landmark Cinemas. Cineworld,

the U.K.’s leading cinema circuit, acquired

Regal in 2018.

The globalization of the industry led

to the birth in June 2017 of the Global

Cinema Federation (GCF), a volunteerbased

organization meant to represent

the global cinema exhibition community

and to advocate for global stakeholders.

Its creation, however, came at a moment

when the future of globalization was

under fire by politicians everywhere. “In

many territories in the world, including

Europe and the United States, nationalism

is on the rise,” Fithian wrote in March

2017. “Voters in many countries are

supporting candidates who seek to

reduce immigration, to pull back on

international alliances, and to impose

barriers on free trade. In this author’s

opinion, those trends are bad for the

exhibition industry.” NATO, GCF, UNIC,

and other multinational trade bodies

vowed to protect free trade and the global

movement of people and goods in order

to sustain the competitiveness of global

markets. The interconnectedness of the

industry also created unprecedented

vulnerabilities, exemplified by the

2014 Sony Pictures hack. In November

of that year, the studio was attacked

by a hacker group, allegedly linked to

the North Korean government, who

leaked confidential data and demanded

the withdrawal of The Interview, the

controversial film about a plot to

assassinate North Korea’s leader.

Regardless, emerging markets, such as

Russia, Nigeria, the newly opened Saudi

Arabia (where cinemas were legalized in

2018 for the first time in four decades), and

APAC countries, created an international

moviegoing audience of billions of

moviegoers, often younger than North

America’s graying audiences. But no other

market intrigued American exhibitors

and studios as much as China and its 1.44

billion inhabitants. An Ernst and Young

report published in the magazine in 2013

predicted that China would overtake

the North American box office by 2020.

Tapping into that market, however, meant

that U.S. studios and exhibitors needed to

overcome strict regulations, quotas, and

censorship. According to the MPA, the

global box office increased by a whopping

15 percent in the first five years of the

decade. In a December 2012 article entitled

“Our rapidly globalizing

industry has helped bring

about a welcome wave of

inclusion and diversity ...”

44 CinemaCon 2021


“Our Future Is Linked to Asia,” a Boxoffice

Pro writer stated that “success at home

will feel empty to Hollywood studios if

they haven’t also hit the bullseye in key

international markets. … The number of

films that appeal only to Americans will

shrink very rapidly,” he predicted.

The writer was right. Overseas appetite

for foreign films changed Hollywood.

It was the era of mega-franchises, of

superhero movies and blockbuster

IPs that championed universal ideas

and themes. Conversely, midbudget

films were increasingly struggling to

compete, frequently finding homes on

streaming platforms. As the studio system

adapted its stories to cater to vast global

audiences, the global box office responded

accordingly. With fewer movies accounting

for larger percentages of annual revenues,

the international marketplace brought

profitability to domestic flops. It also

contributed to the trend of unprecedented,

massive opening weekends. Marvel’s The

Avengers and its record-breaking opening

weekend started this phenomenon in

2012. “We are now living in a new era for

blockbusters,” commented one writer in

June 2012. “An opening of $150 million is

no longer the ultimate goal—and that’s

kind of insane.” The Avengers records were

soon dwarfed by those of many other films

in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the

Star Wars saga.

Hollywood’s international strategy

required studios to be more sensitive

to foreign cultural values. But studios

also began to look inward, realizing the

potential of their overlooked audiences at

home. “Our rapidly globalizing industry

has helped bring about a welcome

wave of inclusion and diversity, just as

Hollywood studios begin to capitalize

on the rewards of inclusiveness when

it comes to their tentpole productions,”

wrote Julien Marcel in April 2018.

Although much remains to be done,

and the “newfound” interest in diverse

audiences has periodically manifested

itself in other periods of exhibition history,

the industry ramped up its efforts to

appeal to its underserved audiences in

an unprecedented manner in the 2010s.

Trade events increased their panels

on diversity and inclusion. Boxoffice

Pro, too, increased its coverage of such

issues significantly, offering studies on

underserved moviegoers, interviews with

more diverse filmmakers, and launching

a series showcasing the most influential

women in the industry. Vendors like Dolby

and QSC began offering accessibility

products such as descriptive audio and

captioning for patrons with disabilities.

More independent films, such as

Moonlight and Get Out, were centered

on the African American experience

to great commercial and critical

success. Exhibition also increased its

targeting of America’s biggest movie

fans: Hispanic audiences, who are

consistently overrepresented among

frequent moviegoers. Just a few examples

of this effort include the launching of

TheaterEars, an app providing dubbed

content in Spanish for non-Englishspeaking

moviegoers; the partnership

of ticketing company Ticketón with

Atom Tickets in 2019 to serve Hispanic

audiences; and Marcus Theatres’

introduction of the CineLatino Hispanic

Film Festival in 2017. Finally, the massive

successes of Coco, Crazy Rich Asians, and

Black Panther shattered the myth that

films led by persons of color couldn’t

draw in diverse audiences. There were no

more doubts that diversity was paying off,

domestically, and globally.

The industry’s diversity strategy

occurred, however, against the backdrop

of increased consolidation. The trend

was evident in exhibition, but more

so in distribution. At CinemaCon 2019,

for instance, Annapurna and MGM

announced their merger to revamp United

Artists. Nothing could compare to the

shock produced by Disney’s presentation

at CinemaCon, where the studio touted

its own slate as well as that of 20th

Century Fox. After more than a decade

of stunning acquisitions, including the

purchase of Marvel Entertainment in 2009,

Lucasfilm in 2012, and 20th Century Fox

in 2019, Disney had total dominance. In

2019, Disney claimed the top five highestgrossing

movies in North America with

Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy

Story 4, Frozen II, and Captain Marvel.

Owning the most lucrative IPs with the

Star Wars universe, Marvel, and Pixar,

Disney controlled nearly 40 percent of the

domestic market by the end of the decade.

The decade came to a close with

the announcement of the end of the

Paramount Decrees, in place since the late

1940s. Seventy years after the landmark

ruling that prohibited it, vertical

integration was once again on the table.

Despite an uncertain landscape full

of “disruption” and consolidation, in

the 2010s the industry learned to use

the digital revolution to its advantage,

reinvented its premium strategy, and

expanded across the globe. In 2019, global

box office receipts surpassed $42 billion

for the first time ever. The domestic

box office clocked in at $11.4 billion, the

second highest-grossing year of all time,

and international revenues passed the

$30 billion mark. The sky did not fall, and

exhibition not only survived but thrived.

The 2010s were another testament to

the power of the cinematic experience.

Just like the nine decades of Boxoffice

Pro’s existence before that, the 2010s

proved that the larger-than-life theatrical

experience was still an essential part of

moviegoers’ lives everywhere in the world.

That fundamental truth would be

called into doubt by naysayers yet

again at the beginning of this decade;

Covid-19 and its aftermath continue to

spark conversations about the theatrical

exclusivity window, competition from

at-home viewing, the shifting balance

between domestic and international

markets, and the expansion and

contraction of the industry through

mergers and acquisitions. The challenges

brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic are

significant but not unsurmountable; as

we’ve shown in this 10-part series, they’re

not even new. The story of exhibition is

a story of resiliency, of an industry that’s

jumped every hurdle put in its path, from

radio and TV to a global pandemic. It’s a

story that Boxoffice Pro has been proud

to tell for 100 years and looks forward to

telling for 100 more.

For our fellow exhibition history buffs: Keep an

eye out for the December issue of Boxoffice Pro,

in which we celebrate our own centennial and

honor the generations of Boxoffice Pro reporters

and editors for their contributions to this industry.

CinemaCon 2021

45


Curtain Raiser 48 | Trade Show Directory & New Products 51

CINEMACON

“The world is recognizing that it’s safe and

it’s great to get back to the movies.”

Mitch Neuhauser, p. 48

CinemaCon 2021

47


Cinemacon CURTAIN RAISER

RETURN TO

LAS VEGAS

After a Two-Year Hiatus,

CinemaCon Prepares to Go Live

BY KEVIN LALLY

“We are a social people—

we have a joie de vivre, a

passion for life and being

together. And where are

you together that’s a great

experience? At the movies.”

It’s been more than two years since

delegates assembled in Las Vegas

for the National Association of Theatre

Owners’ annual CinemaCon convention,

the world’s largest gathering of cinema

professionals. Now, with the country

gradually returning to a semblance of

normalcy, NATO is hosting an in-person

event with protocols to ensure that

attendees can mingle and network safely.

Managing director Mitch Neuhauser says,

“It’s probably as hectic and crazy as it’s

ever been in my professional career, but

I’d rather have it this way than the way it’s

been for so many over the past 18 months.”

We spoke with Neuhauser in early July

about CinemaCon’s return to Caesars

Palace on August 23.

How does it feel to be coming back

live after more than two years?

I’ve actually traveled with my family

starting a year ago June and visited with

studios a year ago July. I’ve traveled

safely and had meetings in people’s

houses, and it’s been great. Now that

things are getting back to normal, it’s

a great thing. There have been a lot of

challenges, but we’re doing our thing.

We’re dancing as fast as we can.

Are you expecting any problems

enforcing the rules at CinemaCon?

Actually, no, we aren’t. We’ve gotten

a lot of support from the Hollywood

community and from the exhibition

community. We’ve put forth our protocols

and, yes, we are going to be diligent about

them. Whether it’s attending an event in

the Colosseum or the trade show or a food

function, if you want to get into one of

our officially scheduled events, you will

have to show a wristband. And the only

way to get that wristband is when you’re

picking up your badge or credentials,

you’ve shown proof of vaccination or have

had a negative Covid test within 48 hours.

We will have an official testing site on the

premises, because we want people to know

that we take this seriously and we want to

provide a service to those attending this

year’s convention.

With all the rules and restrictions, how

close is CinemaCon going to be to the

show people enjoyed back in 2019?

The real holdback for us is international

travel. Right now, people from overseas,

unless you’re a U.S. citizen, can’t come to

the United States, for the most part. So,

we have been very forthright and frank

with the industry that the show will look

different, that we are going to be missing

a good portion of our international

colleagues. But we’ve got great support

from the domestic industry, and it’s

important symbolically for the industry

to get together. We take great pride in

being the first to undertake this. Cannes

is the first major film festival to do it, and

I guess we’ll be the first major industry

convention.

Is the programming going to address

the pandemic and the new climate

for theaters?

As always, we’ll focus on studios and what

they’re going to showcase from a product

standpoint, which is more potent than

ever, and the trade show. Will there be

topics of discussion about the landscape

of the industry? I think we would be like

ostriches with our heads in the sand if the

answer to that was no. So yes, there will

be some discussion. What’s that going to

be? I’m just the convention guy, so I leave

that to exhibition and distribution to work

out. But if we can take credit for getting

everyone together under the same roof at

the same time, that’s a positive thing.

I’ve been saying this for over a year

now: Our industry has been resilient

throughout history. Whatever obstacle

we’ve been faced with, we have risen to

the occasion and come out mightier and

stronger than ever before, whether it’s

World War II, or whether it’s television

or the VCR, DVD, or cable—whatever.

Were there extraordinary circumstances

during the pandemic, and streaming was

the absolute flavor of the month? You

betcha. But you can’t live your life at home

morning to night. There’s a great place for

streaming, and a great place for movies

and getting people out of the house

together to experience what we do best—

to have people, laugh, cry, scream, and

just involve themselves in the magic of

the big screen. We’re going to be stronger

than ever before, and there will be a

renaissance of our industry. There were

the roaring twenties in the 1900s, and

there will be the roaring twenties again.

I guess one sign of that is that

so many major studios are back

participating in the show. [Disney,

Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros.,

Universal, Focus, and Lionsgate will

all be hosting events.]

The studios have been just unbelievable.

They’re supporting the industry. To

know that we even have MGM-UAR on

board—I mean, they’ve had to postpone

the release of No Time to Die how many

times, and now to be able to have MGM-

UAR showcase what we hope will be

some exclusive stuff from No Time to Die

leading up to its international opening is

really exciting. We have Neon coming on

board, and now Solstice Studios is getting

involved with the party, because they

48 CinemaCon 2021


want the industry to know that hey, we’re

here, we’re going to have product, and we

believe in you.

As you know, a lot of the service

industries are having trouble

filling positions right now. Is your

programming going to address

that issue?

We do have a session on human resources,

diversity, and inclusion, and it may

touch upon that. How do you get good

employees? How do you retain them?

What needs to be done in this day and age?

But that’s a situation that’s being faced

by not just the theatrical movie industry.

When we’re in Vegas and we meet with

nightclubs and Caesars—and you read

about this all the time—it’s a major issue

that needs to be addressed. But I do believe

that time will heal all wounds, as they say,

and things will get back to normal.

During the course of planning the

show, you talk to a lot of exhibitors.

What is their general mood right now?

They’re optimistic, they’re excited.

When we started coming out with major

tentpoles such as A Quiet Place Part 2 on

Memorial Day, then F9 and Black Widow,

the opening grosses continue to grow.

The world is recognizing that it’s safe and

it’s great to get back to the movies. This

is now creating a new cash flow that’s

been missing for so many. It’s a domino

effect, bringing people into movie theaters,

selling tickets, selling popcorn, selling

soda and candy. That revenue is going to

filter down to the equipment companies

and remodeling projects. So it’s all

chugging along—we’re going to get back

up to speed.

I have to believe with people stuck

in their homes and their apartments

for over a year, there’s probably a

real longing, a nostalgia to have that

social experience again.

Unless we’re destined to become a society

of hermits where we can continue to get

our groceries delivered to our house and

watch our entertainment and work out of

the house, we’ll be like Sigourney Weaver

in Copycat—it’s like we’ll never leave.

That’s not going to happen! It’s not human

nature. We are a social people—we have a

joie de vivre, a passion for life and being

together. And where are you together

that’s a great experience? At the movies.

Home is a great place, and there’s a lot to

be said for that, but there’s even more to

be said about getting out into the open,

going to sporting events, going to concerts,

and going to the movies.

Anything we haven’t covered?

I think it’s going to be great to hear what

John Fithian and Charlie Rivkin have to

say. It’s going to be more than two years

since they’ve addressed the industry. And it

will be great to hear what the studios have

to say when they’re taking the stage. It’s

funny—when we met with a studio last July,

we talked about moving the show to August

2021. This industry executive said, “You

know, the end of August, it’s slow. There’s

not a lot of product to showcase.” Well, little

did we know that so much product would

be pushed off until the fall holiday that

we’re going to have a great roster.

CinemaCon 2021

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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

TRADE SHOW

DIRECTORY & NEW

PRODUCTS GUIDE

CinemaCon Showcases the Latest Products and

Technologies for Movie Theaters

A

AC RadioCom

Booth: 720J

acradiocom.com

Kenwood ProTalk Two Way Radios

Kenwood ProTalk Two Way Radios are built for

business and retail use—military spec’d, digital or

analog, and water resistant with audio clarity and

ranging from 1.5 watts to five watts of power. Instant

communication lets clients accomplish tasks safely

and securely. Kenwood ProTalk Two Way Radios are

cost-effective, simple to use, and private, with longlasting

battery and powerful audio.

American Licorice Co.

Booth: 1004J

americanlicorice.com

Sweet Bites

Try new Sweet Bites, one of the latest innovations

from the Sour Punch candy brand. Not a sour candy

fan? Not a problem! These sweet candy pieces were

made just for you, offering all of the sweet but none

of the sour. These soft and chewy candy bites come

in four uplifting flavors: Dream Berry, Passion Punch,

Grateful Grape, and Cotton Candy. Available in a 5 oz.

hanging bag and a 9 oz. standup bag.

Apex Order Pickup Solutions

Booth: 520J

apexorderpickup.com

Apex OrderHQ Lockers

Give guests fast concessions pickup with Apex

OrderHQ. Employees load orders into the open

compartments in back, then customers scan their

secure order code to open the door in front. It’s

the digital experience guests love that increases

throughput while reducing labor needs. Apex

OrderHQ food lockers utilize software and hardware

technologies that seamlessly integrate with an

existing tech stack. Users also get portfolio-wide

data visibility for order management, control, and

analytics. Apex’s intelligent locker solutions help

cinemas benefit from data and analytics to improve

the customer experience and operational efficiency.

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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Arts Alliance Media

artsalliancemedia.com

Producer

Producer is a specialized cloud-based circuit

management system (CMS) designed to centralize an

entire circuit’s workflows from one location, driving

circuit-wide efficiency and enhancing the experience

of their audiences. By managing each theater from

a single dashboard, exhibitors remove the need to

duplicate day-to-day tasks, such as playlist creation

and content scheduling, across their sites, enabling

site-level staff to focus on their customers’ needs.

With a versatile “titles” dashboard offering a scoped

view of all feature content, and a new live tasks feed

revealing show-stopping issues in a practical timeline

display, exhibitors can embrace comprehensive site

visibility. Playlist automation ensures content can

be scheduled across sites instantaneously, as new

macro pack services offer the essential ingredient in

dynamic playlist creation and auditorium control.

As strategic task management and quality customer

care stand at the forefront of post-pandemic

rehabilitation, Producer holds the key to an

unparalleled cinematic experience.

Atom Seating

Booth: 418J

spacesandbetween.com/

atom-seating

Platinum Recliners by Atom Seating

The latest addition to Atom Seating’s premium line

of recliners, Platinum Recliner by Atom Seating is

adjusted with several versatile features considering

the demands of cinema owners and their patrons.

The VIP recliner features a spacious design and a luxe

leather finish with high-density molded foam for the

perfect movie-watching experience.

B

The Boxoffice Company

company.boxoffice.com

Boost Food & Beverage Sales

Don’t miss out on food and beverage sales. Let your

customers buy concessions online with The Boxoffice

Company’s new F&B solution. Boost Food & Beverage

Sales works with Vista, RTS, and Omniterm pointof-sales

systems and is totally integrated to the

ticket-buying journey. The solution features a built-in

content management system, allowing exhibitors to

organize concessions items into categories (Drinks,

Snacks, Meals, etc.) and add custom images to each

entry to make items attractive to customers. The order

is sent to a theater’s printer so it can be prepared

before the customer arrives. This experience is

complemented by The Boxoffice Company’s digital

ticketing solution, giving customers the chance to

buy concessions online simultaneously or separately

from their ticket purchase, all on a mobile-friendly

experience that integrates with point-of-sales

systems, payment processors, and loyalty programs.

52 CinemaCon 2021


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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

C

C. Cretors and Company

Booth: 413J

cretors.com

UV-C Sanitizing Chamber

Cretors presents the 360-degree UV-C Sanitizing

Chamber. This patent-pending UV-C Sanitizing

Chamber with UV-C Light (Germicidal 254nm)

will sanitize a wide range of items within one to

five minutes—killing over 99.99 percent of most

microorganisms, including E. coli, Staphylococcus,

and Leviviridae—on most items. Safety goggles, keys,

fobs, phones, tablets, hand-held radios … you name

it! As long as it fits inside the chamber’s carousel, the

options are endless. Use for shift changes and shared

tools/items. White paper test results are available.

Christie

Booth: Milano 1

christiedigital.com

Christie CP4430-RGB Pure Laser Cinema Projector

Featuring CineLife+ electronics and Real|Laser

illumination, this compact, all-in-one DCI-compliant

projector excels in image quality and operational

lifetime, while providing a low cost of ownership.

Christie Real|Laser uses compact, next-generation

multi-laser pack devices (MPDs) that achieve

breakthroughs in brightness, color reproduction, image

uniformity, contrast, and operational lifetime. Featuring

Christie’s patented, fully sealed optical path, Real|Laser

offers long-term stability and reliability. CineLife+’s

streamlined UX-designed interface simplifies the

playback and management of cinema movies as well as

alternative cinema content. It is compatible with select

third-party IMBs, and its wide range of inputs not only

support all existing content formats but future-proofs

your investment for years to come. The Christie CP4430-

RGB pure laser cinema projector is part of Christie’s

expanding line of CineLife+ Series projectors, ranging

from 15,000 lumens up to 55,000 lumens.

Cinema Solutions

Booth: 616J

cinemasolutions.com

Recipe Management & Mobile App

Cinema Solutions announces the addition of two major

components to their procure-to-pay solution: recipe

management, and a shiny new mobile app. With their

new recipe management solution, you can now track

recipes used throughout your concession stands,

restaurants, and catering, all in the same system you

use to do your purchasing and payables. When used

with their already existing inventory module, you will

have the visibility you need to lower food cost and

increase profitability even more.

Also coming out in 2021 is the new Cinema Solutions

companion app, which will allow you to approve

requisitions, payables, and item requests, as well as

conduct an invoice search while on the go. These

are just the initial features, with many more on the

horizon. The app is available for iOS and Android. Visit

Cinema Solutions at CinemaCon 2021 for a quick demo.

54 CinemaCon 2021


THE FEATURES YOU NEED.

THE OPTIONS YOU WANT.

THE COMPANY YOU TRUST.

When it comes to concessions,

it comes from Cretors.

Only Cretors combines five generations of industry leadership with more than

130 years of forward-thinking innovations. Backed by our industrial manufacturing

R&D for global snack food giants, we bring revolutionary products to the

concessions marketplace, time and again. Whether it’s an industry-changing

safety feature, a long-sought-after option or a customizable machine made

for the way you sell anywhere in the world, there’s no limit to our ingenuity.

Made in America, loved world-round!

Contact Shelly Olesen at 847.616.6901 or visit www.cretors.com

CinemaCon 2021

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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Cinionic

Booth: Roman 1-4

cinionic.com

Barco SP2K

The award-winning Barco Series 4 from Cinionic

is now available for smaller screens with the new

Barco SP2K. The expanded lineup includes four new

SP2K models ranging from 6,000 to 15,000 lumens,

rounding out the state-of-the-art Series 4 family.

Designed for smaller screens, the Barco SP2K-7, SP2K-

9, SP2K-11, and SP2K-15 yield the perfect resolution

for images that will remain constant over time. SP2K

is designed to be quiet, with a noise output as low

as 40dB, making boothless installations possible for

compact auditoriums. The new models retain all the

features from the company’s Series 4 line of cinema

laser projectors.

Coca-Cola

Booth: 401J

coca-cola.com

Aha Flavored Sparkling Water

Aha flavored sparkling water pairs familiar flavors

in unexpected ways for a uniquely delightful, flavorforward

experience. Try all eight refreshing flavor

blends to liven up your day. No sweeteners, no

calories, no sodium. Bold aromatics and 30 mg of

caffeine in select flavors.

