Manchester kicks up deal with R’show

Duo to develop Red Cinema, targeting team's fans

SYDNEY — Manchester United, the U.K. soccer club that is one of the world’s best-known sporting brands, has formed an innovative worldwide alliance with Australia’s Village Roadshow.

Tagged Red Cinema because of the players’ red uniforms, the co-venture will develop and market cinemas targeting the team’s vast fan base at home and internationally.

The prototype is Village’s cinema in Salford Quays, in the northern city of Manchester and in the shadows of the team’s Old Trafford headquarters. It is being rebranded and refurbished and the plan is to export the concept to Singapore in a year or so and eventually to China, where Manchester United says it has the largest following outside of the U.K.

“I hope we will have five or six Red Cinemas (globally) within three or four years,” VRL worldwide group marketing director Tim Carroll told Daily Variety. “We have to prove the concept works in Manchester, then we will look at moving into Asia.”

Manchester United, the champions of England’s Premier League, boasts 50 million fans worldwide, according to a research study by the Mori group in 21 countries last year.

The Manchester location is due to launch in August/September, backed by an investment of $1.75 million ($2.8 million) from Village Cinemas Intl., mall operator the Emerson Group and promo partners . That’s being spent on a refit including installing digital projectors in three of the seven cinemas and a six-month marketing campaign.

It’ll be called “The Cinema of Dreams,” a play-on-words as the Old Trafford ground is known as “The Theater of Dreams.”

As well as playing Hollywood films, the cinema will be used for live telecasts of some Manchester United games, subject to rights permission, replays of classic matches, live music events and DVD launches.

Carroll says: “This venture brings together leading players in entertainment, sport and leisure to create an all new entertainment and sport experience for fans of Manchester United and movie lovers locally, as well as creating a unique brand alliance model.

“More than that, Red Cinema is an innovative concept that will both differentiate our proposition locally, showcase new content [sport and music] in cinema and deliver something special to customers.”

It’s no secret that Village’s Manchester venue has not traded as well as the exhib had hoped since it bowed about 18 months ago in a highly competitive cinema market.

Village and Man United officials are confident the cinema will grow rapidly as their marketing efforts tap into the club’s 160,000 paid-up members (60% of whom live in the north of England), and, more broadly, the 1.6 million people on its database.

Ben Hatton, the club’s director of business development, aims to boost membership to 300,000 within nine months and to bump up the database to a 7 million names in the next year.

Carroll and Hatton say their target is to sell 1 million tickets at Red Cinema in the first 12 months.

Fans and moviegoers will be offered value-added retail deals on movie tickets, concessions and movie merchandise, invites to previews and to private screenings in the plush 40-seat Gold Class cinema. They will also get opportunities to win Manchester United match tickets, merchandise and experiences such as VIP visits to Old Trafford on match day. “Given that we have millions of fans, we are always looking at ways to extend the Manchester United experience to them,” said Manchester United managing director, David Gill.

“Red Cinema will do exactly that and we’re particularly pleased for our hometown fans that its first appearance will be in the shadows of Old Trafford.”

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