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‘Thou shalt not Ontario’

LAS VEGAS — There is a new exhibition industry commandment, brought down from the hill of the exhibitors convention Tuesday by Bill Kartozian, National Assn. of Theatre Owners prexy:

“The shalt not Ontario one another.”

He was referring to the combined 52 screens of AMC and Edwards Cinemas’ megas, which were built next to each other in San Bernadino County.

He trumpeted the virtues of new, state-of-the-art megas, but preached caution.

“Prudence, patience and good judgment are more important than ever,” Kartozian said, following upbeat forecasts cued to record attendance and what appear to be strong current and upcoming releases.

He noted that building, equipping and operating new theaters has come at a cost: What exhibition and distribution have in common is a shrinking return on investment.

Another major theme in Kartozian’s address was linked to the announcement that the average ticket price in the domestic marketplace rose a modest 1.5% to $4.41. Though the previous year had a comparatively high 4% boost, the average rise since 1990 has been 1.5%, and he maintained that there was no reason to be defensive about the additional costs to the consumer.

“We have to emphasize the quality of the experience,” Kartozian said. “It is not too expensive; it’s not expensive enough. We are building new and better theaters” and providing the most satisfying entertainment for the buck. By way of comparison, he said, movies are still much cheaper than everything from opera to baseball games.

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