Conagra Foodservice

Booth: 617J

conagra.com

Andy Capp’s Beer Battered Onion Rings

Flavored Baked Oat and Corn Snacks

Indulge in beer-battered onion ring flavor anytime

with Andy Capp’s Beer Battered Onion Rings Flavored

Baked Oat and Corn Snacks. Delicious, bold, beerbattered

onion ring flavor is baked right into these

crispy, baked snack chips. Whether you are craving

onion rings or corn chips, they’ve got you covered.

D

Dolby

Booth: Milano 2 & 6

dolby.com

System 128 Screen Channel Speaker

Dolby’s new System 128 screen channel speaker is

designed to meet the needs of today’s large, immersive

venues. Its patented asymmetrical waveguide

delivers superior audio coverage and uniform volume

shading for every seat. Purpose built for auditoriums

approximately 66 feet (20 m) in depth, the System

128 comprises one mid/high passive loudspeaker

for delivering enhanced mid- and high-frequency

detail, and one loudspeaker for low-frequency energy,

providing greater intelligibility and enhanced bass

extension. These two cabinets work in concert to

create a bi-amplified screen channel speaker system

that provides better audience coverage, lower

distortion, and extended, premium low-frequency

delivery. With intuitive ergonomic design features like

the laterally mounted input plate and shallow 13.4-

inch (340.30 mm) depth, the Dolby System 128 enables

quick, easy installation and service.

56 CinemaCon 2021


Your website is

the new lobby

Scan it with the camera on your phone or visit

company.boxoffice.com/boost to book a meeting with us.

CinemaCon 2021

57


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

E

Enpar Audio & Supply Co.

Booth: 430J

enparaudio.com

Enpar Audio & Supply Co.

Enpar Audio & Supply Co. is a full-service equipment

supply company specializing in digital projection

conversions along with complete cinema build-outs.

Enpar can assist in design, layout, and installation—

offering turnkey package options that supply cinemas

with everything they need.

Entertainment Supply &

Technologies

Booth: 926J

ensutec.com

Entertainment Supply & Technologies

As cinema returns, Entertainment Supply &

Technologies remains steadfast in helping clients

weather the storm with supportive services, terms,

and the creation of state-of-the-art premium

presentations. ES&T provides turnkey services

including laser projection, recliner seating, and

immersive sound to create a cutting-edge and

luxurious moviegoing experience. The firm is a

certified Imax partner and dealer for all major brands

of cinema technology. Integrated FF&E services

also include concession casework, food-service

equipment, menu boards, lighting, wall draperies,

and flooring. Through an extended network of

longtime industry partnerships, ES&T offers complete

operational support with industrial supplies, personal

protective equipment, food-service equipment

replacement parts, digital lamps, and projector filters.

Eomac

Booth: 715J

eomac.com

Pro-Stretch

With over 30 years of experience and expertise

in cinema design, Eomac offers a comprehensive

product range for acoustical solutions. Their highly

acoustic Pro-Stretch is unlike any other regular panel.

Pro-Stretch comes with unique components, for

efficient on-site coordination, timely installation, and

many other benefits. Installation with a flexible track

profile means any configuration or shape is possible.

With customization available, you have an infinite

number of design possibilities at your fingertips

without giving up quality sound. It’s ideal for new

construction, refurbishment, or retrofit.

58 CinemaCon 2021


ack

to

the

<

cinema

ES&T

Turnkey FF&E including luxury seaang, laser projeccon,

immersive sound, screen systems, food service equipment,

aisle lighhng, digital lamps, as well as parts and supplies.

CinemaCon 2021

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sales@ensutec.com | 813.960.1646 | www.ensutec.com


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

F

Fandango

fandango.com

Return to Theaters Whitepaper

Moviegoers feel safe and comfortable in returning

to the cinema, according to a new Fandango study.

Fandango surveyed more than 4,000 of its ticket

buyers as part of their “Return to Theaters” study on

moviegoers’ recent cinema experiences. The results

were overwhelmingly positive, with 93 percent

of film fans saying they were gratified with their

return to theaters, and 87 percent praising theater

owners for doing a great job making them feel safe.

According to the Fandango study, 76 percent of

moviegoers said theater safety policies, like social

distance seating, enhanced cleaning measures, and

contactless ticketing, made their experiences even

more enjoyable, while 86 percent indicated they were

comfortable ordering concessions. The full results of

the study can be found in the Fandango white paper,

available upon request by emailing partnering@

fandango.com.

Figueras Seating

Booth: 2701A

figueras.com

Figueras Seating

Figueras believes that the movie theater experience

is unique. For that reason, they put their best efforts

into designing and manufacturing state-of-the-art

cinema seats to make the experience unforgettable.

With more than 90 years in the cinema seating

industry, Figueras Seating has installed its seats in top

movie theaters around the world. They are experts in

designing comfortable and stylish seats, with a special

focus on durability and functionality. They develop

seats for all kinds of cinemas, from comfortable movie

theaters to the most luxurious ones with VIP and

smart seats.

Flexound Augmented Audio

Booth: 2508A

flexound.com

Flexound Pulse

The Flexound Pulse seat is a fully loudspeaker-free

cinema concept that transforms any space—small or

large—into an immersive soundscape. Stores, malls,

auditoriums, museums, live theaters, and concert

arenas can all become fully functioning cinemas or

gaming stations without any external loudspeakers.

The seat creates a personal soundsphere with a deeper

focus and immersion into music, stories, relaxation,

or gaming. The multisensory experience enhances

the emotions created by the content, enriching art

and making it accessible to more people, such as the

hearing impaired. It provides equal sound quality

and the sensation of touch for every person in every

seat. By listening through skin as well as ears, the

user doesn’t need as many decibels to achieve clarity

of speech, and dramatic scores and sound effects

won’t ever drown out dialogue, even during the most

chaotic action movie sequences.

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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

G

GDC Technology of America

Booth: Milano 3

gdc-tech.com

Espedeo Supra-5000

The Espedeo Supra-5000 RGB Plus Laser Phosphor

Cinema Projector is a DCI-approved system available

with a CineCache 2TB built-in solid-state storage for

playback. The Supra-5000 is a compact, lightweight,

and quiet projector that can be ceiling-mounted with

no hush-box. It received the 2020 Red Dot Award for

its product design, as well as the Projection Expo 2021

Best of Show award.

The Supra-5000 is designed for mini-theaters

and alternative venues and was developed by

GDC in cooperation with renowned technologists

Appotronics and Texas Instruments. Its ALPD 4.0

RGB Plus laser phosphor technology delivers contrast,

brightness, and vibrancy without the risk of harm

from the laser light source.

The Supra-5000 boasts an optional built-in

professional cinema audio processor and a 3-D

polarized system. It also supports cinema-on-demand

platform GoGoCinema. Please contact marketing@

gdc-tech.com or visit mailchi.mp/gdc-tech.com/

supra-5000-bo to learn more.

Gold Medal Products

Booth: 707J

gmpopcorn.com

ReadyServe Commercial Popcorn Dispenser

Gold Medal makes it easy for any cinema to add

gourmet popcorn to its menu for a better customer

experience and higher profits. The ReadyServe

Commercial Popcorn Dispenser has been engineered

with the capability to hold both caramel and cheese

corn. Created with movie theaters in mind, the unit

features a 48-inch base with a divider, a dual auger

system, and a forced-air crisper. The improved chute

design allows for even more flow of product. Select

models also include dual temperature zones, which

means optimum freshness for each flavor of popcorn

served. ReadyServe minimizes labor by allowing

customers to serve themselves. No more scooping!

Simply fill the cabinet with popcorn, then individuals

can dispense using a convenient push-button system.

Photo shows unit filled with Gold Medal’s premium

bulk, nitrogen-flushed, ready-to-eat gourmet

popcorn. Base and cabinet sold separately.

62 CinemaCon 2021


Espedeo Supra-5000 RGB+ Laser Phosphor Projector

The World’s Smallest, Quietest, and Lightest

DCI-compliant Projector Designed for Mini-theatres

300+ units shipped!

• Features ALPD 4.0 RGB+ laser phosphor technology to deliver

vibrant colors.

• So lightweight and quiet that can be ceiling mounted with

Espedeo VM-1140 without a hush box.

• Built-in CineCache TM 2TB memory.

• Optional built-in cinema audio processor.

Diskless SR-1000 Media Server

Near-zero Maintenance and Minimal Total Cost of Ownership

14,000+ units shipped!

• Simplify content management by combining with CA2.0 and

eliminating content ingest to local HDDs.

• Tested by SGS for 100,000 hours Mean Time Between Failures

for high reliability.

• Upgrade options for 4K, CineCache 2TB, and a built-in cinema

audio processor.

• Remote and wireless access to IMB SMS using a desktop PC, laptop,

or mobile device.

Built-in Cache Memory

CineCache 2TB = No local HDD required.

Incredibly fast ingest during playback and

fast transfer across IMBs.

Built-in Cinema Audio Processor

New option to playback DCP movie titles

in 5.1/ 7.1 uncompressed surround sound

with crossover.

Visit us at CinemaCon Milano III, Promenade Level.

GDC Technology

Hong Kong • Beijing • Shenzhen • Barcelona • Dubai • Jakarta • Los Angeles • Mexico City • Mumbai • SãoPaulo • Seoul • Singapore • Tokyo

Powering your digital cinema experience

@GDCTechnology

PA-1126-2107-V1E

Copyright©2021 GDC Technology Limited. All rights reserved.

CinemaCon 2021

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www.gdc-tech.com


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

H

High Performance Stereo

Booth: 2705A

hps4000.com

High Performance Stereo

High Performance Stereo has always believed that

“Sound Is the Experience.” That’s why HPS brought

the very first feature presentations with digital

sound to commercial movie theaters in 1985—four

years before the rest of the industry. Envelopment is

nothing new to High Performance Stereo. Its HPS-

4000 sound systems are known around the world

for their clarity and immersive impact. Exclusive

All Seats Hear Stereo technology and proprietary

surround placement formulas provide full

stereophonic coverage for the entire audience. When

HPS-4000 sound systems are coupled with today’s

immersive soundtracks, audiences will experience

the full potential of modern motion picture sound.

I

ICE Theaters

Booth: 2101A

icetheaters.com

ICE Immersive

With over 100 blockbusters available in the ICE

Immersive format from all major studios, ICE

Theaters widen moviegoers’ field of vision to deliver

a new premium large-format experience. With

ICE, audiences can enjoy 220º angle immersive

special effects throughout the entire length of a

movie, enhancing the movie experience to a level

that could never be experienced at home, let alone

another theater. Boasting a 90 percent satisfaction

study, ICE Theaters combine LED side panels, an

immersive pathway, VIP reclining seats, Dolby Atmos

immersive sound, and pure RGB laser projection to

set a new standard of cinema experience that features

among the highest return on investment available

on the market. ICE claims the technology and the

construction works are recouped in less than five

years, through the premium fee only, offering an

additional revenue on top when compared with a

standard auditorium.

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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Irwin Seating

Booth: 106J

irwinseating.com

Spectrum ZG4

Irwin Seating Company continues to expand and

refine its Spectrum Recliner Luxury Series. Options

include privacy panels, drink and beverage tables,

heated backs, USB charging ports, and several

features to assist crews prepping an auditorium

between shows. Spectrum’s ZG4 model uses a

proprietary recliner mechanism that provides a

smooth “Zero G Motion” for first-rate comfort. ZG4

customers praise its ability to let them find their

optimal position. Spectrum ZG4 offers easier cleaning

and better sightlines, with the same durability Irwin’s

customers expect. ZG4 features a 3-inch reduction in

the chair envelope while providing more recline than

previous models, which could help create additional

seating in large theaters.

J

Jacro

Booth: 815J

jacro.com

Internetticketing.com Platform

The internetticketing.com platform provides a hub

for cinema circuits looking to manage and monitor

multiple locations on a single device with serverbased

reliability, combined with cloud access and

two-factor authentication.

The Private Watch Party feature is available to all POS

customers, helping cinemas rent auditoriums, and

may be used for public watch parties too (where the

first customer selects the film with a block booking,

allowing additional customers to buy tickets in the

auditorium).

The platform also provides an employee gamification

scoreboard, online food sales, inbuilt CRM, Fandango

and Atom Tickets compatibility, a ticket-scanning app

for Android, and a full API. Create custom reports,

monitor for employee fraud, easily compare date

ranges of data, and export to Excel and an industryleading

purchase-ordering system.

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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

K

Kernel Seasons

- Sauer Brands

Booth: 915J

kernelseasons.com

Duke’s Dipping Sauce Cups

Duke’s Dipping Sauce Cups come in an ideal

1.5-ounce serving size and are available in seven

flavor varieties including Duke’s Signature Sauce, a

mayo-based dipping sauce with zesty tomato and

black pepper notes. Other classic flavors include

Blue Cheese, Ranch, Sweet & Sour, Barbecue Sauce,

Honey Mustard, and Wing Sauce. These portioncontrol

products allow consumers to experience

bold and flavorful condiments with a premium.

Duke’s offers a full portfolio for food-service

operations including mayo, sauces, dressings, and

other condiments, available for front-of-house and

back-of-house bulk portions. For more information

about Duke’s food-service capabilities or to request

samples to have Duke’s in your operation, reach out

to firstcall@sauerbrands.com.

RTS

68 CinemaCon 2021


Online Ticketing is

the new box office

Scan it with the camera on your phone or visit

company.boxoffice.com/boost to book a meeting with us.

CinemaCon 2021

69


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Keurig Dr. Pepper

Booth: 214J

keurigdrpepper.com

Clamato Original

Clamato Original is the main ingredient in the

authentic Clamato Michelada. Try it with your

favorite beer, or mix it with vodka or any other spirit.

Mr & Mrs T Mixers

Keurig Dr. Pepper takes mixing seriously. There’s

an art to the science. A subtle nuance you can taste.

Which is why they source only premium-quality

ingredients for their Mr & Mrs T Mixers. In everything

they do, they seek to find the perfect balance of work

and play.

L

Lavazza Premium Coffees

Corp.

Booth: 521J

lavazza.us

Lavazza Premium Coffees Corp.

For four generations, Lavazza has been sharing

their passion for coffee, nurturing their heritage,

and refining their expertise. They bring that same

passion for coffee into theaters by creating café-style

experiences. Lavazza offers a variety of brewing styles

and systems to meet every need, from their Flavia and

Expert single-serve options to Bean to Cup machines

and custom solutions.

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LA IMAGEN SOLO ES REPRESENTATIVA LOS COLORES Y MATERIALES PUEDEN VARIAR

THE IMAGE IS ONLY REPRESENTATIVE THE COLORS AND MATERIALS CAN VARY

Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Lighting Technologies

International

Booth: 2505A

ltilighting.com

Lighting Technologies International

Located in Baldwin Park, California, Lighting

Technologies International (LTI) offers digital cinema

xenon lamps made in the U.S. and especially designed for

the demanding requirements of today’s digital cinema

projectors. Their high light output ensures optimum onscreen

brightness, while a proprietary electrode design

ensures high arc stability for sharp digital pictures. Long

lifetimes and a highly robust design ensure a low total cost

of ownership for digital cinema. Each lamp is customized

per projector model to ensure the best performance.

M

Mobiliario Seating

Booth: 1005J

mobiliarioseating.net

Hermus

Hermus Luxury Recliners

Mobilario’s Hermus luxury recliners are designed to

last longer through a cushion injection system rather

than using traditional fillings. This upgrade offers

greater comfort and design, giving moviegoers the

opportunity to enjoy a movie for hours, regardless of if

they are light or heavy patrons. The seat’s cushion offers

natural support and is available in three configurations:

individual, loveseat, and full-row options. The steel

frame has been manufactured to allow hard traffic, and

movie owners will get long-lasting loungers.

AN INDUSTRY THAT STOPPED. AND HOW IT WAS BORN AGAIN.

CINEMA POS

HEAD OFFICE

CUSTOM

DEVELOPMENT

DATA

ANALYTICS

DREAM BIG

FEATURING

DRAG & DROP REPORTING

UPSELLING & UPSIZING

LIVE MANAGER

DASHBOARDS

FILM RENTAL

LOYALTY & MEMBERSHIP

LIVE OVERTIME ALERTS

From the producers of internetticketing.com

A JACRO production for over 25 years

www.jacro.com

internet

ticketing

.com

from JACRO

72 CinemaCon 2021


ALWAYS A GOOD FIT

The Best of Both Worlds

LTI is the only manufacturer that can supply both laser upgrade

systems and xenon lamps. You choose the best technology for your

application: high performance, long life laser for your larger

screens, cost-effective xenon lamps for smaller screens. LTI’s

revolutionary Helios modular laser upgrade systems fit multiple

projectors and can be easily relocated between projectors as your

requirements change.

www.ltilighting.com

CinemaCon 2021

73


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Mondelez International

Booth: 707J

mondelezinternational.com

Oreo Popcorn

Give returning moviegoers a thrill with a salty-sweet

treat starring Oreo. Made with real Oreo cookie pieces,

Oreo base cake, and drizzles of Oreo creme, Oreo

popcorn delivers quality and consistency.

Motion Technology Inc.

mtiproducts.com

MultiChef XS, MultiChef XLT

Motion Technology Inc. (MTI), manufacturer of

the AutoFry, introduces two new products to their

MultiChef high-speed oven line. The MultiChef XS

is a compact, high-speed oven designed to fit just

about anywhere. The new touch screen is designed to

assist any business looking to expand their menu. The

MultiChef XLT is a larger, high-speed oven equipped

with an intuitive touch-screen controller and capable

of serving a wide variety of demands.

“The past year has been challenging for the foodservice

industry, so we wanted to take the time to really

focus on how we can expand our brand,” said Kathy

Smith, president. “The new additions to our MultiChef

line provide customers a variety of options to fit their

specific needs and, most importantly, budget.”

O

Olea Kiosks

Booth: 419J

olea.com

Olea Kiosks

Olea Kiosks Inc. displays its family of ticketing and

concessions kiosks at CinemaCon 2021. Self-service

kiosks put the guest in control, removing friction

from the buying cycle with reduced wait times and

improved order accuracy. When faced with long lines

at the counter, customers may forego that snack or

refreshment. Data indicates that if they can quickly and

easily check out on a kiosk, they will take the time to

consider add-ons and read descriptions for new menu

items, resulting in approximately 20 percent ticket lift.

Self-service kiosks can help unpredictable demand

and workforce management while removing

mundane tasks like order and payment processing,

allowing staff to focus on higher-value tasks that truly

enhance the guest experience.

Olea Kiosks have been tested and deployed with most

ticketing and food and beverage software systems in

North America. Financing and rental agreements are

available.

74 CinemaCon 2021


Meet the Treat

That Really Pops

Excite and entice moviegoers with popcorn

starring America’s Favorite Cookie! 1

Roll out the red carpet and drive guests to the

concession stand with a spectacular treat that combines

a movie theater staple with real OREO Cookie Pieces,

OREO Base Cake and OREO Creme Variegate.

TASTE FOR YOURSELF AT CINAMACON 2021

BOOTH #707J

AND LEARN HOW YOU CAN BRING THIS

THRILLING TREAT TO YOUR THEATER TODAY!

1. Nielsen, xAOC plus Convenience—52 CinemaCon weeks 2021 ending 12/26/2075


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Omniterm

Booth: 414J

omniterm.com

Social Distancing and Online Concessions

In today’s ever-changing environment, theaters

are expecting more from their POS suppliers.

Omniterm continues to add to their suite of theater

management software solutions by enhancing their

ticketing application to ensure multiple options are

available to enable social distancing. These options

are completely configurable by auditorium, providing

the ability to customize each auditorium based on

the seating type or health regulations. In response

to market changes, where contactless is now highly

desired, Omniterm is adding an online concessionpurchasing

application. This new feature will allow

the purchase of concessions while buying tickets

online to shorten and simplify customers’ ability

to get their favorite snacks in time for the movie.

Utilizing new WebServices allows Omniterm to

introduce numerous enhancements to the online

experience, including loyalty redemption.

CINEMA POS SOFTWARE

LOOKING FOR THE LATEST APPS

THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR

BOTTOM LINE?

Point of Sale, Kiosks, Web Ticketing, Gift Card, Loyalty, Digital Signage, Film Settlement

and Multi-location Reporting and Monitoring. Omniterm’s Integra Theatre Management

solution provides these apps which give you the control and information you need.

Visit us at our booth# 414J @ CinemaCon.

sales@omniterm.com 844.730.1430

76 CinemaCon 2021


CinemaCon 2021

77


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

P

Packaging Concepts

Booth: 819J

packagingconcepts.com

Bagasse Plates and Bowls

Packaging Concepts Inc. is once again doing its

part to help save the planet. New for 2021, as part

of their ever-growing line of concession packaging,

is a stock line of Bagasse eco-friendly 10 x 10-inch

square plates and 7 x 7-inch (32 oz.) square bowls.

These are the perfect solution for both hot and cold

foods. PET-domed lids are available for both items

as well. As movie exhibitors continue to increase

their concession offerings, PCI is there to assist with

design, graphics, and delivery of quality concession

packaging at an economical cost.

PlexCall/Order Commander

Booth: 718J

plexcall.com

PlexCall Dashboard

PlexCall, leader in server call systems, presents

PlexCall Dashboard, a revolutionary new way to

evaluate customer interactions and monitor the

success of your business. PlexCall Dashboard brings

the features of several products into a centralized

theater management tool with a proprietary algorithm

that allows you to make the most informed inventory

and show decisions.

Order Commander

Order Commander announces their next generation

of service management and touchless kiosk solutions.

Cutting-edge technology allows Order Commander

kiosks to recognize and track hand motions when

ordering, eliminating the need to touch surfaces or

tap to pay, and minimizing the chance spreading of

germs. Combined with Order Commander at your seat

orders, this further reduces the need for in-theater

customer contact and reduces staffing needs.

POSitive Cinema

Booth: 2601A

positivecinema.com/

marketing-automation/

Marketing Automation

POSitive Cinema’s Marketing Automation module

provides automated marketing actions that turn

into personalized communication with customers.

