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Canuck exhib pacts with WWF & satcaster for PPV

Famous Players, Expressvu to air grappling events

TORONTO — Famous Players has signed a three-way agreement in principle with the World Wrestling Federation and DTH provider Bell Expressvu to show live monthly WWF pay-per-view events via satellite in 17 Famous Players theaters Canadawide.

When finalized, the multi-year agreement, the details for which are still being negotiated, will be a profit-sharing deal for the three whose value is undisclosed, said Famous Players VP marketing Stuart Pollock.

While he acknowledged that such events have from time to time been available on a close-circuit basis to some bars or stadiums in the past, this is a first in movie theaters.

“We haven’t heard of this being done anywhere else — not in theaters,” he said. “We think this gives you the best environment other than being there live.”

Tested first

The deal follows a one-off test last year in which a Wrestlemania event was presented live via satellite at a Toronto Famous Players theater.

“When we did the test, one of the things we were pleasantly surprised at was that it was a lot of fathers and their sons who attended,” Pollock said, noting also that the crowd is 20% female. “It’s an action-oriented crowd.”

Pollock believes there’s a solid market of wrestling fans happy to each pay C$14.95 ($10.32), plus tax, to sit in one of Famous Players’ state-of-the-art theaters one Sunday night a month to watch the show.

“We’ve been pre-selling this event, and we already have locations that are sold out,” he said. The first Wrestlemania takes place this weekend.

Famous Players is getting the jump on digital technology, which it predicts will in time take over from the old 35 mm film projection mode, he said.

Super Bowl on tap

The company has also signed an agreement with the NFL to show the Super Bowl live via satellite. Further, the company is negotiating with some record labels to show either live or filmed concerts for theaters via satellite.

“Anything you can get on satellite you can show in theater,” he said. (He noted also that “Bicentennial Man” was shown on digital in a theater in Toronto and one in Vancouver.)

Pollock stressed that Viacom-owned Famous Players is not getting out of the movie business, however.

The events will be shown on a minority of the exhibitor’s 800 screens during lighter moviegoing timeslots. “We make no bones about the fact that our primary business is in showing films.”

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