International Exhibitor of the Year

Warner Mycal Corp.’s Ebina theater near Tokyo has a box office, concession stand and several other traditional amenities. It also has a feature that would seem more at home at Las Vegas’ Paris and Bally’s hotels, where ShoWest is taking place this week: a concierge.

Unusual to be sure, the cinema support desk fits with the company’s philosophy of finding ways to grow its business, says managing director Yoji Ikushima, who will receive the four-day confab’s Intl. Exhibitor of the Year award at 1 p.m. today at the Intl. Day Luncheon.

“It is our mission to increase the moviegoer population in this country,” Ikushima says. “In order to realize the mission, we are willing to offer something new and convenient to our customers.”

Those offerings include ticket booking via the Internet and cell phones, reduced admission prices for screenings after 9 p.m. and discounts for women on Wednesdays. The cinema support desk is staffed to answer a range of questions from “What’s this movie about?” to the all-important “Where’s the bathroom?”

Other extras to complete the experience include a cinema store at each Warner Mycal theater selling such goodies as pins and stationery, and publishing a brochure with details about movies.

“Different from usual movie information fliers, this free paper has enjoyed a good reputation as media to link customers and cinemas,” says Ikushima, who has a diverse background during a 33-year career at Mycal that includes restaurants, apparel and home furnishing.

The efforts of the company — a joint venture between the Japanese company Mycal and Warner Bros. — have paid off. Some 28 million people visited a Warner Mycal property in 2001, nearly one out of every four people in Japan. Of course, that number could not have been achieved without the company’s explosive growth.

Warner Mycal operated 13 locations with 93 screens when Ikushima was tapped in 1998 for his current post; now the chain boasts 43 theaters, 329 screens and a 17% B.O. share — more than twice that of No. 2 Toho.

Given its market dominance, Warner Mycal is not about to turn on the cruise control, Ikushima insists.

“We will continuously focus on offering more convenient services to meet the needs of the times.”

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