It allows the creation of different campaign types:

one-time, continuous, and real-time campaigns

activated by defined triggers. Messages can be built

from scratch or based on using fully customizable

templates (with A/B testing for even greater

efficiency), sent to the recipient’s group based on

statistic and behavior conditions and delivered via

email, SMS, or push notifications. It also provides

full insights into the effectiveness of campaigns.

Marketing Automation uses a central database

for one’s entire circuit, making it easy to collect,

store, and analyze data from all sales channels to

automatically send the right messages to the right

customers at the right time.

78 CinemaCon 2021


VARIETY CHARITY AUCTION

BID

WIN

HELP

KIDS

Ryder is a JOYOUS 9 year old boy who does not let a development

disorder slow him down. After practicing on his school tryke, Ryder

got one of his very own and now has the freedom to ride with his

family – especially his little sister. He’s even learned how to pedal

on his own! Adaptive bikes give kids like Ryder a sense of confidence

and independence that is crucial to their development.

Please visit USVariety.org for more information.

TEXT ‘VARIETY21’ TO 76278!

or register to bid at Variety21.givesmart.com

Thank you to Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation

and our exhibitor partners for participating in the

2021 Variety Gold Heart Campaign!

JOIN US AT YOUNG VARIETY’S CINEMACON NIGHT OUT!

Harrah’s Carnaval Court

Wednesday, August 25 at 9PM

Buy your ticket at varietysocal.org

15 th Annual Variety Charity Auction at CinemaCon Presented by:

CinemaCon 2021

79


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Q

QSC

Booth: 2301A

qsc.com

Q-SYS Core Nano and Core 8 Flex

Built on the same flexible and scalable software

foundation as the rest of the Q-SYS processor

portfolio, these new cores expand design options

to meet a wider variety of cinema applications. The

Q-SYS Core 8 Flex has 64 x 64 networked I/O channel

capacity, with eight onboard FLEX audio channels

and eight GPIOs to quickly and easily integrate analog

audio and control devices into the Q-SYS ecosystem.

Q-SYS Core Nano offers the same 64 x 64 networked

audio I/O without the onboard analog I/O to support

installations with smaller spaces with centralized

processing and fully networked endpoints. Both

Q-SYS processors occupy a smaller half-width, 1RU

footprint and include pre-installed 8 x 8 softwarebased

Dante audio channels (license-upgradeable

up to 32 x 32 channels), driverless USB audio, and AV

bridging capabilities.

R

RealD

reald.com

Ultimate Screen

The RealD Ultimate Screen is 75 percent more

light efficient than silver screens, providing a

brighter, deeper, crisper 3-D image with uniform

light distribution and true color replication. The

proprietary technology offers the most effective

laser despeckling solution, along with a giant leap in

the reduction of ghosting. Its computer-generated

surface is embossed on a rigid polyester substrate,

coated with a thin layer of aluminum and a protective

liquid-repelling coating, which means it’s cleanable.

Currently in use in more than 300 premium largeformat

auditoriums and dozens of state-of-theart

postproduction and visual-effects facilities

worldwide. 150 micron nano perforated available

in the following configurations: 2.0 Gain; 40° HGA;

300:1 Stereo Contrast | 3.0 Gain; 30° HGA; 800:1 Stereo

Contrast | 4.0 Gain; 25° HGA; 1000:1 Stereo contrast.

80 CinemaCon 2021


SCww

To the big screen,

and beyond!

CREATE A FULL MULTIPLEX EXPERIENCE WITH Q-SYS FROM QSC

Today’s cinema experience is so much more than movies! And Q-SYS TM is so much more than a

cinema processor. With the Q-SYS Platform you can deliver sound to each theatre and every other

space in the theatre complex where high quality sound is important. You can also monitor and

control every sound system component and many other devices, from anywhere in the building or

remotely from anywhere with a network connection.

To learn how, visit QSC at CinemaCon 2021, Augustus Ballroom 2301

qsc.com/cinema

©2021 QSC, LLC all rights reserved. QSC, Q-SYS and the QSC logo are registered trademarks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and other countries.

CinemaCon 2021

81


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

RCM Media

Booth: 811J

rcm-media.com

Contactless 360 Cinema App

Innovation is the heart of any successful business.

This is why RCM Media, which helped revolutionize

the world of concession merchandise, has kept

working to bring new and exciting products to the

cinema industry. The innovation and spirit continue

to this day, with the launch of RCM Live, a new

division dedicated to digital marketing initiatives.

RCM’s new Contactless 360 Cinema App allows users

to access movie trailers, purchase tickets, reserve

seats, and even buy concession items prior to their

arrival. “That’s the beauty of our 360 App,” says Jim

McGinness, president of RCM Media. “We can even

change our Movie Graphic Collectible promotional

items and pricing tiers at the flip of a switch—just like

with a digital menu board.”

Retriever Solutions

Booth: 919J

retrieversolutionsinc.com

App-Based Food & Drink Sales

Retriever Solutions, a leading provider of ticketing

and theater point-of-sale systems, launches the inapp

food and drink sales platform to help operators

increase revenue and reduce labor costs. The app

also features movie information, ticketing, and a

customer wallet for easy and fast transactions. A

customizable app-based loyalty program provides an

enhanced customer experience. The robust admin

console allows theater management to message users

through push notifications. Purchase data is available

for targeted marketing campaigns. See the app in

action at CinemaCon and discover more of the latest

enhancements to Retriever’s point-of-sale solutions.

Royal Corporation

Booth: 919J

royalcorporation.com

Royal Self Cleaning Electric Mop/Vacuum

The new Royal Self-Cleaning Electric Mop is cordfree,

making it an ideal tool for quick spill cleanups

and maintaining hard-surface floors. At the touch of

a button, operators can dispense water or cleaning

solution onto the floor to clean with the spinning mop

head. The unit’s suction will collect the liquids into a

separate tank for disposal. It also comes with a second

cleaning head for carpeted floors and two batteries

each with a 56-minute run time, allowing operators

to charge one while the other is in use. The unit also

has a docking station that auto-cleans the mop head

between uses and voice notifications when the dirty

solution tank is full and the battery is running low.

82 CinemaCon 2021


ce4-7 OCT

ce2021

convention & tradeshow

CCIB/BARCELONA

CELEBRATING

30

YEARS OF

CINEEUROPE

CENTRE CONVENCIONS INTERNACIONAL BARCELONA (CCIB)

CINEEUROPE.NET

OFFICIAL CORPORATE SPONSOR

CinemaCon 2021

83


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

S

Schult Industries and

Sonic Equipment

Booth: 412J

schult.com

sonicequipment.com

Schult Industries and Sonic Equipment

Schult Industries has built specialized theater poster

cases and signage for over 45 years. They provide for

a cinema’s entire visual communications package,

including all poster cases, menu systems, auditorium

blade signs, BXO, ADA signage, decorative elements,

fabric light boxes, and more. Products include a variety

of poster cases, marquees, menu boards, and BXO,

both digital and traditional, as well as replacement

parts for poster cases. Schult Industries has experience

working with designers, architects, and general

contractors; a partnership with Sonic Equipment

provides a wide range of services and products.

Severtson Screens

Booth: 2606A

severtsonscreens.com

SēVision Folded 3D GX Line

Severtson Screens will exhibit its most popular

options for its folded SēVision 3D GX line of cinema

projection screens at CinemaCon 2021. “Our folded

shipping method makes international distribution

of our industry-acclaimed SēVision 3D GX highly

affordable, reducing international shipping costs

by up to 70 percent,” says Toby Severtson, president

and CEO of Severtson Corp. According to Severtson,

both microperf and digi-perf offer multiple benefits

versus standard perforation screens. “Either one is the

answer for current ultra-high-performance cinema

screens, depending on one’s specific needs, and are

the perfect solutions for 4K, 8K, 12K, and even higher

projection resolutions as these technologies become

available in the future.” Both microperf and digi-perf

provide approximately 7 percent open space against

the traditional 4.5 percent open space.

Sharp NEC Display Solutions

Booth: Milano 4

sharpnecdisplays.us

NC2443ML 4K RB Laser Projector

Featuring a built-in modular laser light source, suited

for theaters with medium- to large-sized screens, or

projection booths that are looking for high-quality cinema

projection. The NC2443ML uses an RB laser light source

to produce a rich color spectrum with unsurpassed

brightness. The use of the RB laser and 4K DC-compliant

quality creates an image bright enough to display on

screens up to 72 feet in DCI color. The projector does not

require lamp replacement, leading to less maintenance

and lower running costs. It can be installed on the floor or

the ceiling without the need for an exhaust system.

NC1202L Laser Projector

Suited for theaters with small screens in or out of

projection booths. Featuring maintenance-free

operation with approximately 50,000 hours expected

usage, this projector boasts lower running costs and

cost-savings resulting from no lamp replacement or

maintenance labor.

84 CinemaCon 2021


Experience the new 4K 24,000 lumen

NC2443ML Digital Cinema Laser Projector!

Designed for theaters with screens up to 72 ft. wide, NEC's NC2443ML is the latest DCI compliant RB Laser

DLP cinema projector. Delivering precise 4K (4096 x 2160) resolution, 3-D capabilities and high contrast

images, this model is easy to operate, extremely user-friendly and requires minimal maintenance

providing up to 50,000 hours of laser life for unsurpassed TCO.

Come visit us at CinemaCon!

Sharp NEC Display Solutions Suite:

Milano 4

For more information, visit our website at

www.sharpnecdisplays.us

CinemaCon 2021

85


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

StepGuard by Light Tape

Booth: 2207A

lighttape.com

StepGuard Egress Lighting Systems

StepGuard is the only manufacturer in the world

that makes both the lighting element and the profile.

Using their Light Tape as the light source, cinema

guests will experience no annoying on-screen glare

as they would with traditional LED bulbs. StepGuard

has a wide variety of profiles available to suit different

needs, with step, aisle, row, and wall illumination

being their specialties. Their system is built to order

and is supplied as a complete plug-and-play package

that can be quickly installed and controlled with ease.

Storming Images

stormingimages.com

Media Director Platform

Storming Images is a leading digital content delivery

provider serving the needs of cinema owners. Its

Media Director Platform is proprietary technology

presenting a one-stop digital delivery system for

preshow, movie trailer, film, and event distribution.

Cinema owners no longer need to scramble lastminute

to get a preshow, trailer, or event to their

theaters. Simplify the management of content

with one easy-to-use system that provides delivery

verification and proof-of-play.

86 CinemaCon 2021


25 – 28 APRIL 2022

CAESARS PALACE LAS VEGAS

The world goes to the movies.

The movie world goes to CinemaCon.

The Official

Convention of

CinemaCon 2021

87


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Strong Technical Services

Booth: 2401A

strong-tech.com

Strong as a Service (SaaS)

Introducing Strong as a Service (SaaS), their newest

program to package equipment, installation, and

service for new builds or theater renovations. SaaS

offers fixed monthly payments for the duration of the

program, backed by the entire Strong team to outfit

your theater with the equipment needed to keep your

customers happy.

Strong LMS

Strong has leveraged their years of experience

building LMS hardware to bring you the nextgeneration

Strong LMS. Their new models have

capacities of 200+ features in desktop or 1,200+

features in rack-mount configurations, capable

of lightning-fast 18-minute transfers, and hosting

multiple operating systems via virtualization at an

unbeatable starting price of $5,000.

Strong eSports

Ready to deliver an immersive experience and tap

into a new customer base? Stop by Strong’s booth to

discuss their Eclipse immersive screen and projection

blending solution—the same solution offered at your

favorite theme park.

T

Telescopic Seating Systems

Booth: 201J

telescopicseatingsystems.com

Smart Programmable

Telescopic Seating Systems’ new Smart Programmable

compact recliner combines minimum space

requirements with maximum comfort. With TSS’s

microprocessor-controlled Smart Programmable

compact recliner, cinemas have the ability to program

the recline, compactness, and ottoman and/or back

control and integrate with building safety controls,

giving complete control either in-person or from their

theater networks. Thirty-six recliners, including seat

heaters, can fit on a single 20-amp circuit. RBG underseat

lighting provides effects and allows cinema staff

to see what needs to be cleaned; the system can be

programmed so that only the seats that have been

used for the current show or throughout the day can

be opened.

88 CinemaCon 2021


CinemaCon 2021

89


Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

Theater Toolkit

Booth: 201J

theatertoolkit.com

Customizable Website Platform for Exhibitors

Tailored and branded for cinemas, Theater Toolkit

is a mobile-first modern website platform with

streamlined ticket purchasing. Theater Toolkit

integrates seamlessly with point-of-sale systems and

other third-party providers to unify your customer

experience and help you manage your online brand

easily and painlessly. Theater Toolkit provides a bigtheater

look, without the big-theater budget. For more

information, visit the website listed at left or call

(844) 321-3414.

TouchMate

Booth: 913J

touchmateusa.com

TouchMate

TouchMate supplies self-service solutions across

multiple markets with customized kiosks and other

products built in the United States. Touchmate

delivers products with a focus on industry-specific

functionality, creative branding, and specialty

designs. From color choice to graphic placement,

every last detail is specific to your business.

TouchMate products come with a three-year warranty,

which includes on-site service and maintenance,

so customers can feel confident the machine they

purchase will provide excellent performance for many

years to come.

U

Usheru

usheru.com

Usheru

Usheru is a movie marketing and analytics company

focused on connecting content to audiences through

smart and long-term relationships. Powering a data-led

approach, Usheru builds direct-to-consumer solutions

and supports exhibitors in selling more cinema tickets

by connecting to its global partners’ distributor and

studio marketing campaigns—with no additional

cost or work attached. The company supports a wide

range of global partners such as distributors, studios,

cinemas, exhibitors, and national film agencies,

boosting their audience reach, cinema ticket sales, and

home entertainment views.

90 CinemaCon 2021


CinemaCon 2021

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Cinemacon NEW PRODUCTS

V

Venue Valet Call Connect

Booth: 201J

venue-valet.com

CallConnect QR Code Virtual Call Button

Venue Valet has integrated Q.R. code technology into

its cinema operations management system and now

allows customers to use their mobile phones to scan

for service using virtual call buttons and alert a server

to come take their order. Exhibitors can also provide

guests a way to request certain food and beverage

items right from their phones without employees

having to run to their seat. Whatever your theater’s

current or future service model has in store, Venue

Valet can help cinemas achieve their service goals by

adding cost-effective, scannable Q.R. codes to their

customers’ ordering experience.

Vista Group International

vistagroup.co.nz

Vista Cloud

Introducing Vista Cloud, a new generation of Vista

Cinema’s cinema software. Based on decades of

exhibition expertise, Vista combined industry-leading

technology and the benefits of cloud to craft a solution

that empowers your cinema experience. While Vista

hosts and manages a cinema’s environment and takes

care of complex security and compliance services,

regular product updates ensure that every cinema has

access to the latest innovation faster than ever before.

Vista’s evolution even expands to a circuit’s digital

sales channels: web, mobile, and kiosk.

Vistar

Booth: 807J

vistar.com

Vistar

Vistar is the nation’s leading distributor of concession

products to the theater industry, offering cinemas

a large and diverse product selection, convenience,

and accommodating service. Temperature-controlled

trucks take to the streets from their strategically

placed OpCos, delivering anywhere in the country.

Vistar’s weekly delivery schedule ensures a constant

supply of brand-name candy, snacks, popcorn,

beverages, and frozen and refrigerated foods; along

with non-food items such as cups, tubs, food trays,

napkins, and sanitation/janitorial supplies. By

leveraging industry data and working in conjunction

with its supplier network, Vistar can also help

determine what products will help boost sales.

Vistar can also cater to special events that may call

for increased inventory or customized promotional

cups and paper products. Whether your business

is a thriving multi-property theater, or a small

independent exhibitor, Vistar has the expertise

to provide distribution and logistics for all your

essential products.

92 CinemaCon 2021


we understand moviegoers

data-driven marketing solutions

for the film industry

Copyright 2021 Movio Limited. All rights reserved. A company of Vista Group International Ltd.


seNOV 8-11

2021

LOEWS MIAMI BEACH HOTEL

MIAMI BEACH, FL

CELEBRATING

35

YEARS OF

SHOWEAST

LOEWS MIAMI BEACH HOTEL, MIAMI BEACH, FL

SHOWEAST.COM

PRODUCED BY

FilmExpoGroup

:

Q2 2021

94


Premium Formats 96 | Tech Update 108 | Dolby 116 | Barometer 124

THEATER

“The more we can tune into how the theater patron’s

experience goes, that helps the theater owner, and it

helps us. We all reap benefits from that.”

Proctor Companies Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary, p. 130

CinemaCon 2021

95


Theater PREMIUM FORMATS

PREMIUM FORMAT

AUDITORIUMS

COME OF AGE

Premium Experiences Lead the Way

to Box Office Glory

BY CHARLOTTE JONES

Premium large-format (PLF) screens

provide an immersive and engaging

experience that makes every screening

an event. These augmented, high-impact

screens elevate the moviegoing experience

and increase audience engagement in ways

that cannot easily be replicated in the home.

As studios push ahead with experimental

release windows in 2021, premium screens

are sure to be a major motivator, inspiring

audiences to reestablish their loyalty to and

enthusiasm for movie theaters.

Global box office fell an unprecedented

71.9 percent in 2020, to $11.7 billion, based

on Omdia’s Cinema Intelligence territories,

equivalent to lost box office revenue in the

region of $29.7 billion year on year. Despite

the economic hardship, there are positive

signs for future investment based on

several deals, particularly in the influential

Chinese market and the new PLF hotspot of

the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

As exhibitors prepare for a year of

box office recovery, recent successes in

China and Japan indicate significant

levels of pent-up demand for premium

experiences, with Imax and other formats

already acting as drivers for key content.

Premium technology formats stand to play

an increasingly critical role in reviving

engagement for cinema audiences,

thereby aiding the wider theatrical

recovery; the 2021 global tally remains on

track to approximately double from the

pandemic-hit year, although it will still

likely fall around 40 percent below 2019.

Premium-Screen Growth Amid Covid

Total premium large-format screens rose

7.5 percent to over 4,700 worldwide in

2020, a solid result considering this was

a global pandemic, but with a notable

slowdown equating to less than half of

2019’s new screens. Of the 330 new PLF

screens in 2020, the vast majority (over

70%) opened in the first six months of the

year. Prolonged shutdowns due to Covid-19

(some self-imposed) fueled the slowdown,

and a very small number of permanent

shutterings had an impact as well.

China vs. U.S. Total PLF Screens

Source: Omdia

U.S.

China

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

0

450 900 1350 1800

As exhibitors prepare

for a year of box

office recovery, recent

successes in China

and Japan indicate

significant levels of

pent-up demand for

premium experiences.

96 CinemaCon 2021


CinemaCon 2021

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Theater PREMIUM FORMATS

This trend may become more apparent

in 2021 as the impact of Covid-19 persists

into its second year but is not likely to

have a significant impact, as the trend for

new screen construction with a higher

allocation of flagship screens and higher

relative growth in emerging markets will

continue to propel the market forward.

PLF screens accounted for 2.3 percent

of world screens at year-end 2020 (up from

1.9% at end 2018), with innovative key

exhibitors in some territories exceeding

this average, highlighting how PLF screens

are being deployed more quickly than

regular screens.

Asia Pacific Stands Out

Asia Pacific was again the leading region,

with over 2,200 premium large-format

screens accounting for a 46.8 percent

share of the total PLF screen base. Of these,

China accounts for the vast majority, or

over 77 percent of PLF in the region.

China has the highest number of

branded experiences, including Cinity, a

joint venture formed by Christie, GDC,

and Huaxia and built around 4K and

HDR technology. This was also the fastest

growing brand in H1 2020.

China remains the largest PLF territory

globally with 1,710 screens at year-end

2020, ahead of North America, where

the majority are in the United States

(1,293). The vast majority of PLF screens

in China fall under global brands, the

highest proportion of any market in Asia

and Oceania and the highest number of

branded experiences of any region.

China is Imax’s largest market by

screen count with a 42.5 percent market

share of PLF in the territory. Imax sees

potential to expand by 50 percent in China

by 2023, underscoring the potential even

in key territories. Imax has scored several

new deals in China, including a 12-theater

deal with JinYi, 20 screens with Wanda,

and a four-theater deal with Broadway.

Imax has also homed in on Japan, with

plans to triple the number of screens from

the current 39.

There were six global territories with

over 100 screens in 2020, led by China, the

U.S., Canada, Brazil, the U.K., and South

Korea, and a total of just 11 territories with

over 50 PLF screens, including Australia,

Japan, Russia, and Mexico. The top 20 PLF

territories account for 90 percent of all

global PLF screens.

Emerging Markets Are the Next

Frontier

Emerging markets have a higher

propensity for premium technology

formats and stand to play a major role

in growing the total market for cinema

experiences. In emerging markets,

particularly the Middle East, PLF already

has an above-average screen penetration,

which will further feed into growth (as

these markets are more agile), coupled

with a higher propensity to invest in a

wide range of banner screens.

There were 95 international territories

with at least one type of PLF screen in

2020 (including 64 territories that had

over three PLF screens), as PLF continues

to gain a foothold in emerging cinema

markets, including the newly opened-up

Top 20 PLF Territories 2020

1,800

1,350

900

450

0

Country

Amount

1 China 1,686

2 U.S. 1,293

3 Canada 162

4 Brazil 145

5 U.K. 143

6 South Korea 136

7 Australia 93

8 Japan 92

9 Mexico 86

10 Russia 86

11 France 85

12 UAE 46

13 India 36

14 Colombia 33

15 Ireland 30

16 Netherlands 27

17 Spain 24

China

U.S.

Source: Omdia

Canada

Brazil

U.K.

South Korea

Australia

Japan

Mexico

Russia

France

UAE

India

Colombia

Ireland

Netherlands

Spain

Germany

Malaysia

Turkey

18 Germany 23

19 Malaysia 21

20 Turkey 19

98 CinemaCon 2021


cinema market of Saudi Arabia, already

the second largest PLF market in the

region after the UAE, which has 46 screens.

The wider adoption of PLF screens

throughout the Middle East has been

driven by global brands such as Dolby

Cinema and CGR’s ICE. Reel Cinemas’

Dubai Mall became the first cinema to host

two Dolby Cinema auditoriums in 2020.

Saudi Arabia is the global hotspot

for new premium screens—PLF screens

tripled there in 2020—with five global

brands active, including the launch of the

third Sphera screen (from CinemaNext)

at Empire Cinemas in December 2020.

Sphera combines vertical columns of LED

lighting, reclining seats, 4K laser, and

Dolby Atmos sound.

Muvi Cinemas was the first to bring

Dolby Cinema to KSA in 2020. It will

expand to a total of 300 screens to include

15 PLF screens, plus the launch of a new

format known as Muvi Boutique. AMC

also plans to bring 16 Dolby Cinema

screens to Saudi Arabia over the next

four years. There are also four exhibitor

brands present, but they account for just

seven screens, including Muvi’s Xperience,

AMC’s Prime, Vox Max, and Cinepolis’s

MacroXE.

With 24 PLF screens out of 320 screens

total at the end of 2020, equivalent to 7.5

percent, Saudi Arabia has a very high

premium-screen penetration, which

is in keeping with the above-average

investment in the region and the higher

number of multiplexes in the territory (its

average of 8.3 screens per site is the highest

in the world). It also has the highest-priced

cinema tickets globally. This underscores

how exhibitors have strategically

positioned these premium screens in highincome,

urban areas with demographics

best suited to higher ticket prices.

Despite its high prevalence of

multiplexes, Saudi Arabia will also

welcome its first boutique cinema in May

2021, which will offer four screens with an

average of just 95 seats per screen.

Global Brands Are an Attractive

Option in the Pandemic

The market share of global technology

brands reached a new high in 2020,

accounting for 61.6 percent of the total

premium large-format screen base, a small

but steady increase from 2019 and previous

years. The enduring nature of best-in-class

premium experiences coming from trusted

and respected global brands are behind

the rise, plus rising audience awareness

of novel formats such as ScreenX. There

were 13 global branded formats in 2020,

up one from 12 in 2019. RealD launched

RealD Luxe in China, but the number of

providers remained the same.

Alongside large format, other premium

technologies such as immersive motion

seating and 4-D, like D-Box, 4DX, and

MX4D, also sit firmly in this wider category

of augmented premium experiences.

There has been a significant expansion

in the number of global-branded screens

(including IMS/4D), which more than

doubled from 2015 to 2020. This does not

include 3-D screens such as RealD, the

largest 3-D provider, or exhibitor-branded

PLF screens. Of all brands, Imax remains

the largest premium theatrical brand,

spanning 84 territories as of 1Q 21.

4-D and IMS screens account for nearly

40 percent of the global-branded total.

D-Box was the second largest individual

global format after Imax in H1 2020, based

on Cinema Intelligence territories. D-Box

also announced its first full auditorium

outfit in Vienna, Austria, in 2020.

With its 4DX, 4DX Screen, and ScreenX

brands, CJ 4DPlex is ranked second only

to Imax as a major premium provider, with

over 1,080 installs worldwide. 4DX is its

largest format, with 731 auditoriums in

2020 and just over half of those coming

from exhibitors in Asia and Oceania.

In the competitive global-branded

space for large screens, Imax remains

the clear market leader with a 56.6

percent share, a proportion that has

been slowly eroding due to the increased

competition from other formats, as well

as the rising popularity of PLF in general.

Much of Imax’s success has centered

on its involvement with the end-to-end

lifecycle of a movie. In 2019, a record five

of the top 10 Imax movies featured Imax

DNA. Further out, the content pipeline is

increasingly catering to movies filmed in

Imax, underscoring its premium quality.

China was Imax’s largest market

(734 screens in Greater China) in 1Q

21. Dolby Cinema had 263 installations

worldwide in 2020, including more

recent expansion in Japan and Saudi

Arabia. CGS was the second largest global

format (including China), followed by

ScreenX and Dolby Cinema.

A slew of new competitors lost

momentum in 2020, for obvious reasons.

ScreenX was one of the fastest growing

formats of 2019 but was unable to sustain

levels in 2020. Nonetheless, some bright

spots emerged. ScreenX finished 2020

with 316 screens plus 35 4DX screens

worldwide. China, Korea, the U.S., the

U.K., Japan, and Canada were the top five

markets for ScreenX. Saudi Arabia had six

installations.

Cinionic Giant Screen (CGS) is

expanding wider outside China, with a

total of 384 screens globally as of 1Q 2021

(although the vast majority are in China).

THX Ultimate Cinema has partnered with

CGS, launching in Europe in 1Q 2021 with

Nordisk Film at the Imperial Theatre in

Copenhagen, Denmark. CGS has also

partnered with Maya Cinemas in the U.S.

to power Maya’s brand format, MPX.

The Cinity Cinema System was

developed by Christie for Huaxia Film

in conjunction with GDC Technology,

based on 120fps HFR among other high

specs. Just over 40 screens were installed

worldwide as part of a longer-term plan to

add as many as 500 Cinity screens over the

next few years.

CGR’s ICE brand was another to gain

momentum, including the recent install

of a second screen in Saudi Arabia at the

In the competitive globalbranded

space for large

screens, Imax remains the

clear market leader with a

56.6 percent share.

CinemaCon 2021

99


Theater PREMIUM FORMATS

end of 2020 (with Vox Cinemas). The first

international install was at the Regal L.A.

Live theater in Los Angeles.

Total exhibitor-branded screens rose

5.6 percent, a below-average growth rate as

global exhibitors showed signs of limited

or delayed investment in own-brand

screens during the pandemic-hit months.

New Outliers for Technology Formats

The convergence of formats is also an

area for potential growth—4DX is a

screen based on the ScreenX peripheral

screen and coupled with 4DX seating.

Opportunity also exists to expand

technology by combining premium

formats with other luxury attributes like

recliner seating and boutique formats

like Imax’s Sapphire brand. Recliner

seating is another common feature of

many premium auditoriums, whether

added to stand-alone screens or a

component of complete venue retrofits.

They complement the appeal of premium

auditoriums and have become a fixture at

luxury dine-in cinemas. Marcus Theatres

has a distinct auditorium concept based

on the PLF-plus-recliner. Other formats,

such as Dolby Cinemas, have recliners

as standard, while D-Box also has a full

recliner option.

There is also the opportunity to use

technology as a differentiator among PLF

screens, and Imax with laser and Kinepolis’s

Laser Ultra are two such examples.

New technologies can strengthen the

theatrical sector by inspiring filmmakers to

The outlook for premium

formats remains positive, as

they are highly sought-after

by audiences and increasingly

targeted by exhibitors to raise

the bar for cinemagoing in

general.

create and optimize their works expressly

for premium platforms such as Imax, Dolby

Cinema, 4DX, Cinity, and ScreenX. This

includes filming (Imax), in post-production,

mastering/optimizing to HDR, and

conversion for peripheral formats.

Strong Titles Deliver on Premium

Formats

Imax has already reported gains, both

from significant pent-up demand and a

robust theatrical slate of global releases,

especially in the latter part of 2021. Imax

has also been boosted by its position in

China, now its leading market by box

office revenue, where stronger consumer

confidence and select local titles have

helped the market recover.

According to data from the Imax

Corporation, Imax generated its first

quarter-on-quarter box office gain with

$110M in 1Q 21. In China, recent titles have

over-indexed, including Avatar (rerelease)

with 30 percent taken in Imax theaters

for the opening weekend, and Godzilla vs.

Kong, with 12 percent from Imax theaters.

There were also impressive results for

local titles, such as Shockwave 2 with 20

percent box office on Imax screens in

China on the New Year holiday.

In North America, Warner Bros.’

Godzilla vs. Kong, a day-and-date theatrical

SVOD release (on HBO Max), generated a

reported 25 percent box office split from

premium (PLF) screens, approximately

double the regular split for a key title.

Global-Branded Premium Technology Formats by Provider

Imax Digital D-Box 4DX CGS MX4D Other

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

0

Source: Omdia

1,250

2,500 3,750 5,000

100 CinemaCon 2021


Market Outlook

As the industry stages its recovery and as

completed vaccinations climb, cinemas

will need to continue to innovate and

invest in opportunities such as premium

technology screens in order to provide

customers with levels of service, luxury,

and quality they would not otherwise be

able to experience at home.

Premium formats have received a

renewed focus in the recovery stages,

with audiences seeking out and

demanding differentiated and best-inclass

experiences after months of home

entertainment. The outlook for premium

formats remains positive, as they are

highly sought-after by audiences and

increasingly targeted by exhibitors to raise

the bar for cinemagoing in general.

Technology premium-format screens,

excluding stand-alone 3-D or immersivesound

auditoriums, accounted for 3.1

percent of global screens in 2020. There

is potential to achieve further growth of

at least 5 percent and up to 10 percent

of screens in this area. This trend bodes

well for the future of cinemagoing, as

audiences crave immersive environments

that provide the justification for enjoying

films outside their homes.

During the pandemic, the decades-long

exclusive theatrical window has come

under further pressure, as studios attempt

to balance a return to theatrical exhibition

with streaming’s continued rise in

popularity. In the post-Covid era, premium

screens will be key to increasing the

attractiveness of the theatrical experience,

even when the same movie could be

viewed almost immediately at home.

Omdia believes the number of

luxury and technology-based formats

will continue to grow, based on market

demand and the need for innovation. In

2021, many exhibitors will be focused

on survival, and in many cases this will

mean closing unprofitable sites, although

these sites are less likely to include the

latest augmented screens. Moreover, new

builds that are still in the pipeline can

bring in multiple times the revenues of

underperforming sites due to the higher

allocation of luxury fittings and premium

and other technology formats.

Cinemas can also help shape the

future of the industry by engaging more

closely with audiences, encouraging and

rewarding repeat loyalty, and ultimately

by shaping the audience journey from

beginning to end as an event underpinned

by premium, augmented experiences.

Charlotte Jones is the associate director

of cinema at Omdia, now part of

Informa Tech.

Source: OMDIA

Note: some data remains provisional/estimated

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CinemaCon 2021

101


Theater EVENT RECAP

GIANTS OF

EXHIBITION:

PREMIUM

FORMAT

Premium-Format Auditoriums

Drive Audiences’ Return to

Cinemas

BY DANIEL LORIA

As moviegoers make their longawaited

return to cinemas, premium

large-format (PLF) auditoriums have

emerged as a preferred destination. The

trend began to emerge as early as last

summer, when Chinese cinemas first

reopened following the closures that

presaged the pandemic’s global disruption.

The August release of The Eight Hundred,

the first Chinese film to be shot in Imax,

brought blockbuster earnings from Imax

screenings despite the format being

available in just 1 percent of the country’s

screens. Imax continued to see similarly

strong performances from its locations

as more cinemas opened around the

globe. The box office hot streak carried

over during the lull in new releases

experienced by much of the market

during the first half of 2021. A rerelease

of James Cameron’s Avatar in China, for

instance, brought in nearly a third of its

opening weekend haul from Imax screens.

Domestically, Imax began to hit similar

benchmarks as audiences returned. By

July, Imax claimed nearly 10 percent

of the $80 million domestic opening

weekend from Disney’s Black Widow—at

the time, the biggest pandemic-era debut

in North America.

The over-indexing of PLF auditoriums

in the global return to cinemas hasn’t

been exclusive to Imax. Immersive seating

provider D-Box experienced that same

bump with the release of Godzilla vs.

Kong earlier this year. The film opened

overseas in late March to $123.1 million

from 53,256 screens, 5 percent below the

102 CinemaCon 2021


LEADING

EXHIBITOR-

BRANDED PLFS IN

NORTH AMERICA

(*Does not include Dolby Cinema

auditoriums, exclusive to AMC

Theatres in the United States).

The number of PLF

auditoriums has more than

doubled over the past six

years, according to the

latest report from research

firm Omdia.

$130 million international bow of 2019’s

Godzilla: King of the Monsters from

53,515 screens. Despite the slight drop

in overall box office, D-Box sold more

tickets in its motion-seating format for

Godzilla vs. Kong than it did for the film’s

2019 predecessor—even with cinemas

operating under capacity restrictions.

The number of PLF auditoriums

has more than doubled over the past

six years, according to the latest report

from research firm Omdia. The sector

grew by 17 percent from 2018 to 2019,

slowing down to a 7 percent growth the

following year because of the pandemic.

By the end of 2020, there were close to

6,400 PLF screens globally, “a very small

number in terms of the 203,000 cinema

screens worldwide,” says Charlotte Jones,

1 Cinemark XD

2 Regal Cinemas RPX

3 Cineplex UltraAVX

4 Marcus Theatres

UltraScreen DLX

5 AMC Prime

6 Cinema West Giant Screen

7 B&B Theatres Grand Screen

8 Xscape Theatres Xtreme

9 Santikos AVX

10 AMC GXL

11 Galaxy Theatres GXL

12 Emagine EMAX

13 Harkins Theatres Ciné 1

14 Showbiz Cinemas SDX

15 Showplace ICON Theatres

ICON-X

16 Landmark Cinemas Laser

Ultra

17 Epic Theatres Epic XL

18 GTC Movies GTX

19 Marquee Cinemas MXC

20 Maya Cinemas MPX

21 Bow Tie Cinemas BTX

22 Showcase Cinemas

(National Amusements)

XPLUS

Source: Omdia

CinemaCon 2021

103


Theater EVENT RECAP

associate director of cinema at Omdia.

Jones expects that global footprint to

increase in the coming years, sharing

her insights in a presentation at a recent

edition of Boxoffice Pro’s latest LIVE

Sessions webinar series focusing on the

topic [see her in-depth report on p. 96].

Jones defines PLF as auditoriums where

best-in-class image and sound technology

feature prominently and sometimes

include newer formats, like immersive

seating and panoramic screens. “By

definition, premium formats elevate the

cinema experience. They are multifaceted,

often consisting of more than one element,

and, in fact, exhibitors are known to

cherry-pick and combine a number of

concepts in their approach,” she says.

If her definition is broad, it is by design.

The rise of premium-format screens

over the years has expanded from what

Omdia defines as “global-branded PLFs,”

auditoriums under a third-party vendor’s

brand like Dolby, RealD, and Imax,

involved in the end-to-end life cycle of a

film—from production to exhibition—to

what has come to be known as “exhibitorbranded

PLFs.” The exhibitor-led efforts

are private-label offerings independently

assembled by circuits themselves and

oftentimes incorporate branded formats

like Dolby Atmos immersive audio with

non-branded fixtures like luxury seating

or laser projection.

“Different exhibitors have different

strategies, investing in a number of

formats,” says Jones. “While [the top

five circuits in North America] have

investments in exhibitor PLF, it doesn’t

preclude them from any investment

across a number of other formats, so

multiple brands can coexist, and we’ve

actually seen this trend increasing.”

In North America, for example, more

than 80 percent of AMC Theatres’ PLF

auditoriums are globally branded through

Imax and Dolby Cinema, the latter

available exclusively in the United States

through AMC. Regal and Cineplex each

have 40 percent of their PLF fleet under

their in-house brands—Regal RPX and

Cineplex UltraAVX, respectively—with

over half of their premium auditoriums

branded under a variety of global partners.

On the other hand, the two remaining

top five cinema chains in North America,

Cinemark and Marcus Theatres, both

have a majority of their PLF rooms

TOP 20

TERRITORIES

BY PLF

SCREENS

(2020)

1 China

2 U.S.

3 Canada

4 Brazil

5 U.K.

6 South Korea

7 Australia

8 Japan

9 Mexico

10 Russia

11 France

12 United Arab Emirates

13 India

14 Colombia

15 Ireland

16 Netherlands

17 Spain

18 Saudi Arabia

19 Germany

20 Malaysia

104 CinemaCon 2021


under their respective private labels.

Cinemark XD auditoriums represent

over half of the circuit’s premium-format

screens, with the bulk of its globalbranded

PLFs represented by D-Box and

Imax auditoriums. D-Box expanded its

relationship with Cinemark in the United

States earlier this year, increasing its

footprint by eight locations and reaching a

total of 99 screens across the circuit. In the

case of Marcus Theatres, over 90 percent

of the circuit’s PLF screens operate under

its in-house brand, UltraScreen DLX.

“When we break out that split between

the global and exhibitor PLF brands, we

can see a very different picture emerging

by region,” says Jones. “North, Central,

and South America are the only regions

with more exhibitor-branded PLF screens

than global PLF screens. Exhibitor PLF

screens are less developed in Europe,

particularly among some of the exhibitors

in Eastern Europe, whereas in Asia Pacific

there is a very high proportion of global

PLF—mostly coming from China.”

The share of PLF screens relative to a

territory’s total screen count remains low

despite this growth. Emerging markets

like Croatia, Saudi Arabia, the United

Arab Emirates, and Morocco are the only

countries where PLF represents more than

5 percent of total screens, in accordance

with markets tracked by Omdia.

“There is definite potential to expand

in a lot of these markets. Looking towards

the end of the scale, we do have some

European markets, particularly those in

Eastern Europe, as well as some others

such as Germany and France that we can

consider to be under-penetrated when it

comes to PLF,” says Jones.

Recognizing the opportunity of

investing in PLF while their territory

was still underserved, French circuit

CGR Cinémas hit the market in the late

2010s looking for a solution they could

introduce to their audience. Unable to

settle on any one concept, CGR devised

its own PLF, ICE Theaters, in 2018. “We

looked at all the premium large formats;

those we found impressive were

financially challenging for us, and those

that were financially easy to recoup were

not that impressive,” recalls ICE Theaters

SVP of Global Sales Guillaume Thomine

Desmazures. “So we tried to build our own

premium large format, which initially

was only for our own theaters, but all of

a sudden it started to generate interest

Scan me

“By definition, premium

formats elevate the cinema

experience. They are

multifaceted, often consisting

of more than one element.”

outside of our own theaters in France,

and we realized that maybe this model,

invented by an exhibitor, might interest

other exhibitors.”

CGR spun off its ICE Theaters concept

as a global-branded PLF, making it

available to other cinema chains around

the world. ICE incorporates a series of

LED panels into the sides of the screen,

creating an immersive experience by

adding background peripheral elements to

a viewer’s line of sight throughout a film,

without distracting from the film image

on the screen itself. The auditoriums are

equipped with laser projectors, luxury

recliner seating, and Dolby Atmos. “These

are elements that not everyone will be

able to recognize at first glance,” says

Desmazures. “For instance, my niece

and her friends won’t have a clue if

they are in a theater with Dolby Atmos

or laser projection—but they’ll be able

to recognize the LED panels from the

moment they walk into the room.”

CinemaCon 2021

105


Theater EVENT RECAP

Scan me

CGR’s approach to developing ICE

Theaters reflects Jones’s comments about

how the latest generation of PLFs have

incorporated a variety of elements into

their design. Desmazures admits ICE

Theaters had to walk a tightrope in its

messaging to consumers in order to sell the

premium nature of the format. “The main

risk we identified is that if we treat this as a

gimmick, we may attract some audiences—

but they won’t come back later,” he says.

“We needed to start with something flashy

enough to be new, but complement it with

a spectacular presentation so it convinced

both studios and moviegoers on returning

to the format.”

CGR now operates 40 ICE locations in

France. ICE Theaters has since expanded

to global sites like Regal’s L.A. Live

“What we’ve seen is that

premium format creates

more value for the whole

content chain, not just in

movie theaters, by eventizing

the movie.”

location in the U.S. and a six-screen deal

with Middle Eastern circuit Vox. Omdia’s

research identifies emerging markets in

general, and the Middle East in particular,

as the hottest hubs for PLF expansion

in the coming years. The Middle East

boasts 129 PLF auditoriums spanning

16 territories, showing above-average

investment in the sector. “We think

it’s driven by the innovative nature of

these exhibitors. We’ve got new screen

construction there; new screens are

more likely to invest in premium formats

because they’re built from scratch,”

says Jones. “It also has to do with the

propensity of local audiences and a very

high prevalence of multiplex theaters,

as opposed to the sort of boutique or art

house cinemas more common in some

European territories.”

Programming also plays a big role in

the prevalence of PLF, as major studios

dedicate additional effort to incorporating

premium formats into the production and

post-production stages of their biggest

titles. A film’s availability in premium

format is often mentioned in marketing

materials for the biggest tentpoles on the

studio calendar. Those campaigns help

eventize theatrical releases over other

distribution models—including day-anddate

SVOD and PVOD releases—enticing

viewers to leave their homes and pay a

higher ticket price at the cinema.

“Even the smallest screen in any of

our theaters is better than what you have

at home, but the premium experience—

whether it’s sight and sound or seating—is

something that you just can’t get in your

living room,” says Ryan Wood, SVP and head

film buyer at AMC Theatres. “We’ve seen it

from our loyal guests and average consumers

alike: They seek out our premium formats,

especially on the big event titles.”

If PLF was once the domain of actiondriven

capers and sci-fi adventures, more

genres have come to find success in

premium format in recent years. Family

films, horror movies, and musicals have

all reached PLF screens in 2021. “We work

across all genres,” says Jean-François

Gagnon, global sales director, theatrical,

at D-Box. “We’ve seen the haptic

experience deliver a value that consumers

recognize and are willing to pay extra for

because it’s so different from anything

they have at home.”

D-Box has leveraged the unique quality

of its motion seating system as a main

106 CinemaCon 2021


selling point for moviegoers. The company

works with studios during a movie’s postproduction

to ensure its haptic seating

technology works in harmony with the

sound and visuals on-screen. That process

is perfected by a team of designers, most

of whom have a background in music or

sound design, to design each film’s unique

haptic track in a way that can accentuate

and highlight specific details of a scene.

The end result is a synchronization

between the film and the patron’s seat,

offering a level of immersion unavailable

to home viewers.

A focus on the out-of-home experience,

positioning cinemas as entertainment

destinations for a night out, has received

increased attention as movie theaters

contend with a shorter (in some cases,

nonexistent) theatrical exclusivity window

emerging from the pandemic. “I think

we’ve already seen how audiences are

seeking out enhanced experiences on their

return to movie theaters,” says Jones. “I

think this presents further opportunities

for cinemas to invest in their flagship

screens. The rollout of these new concepts

is not coming at a particularly opportune

time [during the pandemic], but

nonetheless, exhibitors need to continue

to innovate and invest to remain relevant,

particularly in the case of audiences

having a higher number of subscriptions

at home. What we’ve seen is that premium

format creates more value for the whole

content chain, not just in movie theaters,

by eventizing the movie.”

The saturation of streaming content

available at home has made it more

difficult for new releases to stand

out in the market. It has also led to

a collaboration between studios and

exhibitors that prioritizes event-driven

campaigns ahead of a film’s release,

often attached to advance ticketing

opportunities. AMC’s Wood emphasizes

the importance of promoting a circuit’s

PLF showtimes during these advanceticketing

campaigns, “We make sure

whenever an advanced sale campaign is

launched by a studio, that our premium

formats go along with it,” he says.

“Normally, the first consumers to come to

the movies want to see a title in the best

format. If you are buying your ticket early,

it means you want the best seat and you

want the best format.”

The titles usually released in PLF

auditoriums tend to be front-loaded studio

tentpoles, earning the bulk of their grosses

during the first 10 days of release. Success or

failure for a PLF release often comes down

to a film’s opening-weekend performance

in these auditoriums. “For us, we need to be

there on opening weekend,” says Gagnon.

“That’s the important part, reaching the

people who are ready to pay for a ticket to

see a movie the day it comes out.”

Coordinating the release schedule

around the availability of premium

screens is another important factor Wood

believes exhibitors should consider in

their PLF strategy. “You want to make sure

you maximize your starts on premium

format because, as we know, those runs

typically only last for a week,” he says.

“It’s a churn business, especially with this

year’s slate. As a norm, if that consumer

doesn’t get a chance to see it during

the opening week, they may not get the

chance to see it in Dolby or Imax.”

While the rise of PLF pre-dates the

pandemic by several years, its role in

drawing audiences during the reopening

period has been significant enough to

make analysts question the pace of its

future growth. The slowdown in growth

that occurred in 2020 can likely be

attributed to the pandemic’s devastating

effect on cinema circuits, which were

forced to either temporarily suspend or

permanently shutter operations. Those

that did reopen now face the challenge

of negotiating back-rent agreements with

landlords. These factors could cause

further disruption for the expansion

of PLF screens in the coming years, as

circuits’ capex investments are paused or

curtailed because of the pandemic.

“Obviously this will have an impact

going forward in terms of operators and

their target investments. I think the first

port of call was in reducing operating costs

and driving down expenses. But operators

need to innovate to survive, and I think,

going forward, these premium formats

will become a clear target for investment,”

says Jones. “But, of course, this is all based

on their return on investment.”

TOP 20

TERRITORIES

RANKED BY PLF

AS A SHARE OF

TOTAL SCREENS

1 Croatia

2 Saudi Arabia

3 United Arab Emirates

4 Morocco

5 Canada

6 Ireland

7 Luxembourg

8 Brazil

9 South Korea

10 Australia

11 United States

12 Latvia

13 United Kingdom

14 Bulgaria

15 Netherlands

16 Colombia

17 New Zealand

18 Hong Kong

19 Belgium

20 Iceland

CinemaCon 2021

107


Theater INNOVATION

“Technology has always

played a big role in helping

movie theaters consistently

wave off threats from other

ways of watching content.”

TECH TO

THE RESCUE

Technology Helps Cinemas Compete

in a Post-Pandemic Climate

BY KEVIN LALLY

Cinemas have been fighting

competition for the public’s leisure

time for almost 100 years, beginning

with the rise of radio and television and

continuing with the growth of homeentertainment

options. But the movie

theater business is currently facing one

of its most daunting challenges ever,

now that the pandemic has shattered

exclusivity windows, and a return to

“business as usual” seems highly unlikely.

Throughout the decades, cinemas’

most important survival strategy has been

technology, from the wide-screen formats

born in the 1950s to advancements in

sound to the digital revolution and the

creation of luxury auditoriums offering

comforts you can’t get at home. As

theaters attempt to recapture some

semblance of normalcy, we asked leaders

in cinema technology to share their

thoughts on how advanced tech can help

persuade the public to return to cinemas

when so many big-budget movies beckon

on their home screens.

Man Nang Chong, founder, chairman,

and CEO of GDC Technology Ltd.,

comments, “Technology has always

played a big role in helping movie theaters

consistently wave off threats from other

ways of watching content. At the same

time, technology has kept moviegoing an

affordable out-of-home entertainment

choice. Although the pandemic gave rise

to narrowing the exclusivity window, it

did not keep GDC from continuing to

technologically improve the moviegoing

experience. As an industry, we cannot

allow technology to stop simply due to

changing business models. Because we

constantly listen to the creative community,

distributors, and exhibitors, there is always

a new idea to improve the big-screen

experience on our drawing board. For

example, at GDC, we will introduce several

new hardware and software products

at CinemaCon, including our smallest,

lightest, and quietest laser projector—

Supra-5000, designed for the emerging

mini-theater concept.”

Mark Mayfield, director of global

cinema marketing at audio leader QSC,

says this is the time to upgrade. “There

are many ways that theater operators can

use technology to further differentiate

the experience they can deliver in the

theater from what people can create

in their homes. First and foremost,

evaluate the presentation quality inside

your theater. Are both the sound and

projection systems functioning at their

best potential? If not, use this postpandemic

period as sort of a reset, to

recalibrate or upgrade your equipment so

that when patrons return to the theater,

the difference between streaming a movie

at home and seeing it in the theater will

be more dramatic and persuasive.

“Also, you can use technology to expand

the use of the theater for applications

other than showing feature films. Even

a minor investment in conferencing and

collaboration technology can let you turn

the theater into a presentation space with

remote viewing capability for business

meetings and celebrations. Use streaming

technology to your advantage inside the

multiplex by combining rooms to create

as large or small of a ‘virtual’ space as your

rental customers need, by streaming from

room to room. Also, this is the perfect time

to explore ‘event cinema.’ All of this can

reduce your reliance on first-run feature

films. Also, network technologies are

108 CinemaCon 2021


Lobby of the hightech

Grand Cinema

Sunshine in Tokyo

CinemaCon 2021

109


Theater INNOVATION

available that offer ways to streamline

whole building operations, allowing

centralized or remote monitoring and

control of all theaters, public spaces, and

building systems, offering many ways to

increase efficiency and save money.”

Doug Darrow, senior V.P. of Dolby

Laboratories’ Cinema Business Group,

cites the role of premium large-format

venues like his company’s high-tech Dolby

Cinema concept in luring customers

back to cinemas. “From an industry

perspective, we anticipate the shift to

a shorter theatrical exclusivity window

will increase the significance of PLF

offerings to exhibitors—allowing them

to capture incremental box office while

providing moviegoers with the premium

experiences they crave. Particularly as

we see vaccination rates increase, and

exciting new content release in theaters,

we expect Dolby Cinema and all PLFs to

be a vital part of the resurgence of the

industry. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic,

premium large format had the highest

PSA of any screen in the world. Coming

out of Covid-19, we are seeing that trend

pick up where it left off. Over F9’s opening

weekend, PLF screens generated 24

percent of the total box office, despite only

accounting for 3 percent of all screens

in North America. And moviegoers are

continuing to return to cinemas.”

Brian Claypool, executive V.P., cinema,

at venerable projection company Christie,

is confident exhibitors can weather

this turbulent period. “Following the

pandemic, the exhibition business will

see a change. It is true that there will

be shorter windows; however, that is a

reality that many had already expected.

The pandemic has simply increased the

velocity at which this change occurs, but

the underlying drive that creates the

demand for cinema remains strong.

“People want to experience the richness

offered by the presentation of a compelling

story together, and technology has always

been a tool that allows exhibitors to do

this. We will continue to work with our

exhibition partners to ensure we bring

solutions that offer an experience better

than anything the audience can get at

home, and at a price that is economically

viable for their business.”

Sean Spencer, V.P. of sales and

marketing at leading 3-D provider RealD,

declares, “The reduction in theatrical

windows increases the options for

consumption of content, but cinema

is more than content. It is a venue that

combines the best in modern technology

with the social engagement that can

only be enjoyed by watching a wonderful

movie in a packed auditorium. Now,

more than ever, we in the theatrical

industry need to remind customers just

why cinema is so special, and premium

experiences will be a large part of that.

Laser projection, beautiful screens,

booming sound, and, dare I say it, 3-D

content—cinema brings all this together,

combining it with an engaged audience

focusing all their attention on the best

Hollywood and world cinema can offer.

The big-screen experience simply cannot

be replicated at home.”

Jeff Kaplan, national account manager,

digital cinema, at Sharp NEC Display

Solutions, notes, “Technology is a main

factor in driving consumers to the theater.

As we discovered during the pandemic,

we can all stream the latest from Netflix

or Disney Plus on our TV or home theater

setup, but nothing can compete with 4K

projection on a 70-foot screen. Overall, it

comes down to capex versus opex. With

so many theaters recovering from a year

of lost revenue, many are trying to quickly

replace projection equipment for the

lowest cost. However, without evaluating,

the operating costs associated with the

purchase could be costly. For example, the

operating advantage of laser technology is

a higher-quality image at a lower overall

cost of ownership. Assessing the overall

costs could drastically change the ROI of

a projector purchase and is an important

component for theater owners to consider

in order to survive and thrive.”

Sebastien Mailhot, president and CEO of

motion-seating company D-Box, observes,

“Moviegoers who have been confined

for a long time are now looking for an

entertainment experience that is different

from what they can experience at home.

They will go back to the cinema, but they

want a premium experience, which often

only technology can offer them. Whether

it’s the size of the screen, the enhanced

sound experience, or haptic movement

technology, they want to experience

something unique that exhibitors who own

the technology can bring.”

“From an industry

perspective, we anticipate

the shift to a shorter

theatrical exclusivity window

will increase the significance

of PLF offerings to exhibitors.”

110 CinemaCon 2021


Claypool touts the role of cinema

technologies like Christie’s projectors

with RealLaser illumination in clearly

differentiating an audiovisual experience

from what guests experience at home. “We

also believe ensuring that audiences have

a consistent, high-quality experience is

key. Images need to be perfectly focused

and framed on screen. Light levels need

to remain consistent, as do the audio

components in the auditorium.”

He continues, “Ensuring guests feel

safer returning to theaters is also top of

mind, which is why Christie has developed

Christie CounterAct commercial U.V.

disinfection fixtures with patented

Care222 technology, which inactivates 99

percent of surface pathogens using 222

nm filtered light, while people are present.

It is specifically designed for rooms with

high ceilings, making CounterAct perfect

for cinema.”

Another key factor in attracting

patrons to cinemas is technology that

conveys an enhanced experience unique

to big-screen venues. 3-D, which entered

a whole new era with the release of

Avatar in 2009, is certainly one of those

enhancements. RealD’s Spencer contends,

“Without question, 3-D will be a part of the

resurgence in cinema, for a couple of key

reasons. The first I mentioned previously,

as part of the premium technology

offering that differentiates theaters from

the home. Of course, 3-D is not the only

factor here, nor should it be. The drive

to improve the cinematic experience

has been a continuous one, and we are

proud of the role 3-D has played and

will continue to play. Secondarily, 3-D

offers the opportunity to generate a

premium ticket price, which is vitally

important, especially when occupancies

are limited and maximizing revenue

from each available seat is key. We saw

very promising results with Godzilla vs.

Kong, with the number of 3-D showtimes

actually increasing on week two due to

the demand. And we have a solid slate

of great 3-D titles in the pipeline, which

demonstrates that the studios remain

committed to the format.”

Motion-seating and 4-D effects

are another increasingly popular

enhancement. “Immersive haptic

technology enhances the cinematic

experience,” says Mailhot. “Moviegoers

are looking for a different experience from

the one they had during the pandemic.

“People want to experience

the richness offered by the

presentation of a compelling

story together, and

technology has always been

a tool that allows exhibitors

to do this.”

Left. The whimsical Joy

City Kids Theatre in

Zhejiang, China

Below. D-Box motion

seating, Dolby Cinema, a

GDC SX-4000 IMB player

at Joy City

The D-Box haptic technology certainly

helps attract moviegoers looking for the

enhanced experience that movies, such as

most recently F9, can provide.”

With theaters gradually recovering

from the pandemic, what advice can our

technology gurus offer? Mayfield responds,

“The obvious one—be sure to have your

sanitization and safety measures in place.

The public needs to feel safe and confident

returning to the theaters if we’re going to

get back to pre-pandemic capacities and

revenue. Beyond that, objectively evaluate

your presentation experience, and make

improvements now. Then use this period

to promote the experience you can offer

that patrons cannot get at home.”

Chong observes, “The best advice we

can give movie theaters is to always deliver

the best possible experience. Walt Disney

said it best: ‘Do what you do so well that

they will want to see it again and bring

their friends.’ Keeping guests coming

back again and again has to consist of a

totally positive experience, from booking

tickets to parking your car to purchasing

concessions to maintaining a comfortable

temperature in the auditorium. As a

technology provider, our best advice

CinemaCon 2021

111


Theater INNOVATION

is to constantly monitor and maintain

your digital cinema equipment to ensure

the best possible experience. The days

of talking about movies around the

watercooler on Monday morning are gone.

In today’s social media world, the word

spreads fast about a great movie, including

instantly sharing images of the amazing

experience with family and friends.”

Claypool adds, “Make sure that

your equipment is working optimally.

Because now, more than ever, when

audiences return, you’ll want them to

have an experience to remember. We

have prepared a checklist [christiedigital.

com/help-center/reopening-cinemas/]

to help keep theaters ready for showtime.

Staying at home is the easy choice. We

want moviegoers to know that choosing to

watch it at the cinema is the right one.”

Dolby’s Darrow again advises

exhibitors to offer a premium experience.

“Moviegoers have a lot of choices when

deciding where to spend their money.

Over the past year with theaters being

closed down, consumers experienced

their entertainment at home or on-thego.

Because of this shift in consumption,

the importance for exhibitors to deliver

great experiences has never been more

imperative than it is today. The big-screen

experience has always been the choice of

creatives and remains the premier venue

in the minds of most consumers. The

emergence of the PLF solutions that include

immersive audio and HDR are giving

moviegoers a higher-quality experience

every time they step inside these cinemas.

Because of these expectations, it is more

important than ever for exhibitors to

invest in premium experiences to counter

alternative offerings.”

Spencer emphasizes quality control.

“Theater owners know their business better

than we ever will, but there are some areas

we are speaking to our partners about. …

Customers expect a premium experience

if they are being asked to pay a premium

price—so we as an industry must focus

on getting that technology right. For 3-D,

that means ensuring the brightness on

the projector is at the optimum level and

the system is aligned correctly. With both

of those factors addressed, the customer

will enjoy deeper, sharper images that are

comfortable to watch.”

He continues, “From a marketing

perspective all companies need to

focus on their brands and what makes

their business special. This applies

to everyone in the industry, not just

theaters. What makes your cinema

different from everyone else and focus

on those core competencies with the

advertising messaging. Previously, we

may have relied on the studios to generate

demand with their theatrical campaigns,

but there is an extra job to do now. We

also need to convince the customer as

to why they should select the movie

theater as their method of consuming

the latest blockbuster. A focus on those

competencies means that we can deliver

on the promise of our marketing. At RealD,

we offer the best 3-D in the world. We have

to make sure that message and experience

is delivered consistently, and the same is

true for theaters.

“We are also discussing hygiene,

which has never been more important

in reassuring customers they are in safe

hands. We must recognize customers’

health and safety concerns, creating

procedures and messaging to calm any

fears they may have. We have produced

marketing materials letting patrons

know that our glasses are U.V.-sanitized

and hygienically, individually wrapped.

This has always been the case, but until

recently we have never felt the need to

communicate these facts to the final

consumer.”

We couldn’t resist asking our experts

for their forecasts about the cinema

business post-pandemic.

“At GDC, we are bullish about the health

of cinemas in 2022 and beyond,” Chong

affirms. “We foresee big changes coming

to the big screen. The naysayers have been

predicting the demise of cinema for nearly

70 years, and not one prediction has come

true. The pandemic slowed the industry

down, but there’s a new generation of

filmmakers that still understand the

best venue to showcase their story is the

big screen. It is our job to ensure theater

owners have the technology to bring their

imagination to life by displaying the

content exactly as the young filmmaker

intended. It’s why we feel watching

a movie on a handheld device or a

streaming platform will never replace a

night out at the movies. However, it’s up to

us as a technology provider to continually

improve the moviegoing experience with

technological advancements targeted at

consumers, such as cinema-on-demand

platforms like GDC’s GoGoCinema, where

the consumers select the movie they want

to see, where they want to see it, and when

they want to see it.”

Says Darrow, “Dolby truly believes

in the power of shared experiences, and

that the cinema is a unique environment

that can’t be replicated. We know Dolby

Cinema provides a transformative

premium offering, where consumers can

deeply connect with the story onscreen.

With the reopening of cinemas, we feel

that 2022 box office numbers will be

strong and will only continue to grow

over time as possibilities for additional

“We owe it to future

generations to give them the

opportunity to connect with

movies in the way that we

all do, and it simply will not

happen without cinema.”

Top right. GDC, Christie,

and Huaxia Film

collaborated on the

advanced Cinity highframe-rate

system.

Right. The Grand

Cinema Sunshine

112 CinemaCon 2021


high-value content increases. We see

cinemas focusing on the quality of the

experience as well as beginning to offer

more alternative events such as sports

and music, simulcasted staged events,

and gaming as the industry drives for

more immersive experiences in a shared,

community environment.”

QSC’s Mayfield observes, “If you look

back at the 125-plus years of theatrical

exhibition, it has always been a cyclical

business that’s sensitive to technological,

social, regulatory, and many other types of

historical events. But it always comes back,

often by implementing new technologies

that increase the appeal and that enhance

the moviegoing experience. Obviously,

I’m one of those who is bullish on the

recovery and rebound of the exhibition

industry. But there is no return to

‘business as usual’—it will be necessarily

different. Exhibitors shouldn’t fear this;

differentiation is a powerful competition

strategy, and it may be the key to survival.”

Christie’s Claypool says, “We have

always been, and continue to be, in cinema

for the long term. We are stoic believers

in the experience that only cinemas can

offer. While the next two years may be

a bit rough as exhibitors hit hard by the

financial impact of the pandemic find

their footing, we’re here for them. In fact,

we are already seeing positive signs of

recovery with studio releases we’ve been

waiting over a year for that are finally

around the corner, and box office returns

continuing to improve as people that have

been resilient during the pandemic are

returning to spaces they love.”

Sharp NEC’s Kaplan is also bullish. “In

my opinion, the future of cinema is a

healthy, more profitable industry. Post-

Covid, they are expecting 25 to 30 percent

permanent theater closures. With less

competition in physical theaters, there

is an opportunity to create the best

experience for consumers. I liken it to

this analogy: Everybody has a kitchen

in their house, yet they still go out to eat.

People crave a shared experience and the

memories of going to the movies. There

is just something about the experience of

buttery, salty popcorn and a large fountain

drink that will continue to drive consumers

to the theater for generations to come.”

RealD’s Spencer predicts, “The cinema

will rebound. The opening weekend of F9

saw the best box office result domestically

since before the pandemic, and there is

“With less competition in

physical theaters, there is an

opportunity to create the best

experience for consumers.“

a backlog of blockbusters waiting to hit

theaters in the next six months. More

than that, I believe that the increased

competition will actually improve the

theatrical experience in the long term, by

making everyone in our industry focus on

the areas that matter to customers, and

that we do better than anyone else. We

owe it to future generations to give them

the opportunity to connect with movies in

the way that we all do, and it simply will

not happen without cinema. We need to

make it special to keep it alive. We need

the anticipation as the house lights drop.

We need wonderful, pin-sharp projection

that knocks our socks off. We need sound

so loud we feel it in our chest. We need to

laugh, cry, and be scared with an audience

of strangers. We need the cinema, and

CinemaCon 2021

113


Boost Ticketing is the

new concessions stand

Scan it with the camera on your phone or visit

company.boxoffice.com/boost to book a meeting with us.


Deliver an unforgettable

experience for your guests

Dolby Auditorium Packages

Dolby Auditorium Packages offer adaptive,

affordable solutions for your cinema needs.

Complete solutions for your imaging server, audio

processing, amplification, and loudspeaker needs.

Package options include solutions for Dolby 5.1, Dolby

7.1, and Dolby Atmos immersive audio.

Tailored for all your theater screens, regardless of their size.

Contact your local dealer or Dolby Sales Representative for more information

Q2 2021

115


Theater DOLBY: THE EARLY YEARS

DOLBY:

THE EARLY

YEARS

When one thinks about modern cinema sound, one is

keenly aware of the name Dolby. Yet before Dolby came into

existence, there was a long, and sometimes sordid, history in

sound recording technologies.

BY JOHN F. ALLEN

116 CinemaCon 2021


“To be an inventor, you have to

be willing to live with a sense

of uncertainty, to work in this

darkness and grope towards

an answer, to put up with

anxiety about whether there is

an answer.” — Ray Dolby

CinemaCon 2021

117


Theater DOLBY: THE EARLY YEARS

Ray Dolby and his technological partner

on film sound issues, Ioan Allen, have

helped bring audio recording, and cinema

sound in particular, into the modern age.

This article explores that history and

pays tribute to some of those who made

valuable contributions along the way.

From the earliest days of analog disc

recording systems and magnetic tape

recorders, the simultaneous limitations

of noise and distortion have defined the

record and film industries. The louder

the recording, the greater the distortion.

The quieter the recording, the greater

the audible noise.For tape recorders this

noise was referred to as tape hiss. For

program material with limited dynamic

range, a news broadcast for example, the

recordings were very good, as hiss was

not a problem with such material. When

it came to music, however, especially

orchestral music, the limits of magnetic

tape were all too audible.

Various methods to optimize tape

recording were employed. One simply said

that the zero dB level on the recording

meter would be set when a recording level

on the tape reached 1 percent distortion.

Of course, this would vary depending on

the magnetic formulation. In later years,

rather than a distortion level, zero dB on

the meter would correspond to a specific

flux level on the tape.

As with long-playing records, the

technique of frequency pre-emphasis/

de-emphasis was also employed with tape

recorders. In recording, this technique

boosted the high frequencies and reduced

the lows. Reversing this in playback

not only resulted in a flat playback

frequency response, it also reduced the

audibility of tape hiss and low frequency

distortion. However, the high frequency

pre-emphasis was enough to itself cause

distortion. Even so, hiss would remain a

problem in need of a solution, especially

for music recording.

Beginning in 1947, Ampex* was the

major manufacturer of professional tape

recorders. Ampex engineers were well

versed in the standards for disc-based

systems. What was needed was a similar

set of standards for tape machines so that

recordings made on any one machine

could be played back on any other.

Ampex engineer Frank Lennert

made the first standard test tape to be

used for calibrating tape recorders. The

company then decided to hire a 16-yearold

teenager to make the copies. That

teenager was none other than a high

school student by the name of Ray Dolby.

Ampex founder Alex Poniatoff had met

Ray as a 16 mm projectionist at a high

school lecture Alex was giving, and he

hired Ray for the job.

By the early 1950s, magnetic tape

recorders had become the most widely

used method for recording audio. The

motion picture industry began using

sprocketed 35 mm stock fully coated with

magnetic oxide for motion pictures such

as The Ten Commandments and Moby Dick,

both from 1956. Over the next decades, as

tape formulations improved so did the

standard tapes.

While earning his electrical

engineering degree at Stanford University,

Ray Dolby continued his work at Ampex

and contributed to the development of

the first video tape recorder in 1957. This

was a machine that some said could never

be built: a round disc with four heads

spinning perpendicular to the two-inchwide

tape. With the tape running at 15

inches per second, the disc would spin at

1440 rpm to obtain the necessary writing

speed. It all sounds pretty familiar now,

but in the 1950s Ampex had to make it

work without shredding every inch of tape.

Even today it amazes me whenever I go

near a so-called quad machine. I always

visualize millions of pieces of tape flying

all over the room.

By the mid 1960s, Dolby had left

Ampex, earned a Ph.D., and worked for

a while for UNESCO in India. His goal,

however, was to develop a noise-reduction

system for audio tape recorders that

would reduce hiss in music recordings to

near inaudibility. After working for several

years on a better way to solve the tape hiss

problem, he founded Dolby Laboratories

in London in 1965. The Dolby A-type noise

reduction system was introduced the

same year, achieving about 10 to 15 dB of

noise reduction.

At first, adding a compression/

expansion process to recordings was met

with concern by many audio engineers. It

was feared that such a dynamic operation

would produce audible artifacts. Indeed

it does, unless the recording and playback

levels are matched throughout the entire

encode/decode process. To ensure that

they were, Dolby noise reduction systems

included a tone oscillator at a specific

level and frequency called Dolby Tone that

would be used with all recordings using

this system. Of course, this also meant

that the all-important gain structure of

the entire record/playback chain would be

optimized. This alone would reduce the

chance of noise and distortion creeping in

along the way.

It wasn’t too long before classical music

recording engineers learned to use the

Dolby system and appreciated its benefits.

Some FM radio stations also added Dolby

noise reduction to their microwave studio-

The company then decided

to hire a 16-year-old

teenager to make the

copies. That teenager was

none other than a high

school student by the name

of Ray Dolby.

*Much of the history of Ampex was drawn from

a paper entitled, “Standard Alignment Tapes, A

History at and After Ampex,” presented by Jay

McKnight at the Association for Recorded Sound

Collections’ annual conference in March 2008.

118 CinemaCon 2021


transmitter links. Boston’s WGBH-FM was

one of them.

Noise reduction also allowed for

mixing down multiple tracks before the

added noise would become objectionable.

Such a feature made Dolby A-type noise

reduction a natural for motion picture

sound, at a time when soundtracks

derived from many tracks were the norm.

Enter Ioan Allen. Allen began his career

at Dolby in 1969 and soon became a major

innovator as well as the company’s leader

in film sound.

While the consumer audio industry

was rapidly advancing with the creation of

increasingly superior home high-fidelity

stereo systems, the state of motion picture

sound in 1969 was pretty stagnant, lacking

uniform standards and going nowhere.

The soundtracks for 70 mm and 35 mm

magnetic films were often outstanding, but

there were major sound quality issues in

the theaters where films were presented.

(Sadly, such constraints can still be found

today.) In the early 1970s, 70 mm prints

were becoming fewer, theaters playing 35

mm magnetic prints were also declining,

and the soundtracks of all the remaining

35 mm optical soundtracks were dull and

boring mono. A trip to most movie theaters

involved listening to two hours of “honky”

distorted sound with a limited frequency

bandwidth of approximately six of the 10

octaves we typically hear. Dynamic range

was—well, there wasn’t much dynamic

range. L.P.s and FM radio sounded better.

Imagine where we would be if Dolby

had not made the investment to pursue

the film industry? Convincing studios to

employ Dolby noise reduction was a slow

process. The industry was very reluctant

to change anything to do with sound.

But two long years later in 1971, Stanley

Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was the first

film to use Dolby noise reduction in all the

premixes and masters. This was followed

in 1972 by the introduction of the Model

364 cinema unit, which allowed Dolbyencoded

mono soundtracks to be decoded

for playback in theaters.

With the introduction of Dolby A

encoded soundtracks came an often

underappreciated change in the optical

soundtrack itself. Noise reduction not

only allowed for a considerable reduction

in distortion, but it also allowed for a

welcome frequency bandwidth increase to

nearly nine octaves.

Of course, using noise reduction

in soundtrack recording made perfect

sense. But what about the theaters?

They were still stuck with mono optical

sound, poor dynamic range, limited

frequency range, and lots of distortion.

Optical readers in the projectors were

not “calibrated” with instruments. In fact,

they weren’t calibrated at all. In some

theaters you could hear the sound change

during projector changeovers. Like the

monophonic soundtracks themselves,

the speakers and amplifiers found in

most theaters also suffered from limited

bandwidth and excessive distortion.

If that weren’t enough, the speaker’s

crossovers were a mess. No amount of

soundtrack preparation technology could

fix any of this.

The first order of business would have

to be improving the sound one could coax

from theater speakers using something

called one-third octave equalization. This

had first been introduced by Don Davis at

Altec Lansing and was intended as a means

for controlling feedback in commercial

sound systems. Using it for tuning a sound

system to gain a smoother response and

perhaps a wider bandwidth was not the

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Theater DOLBY: THE EARLY YEARS

original intent. But it was soon apparent

that one-third octave equalization was

a major advance in sound systems, if

employed correctly. Unfortunately, it is

still misused as often as not.

In 1973 Dolby introduced Allen’s

concept of a one-third octave equalizer

for cinemas, the E2, including the CAT-64

equalizer module. This was an ingenious

and extremely compact design done

by Dolby engineer Ken Gundry. Rather

than taking up two or three units of

space—per channel—in an equipment

rack, the CAT-64 consisted of two circuit

boards sandwiched together into a

package that could slide into a cinema

processor (see figure 1). To minimize

concern for unwanted degradation from

the additional circuitry, unused one-third

octave controls were essentially out of

the circuit. Also included were extremely

useful wide-band bass and treble controls.

This was a first for such equalizers and

would reduce the need for using so many

one-third controls.

X Curve

With the introduction of cinema soundsystem

equalization, the parallel needs

for a measurement system and, equally

important, a target measured response

also arose. The use of pink noise and

real-time analyzers had become a popular

measurement approach in the early 1970s.

It was also more affordable, especially

when compared to the time-delayed

spectrometry systems that could cost two

or three times as much.

To test a loudspeaker with a flat

frequency response in a room as large as a

cinema, Allen went to the Elstree Studios

outside London. In one of the large

rerecording studios, he placed three large

studio monitors in front of the mixing

console that was some 40 feet from the

speakers behind the screen. In such close

proximity, the studio monitors delivered

their flat sound directly to the ears of

someone sitting a few feet away at the

console. Then (most importantly), by ear,

Allen, assisted by of group of engineers

and mixers, adjusted the equalizers for

the screen speakers so that their tone

matched the near-field monitors. Trust me,

this required talent and was not easy to

do. With the distant screen speakers now

delivering the same tone as the monitors,

Allen played pink noise through the screen

speakers and used a real-time analyzer to

measure the result.

Contrary to what one might expect,

the measured frequency response did not

appear to be flat, even though it was. A

look at the chart in figure 2 shows why. The

response of the direct first arrival sound

shows a flat frequency response. It is also

the flat response that would be measured

if the speaker was in a small room such as

a typical living room. Our ears and brains

use the direct sound to determine the tone

of the sound. A cinema is a much larger

space. The additional volume of the room

introduces acoustic differences, some of

which our brains ignore. Nonetheless, the

larger room’s acoustics, including greater

reverberation, corrupts the measurements

seen with pink noise and real-time

analyzers by showing a pronounced

high frequency roll-off. This finding also

correlated with similar work done earlier

by Boston pioneer acoustician Leo Beranek

and became known as the X curve.

The X curve was one of the most

important introductions in cinema

sound. But it has also been one of the

most misunderstood. Since it looks almost

identical to the playback part of the preemphasis/de-emphasis

scheme, many

technicians mistakenly assumed that it

was. For that matter, many still do. But

by looking at the chart in figure 2, we see

that the X curve is nothing more than the

result of the combined measured response

of a flat loudspeaker playing pink noise

in a large room, along with the added

effects of the room’s acoustics thrown in to

confuse us. In other words, we hear the flat

direct sound, but we are forced to measure

something else. The X curve, including

its tolerances, attempts to provide a

target response for such a challenging

measurement approach. Because

there is no system that measures what

something sounds like, it is understood

that, as with the use of any measurement

system, trained ears must be the final

Dolby tone

Pink

Figure 2. Reverberation build-up of Pink Noise Over Time

Figure 3. Dolby CAT-69 test film

120 CinemaCon 2021


judge. Or as Don Davis often said, “It’s the

analyzer between the ears that’s the most

important.”

For the first time, the pink-noise/realtime

analyzer alignment procedure, along

with the X curve, provided a method of

achieving a reasonably similar tone in

cinema sound systems no matter which

loudspeakers were installed. Unfortunately,

this approach has often been poorly

implemented in most cinemas, resulting

in over-equalization that ignores the

tolerances, distorting the tone, and

diminishing dialogue intelligibility.

That being said, it must also be

recognized and appreciated that, unlike

in cinemas, the X curve has been very

carefully and intelligently implemented

in the studios. This has created a

worldwide uniformity from studio to

studio that has given motion pictures a

remarkable consistency in sound quality

that no other part of the recording

industry has ever achieved.

Stereo Optical

Next Allen would tackle changing the

35 mm release print optical soundtrack

from mono to stereo. Back in the 1930s,

German engineers had developed a stereo

optical recorder. Unfortunately, there was

no reader that would fit in a projector. I

happened to see this recorder sitting in a

hallway at the famed Babelsberg Studio in

Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany.

In 1974, Dolby and Kodak

commissioned a modern stereo optical

recorder and installed it at Elstree Studios.

To read a stereo variable area (SVA)

soundtrack in a projector, Ioan Allen used

the now-familiar split solar cell. Originally

invented by Kodak’s Ron Uhlig for use

with 16 mm films, this could not only read

the stereo track, but it could fit in the

projector’s sound head.

At the November 1974 Toronto

convention of the Society of Motion Picture

and Television Engineers, Dolby presented

a groundbreaking demonstration of the

stereo optical soundtrack with a special

remixed section of Stardust. One year

later, Dolby’s first cinema sound processor

was introduced, the CP-100, capable of

playing both 70 mm magnetic and 35 mm

stereo optical soundtracks. The first units

were installed for the London premiere of

Tommy in March 1975. Lisztomania was the

Ioan Allen realized that

conventional alignment

methods for the soundheads

in projectors were

not only outdated, but,

frankly, ridiculous.

Figure 1. Dolby CAT-64 Equalizer

first film released in three-channel (left,

center, right) Dolby-encoded optical stereo

later that year.

The CP-100 was something new in

audio. For the first time, noise reduction,

equalization stereo decoding, changeover

control, a six-channel ganged fader, and

non-sync and microphone inputs, as

well as eight channels of metering, were

all available in a single unit. Today we

remember the CP-100 as the prototype

of a new generation of comprehensive

sound-system design and management, the

cinema sound processor. In the decades that

followed the CP-100, Dolby’s analog cinema

processors evolved with the CP-50, the

remarkable CP-200, the CP-55, and the CP-

65. Dolby’s digital processors have included

the CP-500, CP-650, and CP-750. The Atmos

processors, CP-850 and CP-950, came later.

A-Chain Alignment

Ioan Allen realized that conventional

alignment methods for the sound-heads

in projectors were not only outdated, but,

frankly, ridiculous. To ensure an accurate

A-chain alignment and calibration,

Allen created a package of test films and

procedures. The test films included signals

for level calibration (see figure 3), slit lens

loss correction, and minimizing crosstalk

between the left and right channels.

Beginning with the SMPTE Buzz Track film

CinemaCon 2021

121


Theater DOLBY: THE EARLY YEARS

to align the film path, these Dolby test films

standardized the calibration and operation

of the optical sound readers throughout the

world for the first time.

In October 1976, after 11 years of

painstaking and expensive research

following the introduction of Dolby A-type

noise reduction, A Star is Born was released

with the first stereo optical soundtrack

with an encoded surround track. Left,

center, right, surround four-channel sound

was now possible with 35 mm release prints

without the need for the costly and timeconsuming

magnetic striping. Theaters

could now play four-channel stereo without

the need for high-priced and maintenanceheavy

magnetic sound readers.

For the first time Dolby’s calibration

tone was used to calibrate the optical

A-chain, consisting of the soundtrack

reader and the Dolby-encoded playback

processing. The Dolby calibration level for

For their historic

contributions, both Ray

Dolby and Ioan Allen were

awarded well-deserved

Oscar statuettes at the 1989

Academy Awards.

optical soundtracks was set at 50 percent

modulation. This brought the newly

optimized gain structure of the motion

picture sound process into the theater and

right into the cinema processor itself.

Ray Dolby and Ioan Allen also insisted

that each Dolby-encoded soundtrack

was to be prepared with a Dolby staff

member present to make sure that the

studio engineers got the most out of

this new technology. Throughout the

world, this team of dedicated consultants

worked, often with little sleep, to make

sure that the Dolby equipment was always

calibrated and working properly. They

were also on hand for reviewing answer

prints, checking release print quality,

and checking playback quality for test

screenings and premieres, as well as some

first-run theaters.

1977 saw the release of both Star Wars

and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

122 CinemaCon 2021


With the release of these two monster

hits coming so close together, the public

became aware of Dolby Stereo. Nothing

has been the same since.

For the release of Superman in 1978,

Allen teamed up with Dolby engineers

Max Bell and David Watts. Together they

developed a 70 mm soundtrack format

with stereo surrounds. By necessity, this

format had to be backward compatible

with 70 mm six-track prints of the past as

well as the majority of cinemas wired for

mono surrounds. So only the left and right

surround high frequencies were recorded

and placed on the left-center and rightcenter

tracks 2 and 4 that were now being

used for the new low-frequency effects

(LFE) or subwoofer track. These higher

frequencies were then combined with

the lower frequencies of the monophonic

surround channel on track 6. I would later

refine this format with Showscan, and

totally discrete left and right surround

tracks, into what is now known as 5.1.

Ray Dolby introduced spectral

recording, or Dolby SR, in 1986. It had

been in development for more years

than the A-type noise reduction system.

This was a dramatic increase in noise

reduction, up to 25 dB. But SR was much

more than noise reduction. Multiple

techniques like anti-saturation and

spectral skewing were included to make

Dolby SR a new low-distortion recording

process as well. Dolby SR made it possible

to fit the widest possible dynamic range

into the more restricted range available

with magnetic tape.

Applying Dolby SR to release prints

would have to wait a while. Once Dolby’s

Douglas Greenfield was able to figure a way

to squeeze all the parts into a module that

would fit in the cinema processors, Dolby

and film mixers needed to eliminate the

possibility of any compatibility issues and

optimize its use with optical soundtracks.

Ray gave Allen a free hand in working

with the worldwide organizations (ISO

and SMPTE) responsible for creating and

maintaining motion picture standards.

Though not always related to Dolby

technologies, many of the standards that

have resulted from this work had not

existed before and often helped to correct

some oversights of the past.

I will leave the story of the progression

from analog motion picture sound to

digital for another time. The purpose of

this article has been to remember and

pay tribute to the seminal work of Ray

Dolby and Ioan Allen, who, along with

a dedicated group of Dolby’s engineers,

as well as countless mixers and studio

engineers, helped to bring the sound

quality of movies to where it is today.

A few years ago, at the annual ICTA Los

Angeles seminar, we took the opportunity

to stand in extended applause to express to

Ioan Allen our sincere and heartfelt thanks.

It was a moving moment for all of us.

It’s again worth noting that within the

audio and recording industry, motion

picture sound is by far the most consistent

in its quality and beauty. For their historic

contributions, both Ray Dolby and Ioan

Allen were awarded well-deserved Oscar

statuettes at the 1989 Academy Awards.

Additional articles

Ioan Allen’s paper on the X curve is available at:

http://www.hps4000.com/pages/special/Dolby_

The_X-Curve.pdf.

Additional articles about Dolby can be found at:

http://www.hps4000.com/pages/dolby_.html.

© Copyright 2021, John F. Allen.

All Rights Reserved.

All images provided by, and used with

the permission of, Dolby Laboratories

ABOUT THE

AUTHOR

A personal note: 2020 marks

the 40th anniversary of my first

article published in Boxoffice

Pro in 1980. In the years that

have followed, it has been

my honor to work with five

outstanding editors: Alexander

Auerbach, Harley Lond, Ray

Greene, Kim Williamson,

and now Laura Silver. I also

enjoyed getting to know Bob

Dietmeier, the magazine’s

owner for most of those years.

I am grateful to Daniel Loria

for this opportunity to bring

this story to the readers of

Boxoffice Pro.

John F. Allen is the founder

and president of High

Performance Stereo (hps4000.

com) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition, he has served

as the sound director of the

Boston Ballet and has mixed

live concerts of the Boston

Symphony, the Boston Pops

orchestras, military bands,

and jazz ensembles, as well

as other orchestras. He is also

the inventor of the HPS-4000

motion picture sound system

and in 1984 was the first to

bring digital sound to the

cinema. A frequent presenter

at technical seminars, his indepth

articles on the subject

of sound have appeared in

industry publications for the

past 40 years. John Allen

can be reached at

johnfallen@hps4000.com.

CinemaCon 2021

123


Theater BOXOFFICE BAROMETER

2021

Honoring Excellence in Theatrical Exhibition

Boxoffice Pro is reviving its iconic Boxoffice Barometer readers’ poll, a popular

annual feature of our magazine for decades, in which exhibitors vote on the best

achievements in the industry. In this newly revamped edition of the Barometer,

representatives from over 50 exhibition circuits around the world voted online

to select the most important and influential contributions to the exhibition

industry in 2020. Boxoffice Pro will be featuring profiles of each honoree in

our print editions throughout 2021.

124 CinemaCon 2021


Industry Figure of the Year:

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

OF THEATRE OWNERS

Cinema Trend of the Year:

PRIVATE THEATER

RENTALS

Film of the Year:

TENET

(WARNER BROS.)

Theatrical Distributor of the Year:

WARNER BROS.

Exhibitor Relations Department

of the Year:

WARNER BROS.

Cinema Vendor of the Year:

VISTA GROUP

INTERNATIONAL

Food & Beverage Vendor of the Year:

VISTAR

Technology Vendor of the Year:

CINIONIC

CinemaCon 2021

125


Theater BOXOFFICE BAROMETER

TECHNOLOGY VENDOR

OF THE YEAR

CINIONIC

“We asked ourselves, what are

the resources we have that

we can bring to our customers

during this time? We knew we

had to come together and do

something to help.”

Interview with Wim Buyens,

Chief Executive Officer, Cinionic

The global pandemic was

impossible to predict. Once you

realized the severity of the situation,

how did Cinionic first react?

Very early on we realized that we had

to find a way to help, even though, at

that time, we had no idea how long this

would take. We felt we needed to help

the industry in order to make sure that

together we would get through this. We

started by thinking about what we could

do from a mindset of “How can we help?”

versus “How can we take advantage of

things?” That was our opportunity—or

responsibility, whatever you want to call

it—to find out what we could do.

We have a lot of salespeople who have

close connections with our customers,

and we were getting a lot of feedback

from them about just how much of an

impact [the pandemic] was having. We

are talking about the total closure of your

business, 100 percent of the time, directly

bringing your cash flow to zero, and that

triggers all these other problems that

stem from those problems.

I would say that customer intimacy

has been one of our improvements as

a company, a focus area for us to orient

ourselves around. That’s how we came

to this approach, making sure we kept

in contact with our customers. We asked

ourselves, what are the resources we have

that we can bring to our customers during

this time? We knew we had to come

together and do something to help.

We held training sessions via webinars.

Those webinars allowed us to remain

focused—in times like these you don’t

want to lose focus—and we created

several sessions on different topics.

We provided our customers with the

chance to enjoy an extended warranty—

something that can be seen as a burden,

cost-wise—at no additional cost, even

though we already had signed contracts

with them. That was a move that was very

126 CinemaCon 2021


much appreciated, based on the calls

we received from our customers. It was

a small way for us to share that burden

of the closures. We also got to work in

figuring out how to help our customers

get started up again. What we could

put in place to make that restart easier.

Because the technology being down was

not something people were used to, and

starting it back up again can lead to other

issues.

This crisis has lasted a lot longer than

any of us would have liked. The false

starts in several different markets

were part of the struggle: reopening

only to have to close again. At what

point did you notice that the recovery

had begun in earnest?

Recovery, for me, is based on being able

to reopen. I think the U.S. government

did a very good job in focusing heavily on

vaccination, speeding it up and making sure

that as many people as possible could get

vaccinated quickly. That caused people to

feel safer and helped open cinemas earlier.

With the U.S. market opening, especially

after Los Angeles and New York were back,

it allowed content to flow again. Because as

we all know, a lot of the important content

for the global market is produced locally

in Los Angeles. Having that content is an

important part of attracting audiences, and

it is hard to get people to come out when

the U.S market is closed.

It was very difficult last year, when

markets in Europe and countries like India

were opening up, but new content wasn’t

available. It was a bad recipe, reopening

movie theaters without new movies to

see. It was only this year, with the U.S.

reopening, that I started feeling more

secure about the recovery.

How much of a challenge was it

to support cinemas throughout

repeated closures and reopenings?

We learned to be prepared after several

repetitions of openings followed by

lockdowns. We created training materials

and an online customer portal so we could

educate our customers on questions like:

What do you need to do when the machines

are not used? How do you keep them in

good [working order]? And, when you start

up again, what are the first things you do to

make sure you have the least hassle?

“It was important for us to

stay close to our customers,

for them to know they could

find us in order to keep the

machines in good shape. ”

People were nervous last summer. I’m

talking about the first reopenings in July

and August, when they were reopening

for the first time before the latest round

of lockdowns in Europe. This year, people

have been much less nervous because

they’ve done it before and know what

they have to do. And a lot of people have

been able to properly maintain their

equipment; we offered them tips on

what you had to do to make sure that the

machine stays in good order while you’re

not showing any content. There are a lot

of aspects to it: the temperature, the dust,

how you power on and off. We created a

lot of materials, trainings, and webinars

for our customers. They could also call us

with questions—we set up a hotline that

was staffed at all times. It was important

for us to stay close to our customers, for

them to know they could find us in order

to keep the machines in good shape.

Looking to what we all hope to be

a brighter future for the industry,

what will be the key elements that

the cinema business must adopt

in order to compete against a

shorter exclusivity window—while

still welcoming audiences back to

theaters?

It’s all about the experience. In its

broadest sense, this is about a big

screen and great sound and comfortable

seating. Everything around that creates

a unique and uninterrupted experience.

That experience is a central piece of the

messaging we need to make sure that

audiences return. People will not come

back when they don’t feel they’re going

to have a good experience. If they feel the

experience isn’t worth the effort, they can

always watch something at home.

That experience could be many things.

It could be a bigger screen. It could be

moving seats, panoramic screens, or VIP

auditoriums. Premium offerings don’t

always mean selling 200 to 300 tickets to a

theater. A premium experience could very

well be renting a private auditorium for 10

to 15 people.

All of us at Cinionic, as a technology

company, have to try harder to make

sure that investment levels are more

acceptable, so exhibitors are comfortable

investing in new technology and different

business models. So, if you are looking to

add laser projection or new equipment,

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127


Theater BOXOFFICE BAROMETER

even when cash flows can’t support doing

the capex, you can explore it under a

different business model.

As a moviegoer, it is about great content

and great stories. We want audiences

asking themselves, am I experiencing this

story in a cinematic way?

Every challenge this industry has

faced in the last century has been

met through the advancement of

cinema technology. Whether that’s

sound, color, wide screen, or digital

projection, innovation has helped

movie theaters regain a competitive

advantage. As the leader of one

of the biggest cinema technology

companies today, what is your

perspective on Cinionic’s role in

recovering from the current crisis?

We are a technology company. Innovation

is in our DNA. Being in the entertainment

industry means we are also able to bring in

a certain creativity around that technology

and how it can best serve audiences,

the presentation, and exhibitors alike,

bringing operational costs down.

At the same time, we need to let

ourselves be inspired by and learn from

other industries. We love our industry, it’s

a great industry, but it’s relatively small.

So we want to bring in ideas from bigger

industries, see what we can learn from

them so we can keep developing what

comes next. That’s what is keeping us busy.

We also know that investment levels

are being scrutinized today. That’s why

we need to come up with new business

models that allow innovation with limited

upfront costs.

We don’t mind taking a leadership

position in advancing these ideas. We

believe very strongly in the long-term

sustainability of the industry. Our

shareholders are very much fostering this

innovation with a long-term outlook. I

think you have to give yourself three to

five years to get a read on this, not six to

12 months. If you do that, I think you get

a different perspective. And that’s where

we believe we can really help within the

industry, in our humble way.

But we will not stand on the sidelines;

we are ready to take an active role and

actively connect with our customers and

come up with new ideas. What’s important

to them? What gives them bigger returns?

How can we help advance this industry?

“I think the crisis created

a more purposeful way of

doing things and taught us

the importance of staying

connected.”

The healthier the industry is, the more

sustainability we have, the better it is for

everybody in it.

What have been the most important

lessons you’ve learned from

managing Cinionic through this crisis?

That’s a tough one. I will make a couple of

points, and you’d probably get different

answers if you ask me again six months

from now. First and foremost, this has

been a profound human tragedy. Even

as we enter the summer, we are still very

early in the global vaccination effort.

It was a time when we closely

considered our corporate values. Over

the last 12 months, we have done many

things I would not have seen as part of the

charter of Cinionic. Earlier this summer,

we gave away 1,000 tickets to the less

privileged in Belgium to go to the movies.

That’s not something we typically would

have done in a normal stage. I think the

crisis created a more purposeful way of

doing things and taught us the importance

of staying connected.

We never closed the company; we

always made sure that we had our people

available to our customers. We are

probably coming out of this stronger as

a company, just because of everything

we’ve been through. Patience and

time will be important in recovering. I

wouldn’t rush things today. Money is

limited, but not brain power—so we need

to keep on thinking, connecting, and

coming up with ideas that can help the

industry through this crisis. I think there

are going to be things born out of this

crisis. They might not be visible today,

but six to 12 months from now we could

see things emerging that probably would

not have been there if we had not gone

through all of this.

128 CinemaCon 2021


Celebrating 50 years

of unwavering dedication,

service, and excellence!

In the face of unprecedented

challenges for the cinema industry,

Proctor Companies is proud to stand

strong as your trusted, go-to partner.

Considering a new project?

Give us a call.

www.proctorco.com | | sales@proctorco.com

Q2 2021

800-221-3699

129


Theater ANNIVERSARY

A GOLDEN

ANNIVERSARY

Proctor Companies Turns 50

BY REBECCA PAHLE

Many millions of moviegoers will

say they “grew up” at the movies,

their beloved childhood memories

infused with the smell of popcorn and

the flickering of projector lights. That’s

particularly true within North America’s

exhibition industry, which boasts a

handful of multigenerational, familyowned

companies among its roster of

exhibitors and vendors. Yet perhaps the

most authentic claim to having literally

grown up at the movies belongs to Bruce

Proctor, president and CEO of Proctor

Companies, which in 2021 celebrates its

50th anniversary.

Proctor Companies enters its second

half century as a company that—through

its design and creation of concessions

facilities and equipment—has had a

substantial impact on the way the North

American movie theater concession stand

looks and feels. The company has its

origins, unsurprisingly, in the exhibition

world. Founder-to-be Bill Proctor had a

high school job running the projector in

a small theater in Griswold, Iowa. A stint

in the Air Force didn’t shake his love of

the industry, and when he got back, he

and his wife, Zola, bought a tiny theater of

their own—one that was equipped, as was

common at the time, with a soundproof

“crying room,” where mothers could bring

their fussy children and still keep track of

the on-screen action via a speaker and a

glass window. It was in this crying room,

which they closed off to the public, that

the Proctors put a crib for little Bruce—

who hasn’t left the industry since.

Bill Proctor’s career continued to

evolve, with Bruce following in his wake.

Bill became the owner and manager of

several theaters in Iowa throughout the

’50s and ’60s; among these were drivein

theaters, where Bruce—in second

or third grade, he estimates—would

help keep things clean by serving on

litter patrol. Within a few years came

a promotion to the concession stand,

where he had to stand on a box to

reach the popcorn kettle. In 1963, Bill

sold his theaters, and, having become

known for his expertise in concessions

and operations, was recruited by Fox

Theatres (later part of Mann Theatres)

to be their director of concessions.

The job was twofold. “In those

days,” Bruce says, “there weren’t large

companies that specialized in providing

the consumables to movie theaters,” so

part of his father’s job was overseeing the

warehouse that served as a centralized

distribution point for Fox concessions.

(This included popcorn, which at that

time not all theaters popped on-site;

Bruce’s high school job was cleaning and

restocking Fox’s popcorn facility, which

he estimates popped approximately

2,000 pounds of seed per day.) His

father also worked on the theater side,

CAREER

IN NUMBERS

50

Years in business

3,627

Projects to date

33

Countries served

3,961

Popcorn machines sold

Left. Bill Proctor,

founder of Proctor

Companies, circa 1945

Right. One of

Proctor Companies’

installations with

Harkins Theatres

130 CinemaCon 2021


CinemaCon 2021

131


Theater ANNIVERSARY

“getting concession stands designed,

built, equipped, and installed all over

North America.”

Fox wanted to promote Bill and move

him to L.A. or New York. Not liking

either option, he decided to strike out

on his own and create a business that

would merge knowledge gained from the

concessions side of the business with

what he’d learned as a theater owner and

manager. In 1971, Proctor Companies was

created with the goal of streamlining and

improving the concessions side of the

exhibition industry.

“It was a classic desk-in-the-basement

scenario” at first, says Bruce. During his

time at Fox and those early years with his

own company, Bill was a “road warrior,”

his son recalls, someone who “got his

United [Airlines] Million Miler plaque in

the ’70s, I suppose. Way back. He was on

the road constantly.” The miles traveled—

and the connections made along the way—

came to fruition when he got an invitation

to pitch a concept to AMC. That concept

would enable Proctor Companies to still

be in operation 50 years later.

The “Station Concept,” officially

developed by Proctor Companies in 1975,

seems obvious in retrospect. In 1966,

AMC had opened its first multiplex; by

the ’70s, the multiplex—and AMC, led by

Stanley Durwood—was booming. “In the

older days, [theaters] would trust maybe

one or two cashiers,” says Bruce. That

was no longer viable as theaters—and

concessions queues—grew, a problem

Proctor Companies tackled by introducing

more transaction points between patrons

and staff. The Station Concept, inspired by

the fast-food industry, introduced to AMC

a “work triangle,” the idea being that the

employee wouldn’t have to take “more than

two or three steps to get any item on the

menu and come back to that patron quickly.

The faster we can get the customers in

and out, the shorter the queues, the more

money to the bottom line.”

The ’70s saw growth for AMC and

Proctor both. “We kind of grew up together,

with AMC,” says Bruce. “Wherever they

went, we went.” Bill bought a building for

the company and asked Bruce to help get

things running. “I said, ‘OK, but just for a

couple of weeks.’” Needless to say, it was

not just a couple of weeks.

Bill would make a deal with a cinema,

and Bruce would set out on the road to

install the equipment. “It was the best

As patrons return to cinemas

post-Covid, “they’re going

to want to have a first-class

experience with sight and

sound in the auditorium. And

they want food and beverage

to be delivered on time and

at least average in quality, if

not better.”

Bill Proctor

Bruce Proctor

job in the world,” he recalls. “In those

days, at 20 years old, I had a credit card.

I traveled the nation. Met a lot of great

people in the industry. There was a lot of

great satisfaction in meeting the trucks

on the first day of the week, and by the

end of the week—depending on what

the job was—you could see what you’d

put together. We were handing over the

operating manuals and working with the

manager to make sure they knew how to

run all the various pieces of equipment.”

When a job was done, Bruce would use

the hands-on knowledge he’d acquired

to suggest tweaks to improve the overall

experience. Decades later, Bruce hasn’t

lost that knack for attention to detail. “If

we don’t improve from one job to the next,

we’re not doing our job.”

In 1988, Bill Proctor retired, and

Bruce took over as Proctor Companies’

president and CEO. Bruce, like his father,

took inspiration from the world of fast

food for another concept, developed

in 1997 for United Artists. Called “Pass

Through,” it was—like the Station Concept

that cemented Proctor’s relationship

with AMC in the ’70s—a response to the

continuing physical growth of movie

theaters, which again would make wait

times longer unless an increasing amount

of real estate was given up to concessions

operations. Pass Through streamlined

matters by introducing to United Artists

and subsequent cinema chains a back

line (where food is prepared), a midline

(where food is presented), and a front line,

where customers could complete their

transactions and make impulse purchases.

During Bruce’s tenure as president and

CEO of Proctor Companies, concessions

have continued to evolve at a steady pace.

AMC’s wide-scale introduction of recliner

seating in the early aughts, he argues, “fed

the whole momentum to have dine-in,”

because the spacious seats made people

want to settle in and eat and provided

natural placement for small tables. In

2012, Proctor Companies launched the

ProctorID—for “indoor dining”—division,

banking on the continued potential of a

concessions setup that allows patrons to

spend more time in the theater and more

money per transaction. Other concepts

over the years have included cafeteriastyle

self-serve concessions (developed for

Century Theatres in 2003) and Cinemark’s

Grab-n-Go fixtures, introduced in 2015.

“Pre-Covid there was a big push

132 CinemaCon 2021


towards the retailing of our industry,”

says Proctor, with chains including AMC

offering a wider variety of items—food and

otherwise—for purchase in the vicinity

of the concession stand. And the past

few years have seen a marked increase

in self-serve, with Coca-Cola Freestyle

machines a familiar example. “Pre-Covid,

at least half of our clients were using selfservice

soda,” says Proctor. “That would

once again speed up the service at the

transaction point. But now [with Covid],

we can’t do that. It’s going back in the

other direction, where there’s more service

required from the staffer and less touch.

People want contactless if possible.”

The pandemic’s immediate impact on

concessions has been clear: an increased

interest in mobile ordering, a decline

in self-serve, and (in the case of some

theaters) a temporarily pared-down menu

that avoids higher-labor, hands-on menu

items in favor of standard classics like

popcorn, soda, and candy. Proctor sees

some longer-term changes in the cards:

There will be “more mobile apps,” he

says, a decrease in shared food items, and

“more to draw the eye” in terms of lights

and graphics, bringing North American

operators that choose to go that route

more in line with the lavish design to be

found in select international markets.

As to more sweeping changes in what

and how patrons consume food at the

theater—namely, if there will be a shift

in the balance between dine-in and

more “traditional” concessions—Proctor

is rightfully hesitant to make a definitive

prediction. “There’s a strong contingent

of our industry that believes that most

of the profits in food and beverage come

from soda, popcorn, and now draft beer,”

which require less labor and have higher

profit margins than extended menu items.

That said, dine-in “get[s] people off the

couch.” As patrons return to cinemas

post-Covid, “they’re going to want to

have a first-class experience with sight

and sound in the auditorium. And they

want food and beverage to be delivered on

time and at least average in quality, if not

better.” Ultimately, he emphasizes, the

ideal concession stand design depends on

the chain—or even the individual theater.

“I’ve had people ask me, ‘What’s the perfect

concession stand?’ And I can tell you

it doesn’t exist. … I’ve built concession

stand designs that work really well for

one company. Transferred over to another

client, they didn’t operate quite the same.

They didn’t have nearly the same results.”

Regardless of which direction the

concession stand goes, Proctor Companies

is looking forward to another 50 years of

providing for the needs of their clients—

pulling from a well of experience that

goes all the way back to Bill Proctor’s first

movie theater job in Griswold, Iowa. “I

think that a lot of the success that we

enjoyed in this company came from

[my father’s] previous experience,” says

Proctor. “We were tuned into thinking like

our client. It was easy for him because he

used to be a movie theater owner. That’s

how he got the idea for this company, what

its platform would be—to provide a onestop-shop

service for other movie theater

owners. We try to keep that in mind and

think not only as the theater owner. We try

to think as the moviegoer, their patrons.

The more we can tune into how the theater

patron’s experience goes, that helps the

theater owner, and it helps us. We all reap

benefits from that.”

Harkins Theatres’

Vérité Lounge

CinemaCon 2021

133


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THE MAGAZINE


Coming Attractions 136 | The Many Saints of Newark 148 | Event Cinema 160

ON SCREEN

Watch trailer

“We really wanted to tell a story about bringing some of the

magic of the book into the real world, where you would feel like

you could be in the real world with a fantastical creature.”

Clifford the Big Red Dog, p. 154

CinemaCon 2021

135


On Screen COMING ATTRACTIONS

COMING

ATTRACTIONS

With Box Office Forecast by Shawn Robbins,

Chief Analyst, Boxoffice Pro

136 CinemaCon 2021


The remake of

Clive Barker’s 1990s

franchise has horror

fans intrigued, even

more so given the

involvement of cowriter

and producer

Jordan Peele.

CANDYMAN

Universal Pictures | August 27 | WIDE

Genre: Horror

Director: Nia DaCosta

Starring: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II,

Teyonah Parris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett,

Colman Domingo

For as long as residents can remember,

the housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-

Green neighborhood were terrorized

by a word-of-mouth ghost story about

a supernatural killer with a hook for a

hand, easily summoned by those daring

enough to repeat his name five times into

a mirror. In the present day, a decade after

the last of the Cabrini towers were torn

down, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya

Abdul-Mateen II, HBO’s “Watchmen,”

Us) and his girlfriend, gallery director

Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris, If

Beale Street Could Talk, The Photograph),

move into a luxury loft condo in Cabrini,

now gentrified beyond recognition and

inhabited by upwardly mobile millennials.

With Anthony’s painting career on

the brink of stalling, a chance encounter

with a Cabrini-Green old-timer

(Colman Domingo, HBO’s “Euphoria,”

Assassination Nation) exposes Anthony

to the tragically horrific nature of the

true story behind Candyman. Anxious

to maintain his status in the Chicago art

world, Anthony begins to explore these

macabre details in his studio as fresh grist

for paintings, unknowingly opening a door

to a complex past that unravels his own

sanity and unleashes a terrifyingly wave

of violence that puts him on a collision

course with destiny.

Box Office Forecast

Pros: The remake of Clive Barker’s 1990s

franchise has horror fans intrigued, even

more so given the involvement of cowriter

and producer Jordan Peele after his

major successes with Get Out and Us.

Appeal to young adults could be strong as

the pandemic recovery continues through

late summer. This film is slated to open.

one week before the Labor Day frame—a

corridor that has previously been good to

films like Don’t Breathe and Scary Stories

to Tell in the Dark.

Cons: The glut of horror films releasing

throughout summer could result in some

overcrowding or genre fatigue. This is the

fifth of six high-profile horror releases set

to open during the third quarter of 2021

Candyman is ultimately a cult-classic

property that may need both strong

marketing and reception to stand out with

today’s younger audiences, especially

when considering its proximity to Don’t

Breathe 2, appearing sooner on August 13.

CinemaCon 2021

137


On Screen COMING ATTRACTIONS

SHANG-CHI AND THE

LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS

Walt Disney Pictures | September 3 | WIDE

Genre: Action-Adventure

Director: Destin Daniel Cretton

Starring: Simu Liu, Tony Leung, Awkwafina,

Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian

Munteanu, Ronny Chieng, Michelle Yeoh

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend

of the Ten Rings stars Simu Liu as Shang-

Chi, who must confront the past he

thought he left behind when he is drawn

into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings

organization.

Box Office Forecast

Pros: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has

a knack for turning generally unknown

characters and source material into box

office hits, thanks to the enormous level

of fan and casual audience goodwill the

franchise has amassed over more than

a decade. As the first superhero film

featuring a predominately Asian American

cast, this film could represent a significant

pop culture moment given the marketing

and branding powerhouse of Disney and

Marvel behind it.

Currently, this is slated to be a

theatrically exclusive release—Marvel

Studios’ first in over two years. It also has

several weekends of minimal competition

in September, allowing for word of mouth

to build around the unique and first-ever

Labor Day tentpole release strategy.

Cons: As noted, this is the first time a

major Hollywood blockbuster will open

over Labor Day weekend—a typically quiet

frame in most years before the pandemic.

Pent-up demand for event moviegoing

and the Marvel brand should help set this

film apart, but this is new territory and its

potential performance should be assessed

within that context.

At the time of writing, Black Widow has

not yet released, but its performance could

be a way for Disney to gauge, between July

and September, whether to keep Shang-

Chi exclusive to theaters or convert it into

another hybrid theatrical-PVOD release.

138 CinemaCon 2021


STAND-ALONE SUPERHERO DEBUTS IN

THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE

BLACK PANTHER

Disney | February 16, 2018

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$357,115,007

$700.43M

$1.35B

global

$647.17M

CAPTAIN MARVEL

Disney | March 8, 2019

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$153,433,423

$426.83M

$1.13B

global

$701.63M

SPIDER-MAN:

HOMECOMING

Sony | July 7, 2017

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$117,027,503

$334.2M

$880M

global

$545.97M

DOCTOR STRANGE

Disney | November 4, 2016

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$85,058,311

$232.64M

$677M

global

$445.15M

IRON MAN

Paramount | May 2, 2008

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$98,618,668

.03M

$319

$586M

global

$266.76M

ANT-MAN

Disney | July 17, 2015

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$57,225,526

$180.2M

$519M

global

$339.11M

THOR

Disney | May 6, 2011

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$65,723,338

$181.03M

$449M

global

$268.3M

CAPTAIN AMERICA:

THE FIRST AVENGER

Disney | July 22, 2011

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$65,058,524

$176.65M

$371M

global

$193.92M

Watch trailer

THE INCREDIBLE

HULK

Universal | June 13, 2008

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$55,414,050

$134.8M

$265M

global

$129.9M

As the first

superhero film

featuring a

predominately

Asian American

cast, this film

could represent

a significant pop

culture moment.

Domestic

Overseas

Data Courtesy Boxoffice Pro

CinemaCon 2021

139


On Screen COMING ATTRACTIONS

CLIFFORD THE BIG

RED DOG

Paramount Pictures | September 17 | WIDE

DEAR EVAN HANSEN

Universal Pictures | September 24 | WIDE

Genre: Musical

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Starring: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever,

Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani, Julianne

Moore, Amy Adams

The breathtaking, generation-defining

Broadway phenomenon becomes a

soaring cinematic event as Tony, Grammy,

and Emmy Award winner Ben Platt

reprises his role as an anxious, isolated

high schooler aching for understanding

and belonging amid the chaos and cruelty

of the social media age.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker

Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being A

Wallflower, Wonder), the film is written

for the screen by the show’s Tony winner

Steven Levenson, with music and lyrics

by the show’s Oscar, Grammy, and Tonywinning

songwriting team of Benj Pasek

and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest

Showman).

Box Office Forecast

Pros: Fans of the Tony Award–winning

musical could turn out in healthy

numbers for this big-screen adaptation,

which promises to deliver on youth

appeal with stars Ben Platt (Pitch Perfect)

and Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart) in the

leading roles.

Early social media reactions to the

trailer’s May release were largely positive,

and social media will be a key trend to

follow given the target demographics.

Cons: Musicals and young adult–driven

dramas have a scattershot history at the

box office, with misfires occurring as often

(if not more so) as bona fide breakout hits.

Opening on the same day is Venom:

Let There Be Carnage, which could cut

into some of the youth crowd as the fall

marketplace begins to crowd up with a

steadier diet of high-profile releases.

Fans of the Tony Award–

winning musical could turn

out in healthy numbers for this

big-screen adaptation.

Genre: Family

Director: Walt Becker

Starring: Jack Whitehall, Darby Camp,

Tony Hale, Sienna Guillory, David Alan

Grier, Russell Wong, John Cleese

When middle-schooler Emily Elizabeth

(Darby Camp) meets a magical animal

rescuer (John Cleese) who gifts her a

little, red puppy, she didn’t anticipate

waking up to find a giant 10-foot hound

in her small New York City apartment.

When her single mom (Sienna Guillory)

goes away on a business trip, Emily

and her fun but impulsive uncle Casey

(Jack Whitehall) set out on a thrilling

adventure in the Big Apple.

Box Office Forecast

Pros: The existing I.P. will be familiar to

parents of young kids, which could play

well as outdoor activities and gatherings

slow down in the fall, and casual

moviegoers who haven’t already returned

to cinemas look for family-friendly

content outside the home.

Cons: Mid-September family films have

a hit-or-miss track record in recent prepandemic

years, and proximity to both

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania and

The Addams Family 2 on October 1 (one of

which is likely to move after this report is

written) is a minor concern for longevity.

140 CinemaCon 2021


THE MANY SAINTS OF

NEWARK

Warner Bros. | October 1 | SVOD Day-and-Date

Genre: Crime

Director: Alan Taylor

Starring: Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom

Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll,

Michael Gandolfini, Billy Magnussen,

Michela De Rossi, John Magaro,

Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga

Young Anthony Soprano (Michael

Gandolfini) is growing up in one of the

most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history,

becoming a man just as rival gangsters

begin to challenge the all-powerful DiMeo

crime family’s hold over the increasingly

race-torn city. Caught up in the changing

times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie

Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), who

struggles to manage both his professional

and personal responsibilities—and whose

influence over his impressionable nephew

will help make the teenager into the

all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to

know: Tony Soprano.

The Many Saints of Newark was shot

on location in New Jersey and New York,

and several beloved characters from the

original series that inspired the film are

featured in the movie.

Box Office Forecast

Pros: Fans are looking forward to

revisiting the world of HBO’s iconic

television series “The Sopranos.” This

prequel, centered on a young Tony

Soprano—played by Michael Gandolfini,

son of the late James (who starred in

the series)—also has a strong ensemble

cast that includes Jon Bernthal and

Vera Farmiga.

Prestige television has successfully

made the jump to the big screen as

recently as the Downton Abbey feature

in 2019, which could serve as a fair

comparison point here given the target

adult demographics.

Cons: A hybrid release in theaters and

free to subscribers of HBO Max will likely

cannibalize some box office potential.

The aforementioned adult audience will

be key for success in the fall months, as

those over the 35-to-40 age range have

been more cautious about a return to

movie theaters during the first half of

summer than younger moviegoers.

A hybrid release in theaters

and free to subscribers of HBO

Max will likely cannibalize

some box office potential.

CinemaCon 2021

141


On Screen COMING ATTRACTIONS

VENOM: LET THERE BE

CARNAGE

Universal Pictures | September 24 | WIDE

Genre: Action-Thriller

Director: Andy Serkis

Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams,

Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Stephen

Graham, Woody Harrelson

Tom Hardy returns to the big screen as the

lethal protector Venom, one of Marvel’s

greatest and most complex characters.

Directed by Andy Serkis, the film also

stars Michelle Williams, Naomie Harris,

and Woody Harrelson in the role of the

villain, Cletus Kasady/Carnage.

Box Office Forecast

Pros: The first film was a breakout winner

thanks to an $80.3 million domestic

opening back in 2018, a record for an

October release at the time. Joker went

on to top that with $96.2 million one year

later, further cementing the potential

for major comic book properties opening

during the fall.

Tom Hardy’s return in the title

antihero role, plus the promise of Woody

Harrelson as one of the Marvel Comic

Universe’s most popular supervillains

(Carnage) and the addition of new

director Andy Serkis, should go a long

way toward bringing fans back.

Early social media reactions to the

trailer’s May release were largely positive,

and social media will be a key trend to

follow given the target demographics.

Cons: Despite its all-around success, the

first film was somewhat front-loaded in

North America—finishing with $213.5

million. That might signal that diminished

returns are possible for this sequel unless

pre-release hype and reviews win back the

remaining casual viewers.

Opening three weeks after Disney and

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi, and two weeks

before No Time to Die, will present a much

more competitive corridor for maledriven

action films than the first Venom

encountered three years ago.

142 CinemaCon 2021


SONY’S SPIDER-MAN

EMPIRE

SPIDER-MAN:

FAR FROM HOME

July 2, 2019

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$92,579,212

$390.53M

$1.13B

global

$741.4M

SPIDER-MAN 3

May 4, 2007

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$151,116,516

$336.5M

$895M

global

$558.45M

SPIDER-MAN:

HOMECOMING

July 7, 2017

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$117,027,503

$334.2M

$880M

global

$545.97M

VENOM

October 5, 2018

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$80,255,756

$213.5M

$856M

global

$642.57M

SPIDER-MAN

May 3, 2002

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$114,844,116

$407.02M

$825M

global

$418M

SPIDER-MAN 2

July 30, 2004

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$88,156,227

$390.53M

$789M

global

$415.39M

THE AMAZING

SPIDER-MAN

July 3, 2012

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$62,004,688

$262.03M

$758M

global

$495.9M

THE AMAZING

SPIDER-MAN 2

May 2, 2014

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$91,608,337

$202.85M

$709M

global

$506.13M

Watch trailer

SPIDER-MAN: INTO

THE SPIDER-VERSE

December 4, 2018

Domestic Opening Weekend:

$35,363,376

$190.24M

$376M

global

$185.3M

Despite its allaround

success,

the first film was

somewhat frontloaded

in North

America—finishing

with $213.5.

Domestic

Overseas

Data Courtesy Boxoffice Pro

CinemaCon 2021

143


On Screen COMING ATTRACTIONS

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA:

TRANSFORMANIA

Sony Pictures | October 1 | WIDE

Genre: Animation

Directors: Jennifer Kluska, Derek Drymon

Starring: Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez,

Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Steve

Buscemi, David Spade, Brian Hull, Asher

Blinkoff, Brad Abrell, Fran Drescher, Jim

Gaffigan, Molly Shannon

Drac and the pack are back like you’ve

never seen them before, in Hotel

Transylvania: Transformania. Reunite

with your favorite monsters for an allnew

adventure that presents Drac with

his most terrifying task yet. When Van

Helsing’s mysterious invention, the

Monsterfication Ray, goes haywire, Drac

and his monster pals are all transformed

into humans, and Johnny becomes a

monster! In their new mismatched bodies,

Drac, stripped of his powers, and an

exuberant Johnny, loving life as a monster,

must team up and race across the globe to

find a cure before it’s too late, and before

they drive each other crazy. With help

from Mavis and the hilariously human

Drac Pack, the heat is on to find a way

to switch themselves back before their

transformations become permanent.

Box Office Forecast

Box Office Forecast

Pros: The animated franchise has thus

far been remarkably consistent, earning

between $42 million and $49 million on

each of its opening weekends across three

films. In all, the series has amassed over

$485 million domestically since the first

chapter’s 2012 release.

Proximity to Halloween season

should again be an advantage as it was

for the franchise’s first two movies, while

relatively competition-free* windows

until late October and November give it a

healthy runway.

Cons: The asterisk (*) above denotes one

complication: the sequel’s recent delay

out of summer to the October 1 date puts

it in direct competition with United

Artists Releasing’s The Addams Family 2

on the same date. One of these films will

presumably move to avoid cannibalizing

the target audience. At the moment, a

release date change by the Addams sequel

seems more likely.

While most of the voice cast (including

Selena Gomez and others) are returning,

Adam Sandler is not involved as the lead

voice of Dracula for the first time in the

series’ history. That could be a minor

factor when it comes to parental appeal

and marketing power.

NO TIME TO DIE

United Artists | October 8 | WIDE

Genre: Action

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes,

Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Léa Seydoux,

Ben Whishaw, Jeffrey Wright, Ana de Armas,

Dali Benssalah, David Dencik, Lashana

Lynch, Billy Magnussen, Rami Malek

James Bond has left active service and

is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica.

His peace is short-lived when his old

friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up

asking for help. The mission to rescue a

kidnapped scientist turns out to be far

more treacherous than expected, leading

Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain

armed with dangerous new technology.

144 CinemaCon 2021


DANIEL CRAIG

AS JAMES BOND

Domestic

Overseas

SKYFALL

November 9, 2012

Domestic Opening

Weekend:

$88,364,714

$304.36M

$1.1B

global

$804.21M

SPECTRE

November 6, 2015

Domestic Opening

Weekend:

$70,403,148

$200.1M

$881M

global

$680.61M

CASINO

ROYALE

November 17, 2006

Domestic Opening

Weekend:

$40,833,156

$167

.45M

$616.5M

global

$449.06M

Box Office Forecast

Pros: Daniel Craig’s era as 007 has been

widely acclaimed and sent the franchise

to consistent box office heights, amassing

more than $840 million domestically from

just four entries since 2006. Interest is

very high for this next installment as the

presumed finale for his time as Bond.

Marketing and pre-release tracking

were already strong before the film’s

delay due to the pandemic in early

2020, and news surrounding its many

release date shifts have drawn significant

industry and media attention each

time. This is likely to be one of the key

blockbusters that bring back straggling

audiences who haven’t yet made their

return to cinemas by the fall.

Cons: The previous film, Spectre, was

seen as something of an underwhelming

chapter by fans of the multigenerational

franchise. That could dampen

anticipation for this installment, even

though pent-up demand for its release

may ultimately counter any negative

impact from a six-year-old film.

As noted for other movies, moviegoer

sentiment (particularly among the target

adult audience) during the pandemic

recovery period will be crucial for this

film, as will be the global market’s success

in fighting off Covid-19 variants as cooler

weather approaches. MGM and Universal

(the global distributor of this movie) need

a strong international presence to feel

confident about its release.

This is likely to be one of

the key blockbusters that

bring back straggling

audiences who haven’t

yet made their return to

cinemas by the fall.

QUANTUM

OF SOLACE

November 14, 2008

Domestic Opening

Weekend:

$67,528,882

$168.37M

$589.6M

global

$421.21M

CinemaCon 2021

145


On Screen COMING ATTRACTIONS

Watch trailer

HALLOWEEN KILLS

Universal Pictures| October 15 | WIDE

Genre: Horror

Director: David Gordon Green

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer,

Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann,

Anthony Michael Hall

The glut of horror films

opening in the second

half of the year may be a

factor worth considering.

Minutes after Laurie Strode (Jamie

Lee Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy

Greer), and granddaughter Allyson (Andi

Matichak) left masked monster Michael

Myers caged and burning in Laurie’s

basement, Laurie is rushed to the hospital

with life-threatening injuries, believing

she finally killed her lifelong tormentor.

But when Michael manages to free himself

from Laurie’s trap, his ritual bloodbath

resumes. As Laurie fights her pain and

prepares to defend herself against him,

she inspires all of Haddonfield to rise

up against their unstoppable monster.

The Strode women join a group of other

survivors of Michael’s first rampage who

decide to take matters into their own

hands, forming a vigilante mob that sets

out to hunt Michael down, once and for all.

Box Office Forecast

Pros: The previous continuation of the

series, which ignored all prior sequels

and served as a direct follow-up to John

Carpenter’s original 1978 film, delivered

high marks for the franchise at the box

office with a $76.2 million debut and $159

million domestic finish.

The returning cast, led by Jamie Lee

Curtis, and creative team, including

director/writer David Gordon Green

and writer Danny McBride, offer

encouragement that fans can expect

another faithful, story-driven sequel after

the successful 2018 installment. Proximity

to the actual Halloween holiday will again

be advantageous.

Cons: The glut of horror films opening in

the second half of the year may be a factor

worth considering, as is the fact that this

sequel may not have the same pent-up

curiosity for a new creative vision that

fueled the 2018 film (which, like many

horror sequels, was also very front-loaded).

Opening just one week after No Time

to Die could limit this sequel’s premiumscreen

footprint in what looks to be a very

competitive theatrical market this fall.

146 CinemaCon 2021


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147


On Screen FILMMAKER INTERVIEW

Tony Soprano is one of the most

influential characters in television

history, clearing the way for such

memorable antiheroes as Don Draper in

“Mad Men,” Walter White in “Breaking Bad,”

and Vic Mackey in “The Shield.” The saga

of the New Jersey crime boss with nagging

business and personal problems earned 21

Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards

during its six-season run on HBO.

Now, 14 years later, series creator David

Chase returns to the mob scene with The

Many Saints of Newark, a prequel that

explores the environment that shaped the

young Tony Soprano, played by relative

newcomer Michael Gandolfini, the son

of the late, much-loved “Sopranos” star

James Gandolfini. The script, written

by Chase and Lawrence Konner, is set

in Newark in the turbulent late ’60s and

early ’70s and follows Tony’s relationship

with his beloved uncle, gangster Dickie

Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). The

impressive cast also features Tony

winner Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal,

Ray Liotta, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen,

and Vera Farmiga as Tony’s emotionally

withholding mother, Livia.

Also returning to the “Sopranos” family

is the prequel’s director, Alan Taylor, who

helmed nine episodes and won an Emmy

for directing the season-six episode

“Kennedy and Heidi.” Taylor’s feature

credits include Thor: The Dark World and

Terminator Genisys, and his many TV gigs

include “Game of Thrones,” “Homicide:

Life on the Street,” “Oz,” “Sex and the City,”

“Deadwood,” “Lost,” and “Mad Men,” the

latter earning him a Directors Guild Award.

“Like the series, it’s not just a gangster

movie,” Taylor says of The Many Saints.

“It’s got that ‘Sopranos’ combination

of tones of humor and absurdity and

strangeness, and the occasional dreamy

moments that David Chase put in the

series.” The Warner Bros. release arrives in

theaters and on HBO Max on October 1.

“It’s got that ‘Sopranos’

combination of tones of humor

and absurdity and strangeness,

and the occasional dreamy

moments that David Chase put

in the series.”

Billy Magnussen, Jon

Bernthal, Corey Stoll,

John Magaro, Ray

Liotta, and Alessandro

Nivola star in The Many

Saints of Newark.

148 CinemaCon 2021


MAKING

OF A

MADE

MAN

Alan Taylor Revisits the World of

Tony Soprano with The Many

Saints of Newark

BY KEVIN LALLY

CinemaCon 2021

149


On Screen FILMMAKER INTERVIEW

How long has this project been in the

works, and at what point did you get

involved?

It’s been in the works a long time, mostly

because of Covid. I didn’t hear about it

until it was ready to go. David sent me

the script in 2019, and that was the first

I’d heard there was even a project in the

works. I read it, we met for lunch, and

he told me he wanted me to do it. Then

he and Larry and I developed the script

for several months, and we had a normal

prep period and started shooting. And

then we were shut down by Covid and

had to scramble. Our production manager

was smart enough to pull the shoot back

together as quickly as we could when Covid

backed off a little bit. As he predicted, we

had an opening where we could shoot, and

then things started to close down again. We

managed to finish shooting the movie in

that window. We completed the movie early

this year, and again because of Covid the

release date was shifted by Warner Bros. So,

it’s been long in gestation. In some ways,

that was kind of a good thing … because

it gave us a chance to reflect on the movie

we were making. David actually added a

couple of scenes that I think ultimately

helped shape the movie.

I’m amazed you were able to get this

done during the pandemic. That must

have been so challenging.

An industry cropped up to handle

it. A good friend of mine wound up

overseeing the Covid protocols, and that’s

become an industry unto itself. A lot of

productions managed to do it. But it’s

crazy. Everybody has to be in a separate

bubble, and you have to be tested three

times a week. And the risk of having to

shut the whole production down because

one person tests positive is looming the

whole time. We had to take scenes that

we intended to shoot as interiors and

move them to exteriors. But some of the

changes we were forced to do wound up

making it better.

It’s been 14 years since the series

ended. How did it feel coming back

into that world?

Even when I read the script that David gave

me, it felt really good, because there’s such

a specific voice to that show and such a

specific take on the big questions. Bringing

Michael into it was a big part of the return

to the show because of his connection to

his dad. But there wasn’t that much overlap

with the show in the actual shooting,

except when we built Satriale’s, the pork

store. When people walked onto that set,

you could see it affecting them. For me and

the crew and some of the friends coming

to visit, it was a powerful moment, because

you felt like when you walked onto the

stage 14 years ago.

How much of a gamble was it to

give Michael Gandolfini this big

responsibility?

I think in the end it was not a gamble

at all, but yeah, up front it seems like it

could have been one. We were looking

at other young actors to play that part

while we were still ruminating on the

possibility of it being Michael. There

Right. A family

gathering with Vera

Farmiga, Jon Bernthal,

Michael Gandolfini,

Gabriella Piazza, and

Alessandro Nivola

Left. Director Alan

Taylor and creator/

writer/producer David

Chase on the set

“Even when I read the script

that David gave me, it felt

really good, because there’s

such a specific voice to that

show and such a specific

take on the big questions.”

150 CinemaCon 2021


were a lot of questions. One was whether

Michael wanted to, whether he would be

emotionally up to taking on something that

would be so personal for him. Then once

we decided we wanted to try it, he had to

come in and audition for me and David and

show that he could handle it. Because it

wouldn’t be good for anybody if he wasn’t

quite up to it. But the audition was really,

really good. We also just felt the rightness

of it in the room, being around him. Right

before we even started shooting, we had

a final dinner with the cast, and Michael

stood up at one point and said he wanted

to thank everybody for giving him this

chance to say hello to his dad again, and to

say goodbye again. And there was not a dry

eye in the house. At that point we hadn’t

even started shooting, but it became so

clear that we were doing the right thing. So

when we went into the movie, it didn’t feel

like a gamble anymore—none of us wanted

to make a movie that didn’t have him in

it by that point. I don’t know about other

directors, but I second-guess everything

and live in the constant agony of anxiety

and regret. But occasionally there are

decisions that just feel right. And getting

Michael into the movie was one of those.

Did you have to work with him much

to evoke Tony Soprano, or did that

come naturally to him?

I think some of it came naturally, for

obvious reasons, but he did work on it.

He immersed himself in the show, which

apparently he had never watched before.

So you can imagine how strange and

emotional that would have been to hole up

in his apartment and watch season after

season of his dad. But he did it rigorously,

to get the gestures and the mannerisms

and the voice down. There was a real range

of tones for the character, because this is

Tony before he darkened and hardened

up. So we’re seeing a particular flavor of

the character in the movie, partly because

Michael has a different disposition than

Tony. Allowing him to bring that side of

his personality into the performance was

really important.

I’m sure you’re proud to be part of

what’s considered one of the greatest

TV series of all time. How are you

dealing with people’s expectations

about the movie?

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151


On Screen FILMMAKER INTERVIEW

Mostly lying in bed, staring at the ceiling,

with self-doubt and anxiety—that’s normal.

In some ways it was the hardest job I ever

did, partly for that reason. I felt such

respect and pride for the original, and the

idea of stirring it up again was daunting.

Wanting to make sure that we were true to

the show, but also make it cinematic. And

not wanting to disappoint the fans, but not

wanting to disappoint David Chase himself,

which was a horrific prospect. I think I took

it on partly because the challenge was so

enticing: How do you take this and put this

on a big screen? One of the great insights

of “The Sopranos” the show was to take the

classic gangster movie and put it on the

small screen and make it contemporary.

When you take that and make it period

and put it on the big screen, you’re taking

away some of the things that defined the

show. So you think about what the essence

of “The Sopranos” is and how you translate

that to a bigger screen in a way that’s in a

continuum with the show. How the camera

moves or doesn’t move, what lenses we use,

the tone of the humor—those are things I

certainly wrestled with. How to bring the

aesthetic of the show to the big screen.

Aside from “The Sopranos,” you have

an amazing list of TV credits. Does it

still feel very special to you to make a

feature for movie theaters?

Yes, for all kinds of reasons. I think

all directors feel like the distinction

between what’s considered TV and what’s

considered a movie is getting bigger and

bigger, and the border between them is

getting softer and softer. From the golden

age of TV onwards and with things as

big-budget as “Game of Thrones,” TV was

certainly getting more and more cinematic.

And at the same time, a lot of the movies

people go to see are basically episodic—

you know, Spider-Man 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, sort

of episodes in the grand continuum. So

it’s harder and harder to say what the

difference is between movies and TV, but I

do still carry some of that snobbery. I went

to NYU, and we all want to be filmmakers,

not TV makers, so I have some residual

visual snobbery from that. But the scale of

the image that you’re seeing in the theater,

and also sharing it as an audience, is a big

difference. I think there’s still something

different and exciting about creating

something that’s more meant to be a social

experience than seen on your laptop. Many

Saints in a way was really personal for

me, because it was a chance to fuse my

TV experience and my movie experience,

which I’ve never been able to do before.

Vera Farmiga really captures the tone

of Nancy Marchand’s Livia Soprano.

Casting the younger versions of the

TV series’ characters must have been

one of the fun parts of the process.

It was fun partly because there’s so much

respect for the “Sopranos” property and so

much respect for David that we had access

to wonderful actors who wanted to do

it. So getting Vera as Livia, getting Corey

Stoll to be Junior, getting Jon Bernthal

to be Johnny Boy—we could really reach

for who we wanted, and people trust the

world enough that they were ready to

come on board. They’re also so good at

what they do that they were all striking the

right balance between their performance

of the character and the performance of

the previous actor.

Alessandro Nivola is such a solid

actor. I always thought he should be

a bigger star than he is.

I was very aware of him, and his work

is always great. But he’s never had that

breakout role. David and I both fell in

love with him for this. And then he did

an audition on his own on tape and just

nailed it. It was clear that he was the right

guy. I do hope this becomes a breakout

for him, because it really is his story and

his character goes through absolutely

everything. … Dickie is a “Sopranos”

leading man in many ways, because he’s

torn in the same way that Tony is. He

knows he’s got a monster in him and he’s

trying to wrestle with that.

Was it a deliberate goal of David

Chase to explore the racial tensions

in Newark at the time, considering

what we’ve been through in the past

two years?

It’s interesting how that’s played out. I

don’t think David would say he was

interested in exploring the racial tensions.

I think he was interested in trying to

capture that time that he experienced and

all its volatility. The funny thing is, we

wrote this and started shooting before

the explosion of George Floyd, before

the explosion of the Black Lives Matter

movement. So when we paused midway

because of Covid and then got back into

finishing it, it was a little daunting to

think: Is the movie we made befo