ShoWester: Ellis Jacob, Cineplex

Exhibition exec Ellis Jacob is on a roll — and has rolled with the sector’s punches over the years.

Two and a half years after orchestrating the acquisition of the Famous Players theater chain from Viacom, the CEO and president of Cineplex Entertainment heads up the largest exhibition company in Canada, controlling two-thirds of the nation’s total box office.

Despite the chain’s attendance being up more than 6% in 2007, Jacob acknowledges, “We need to get more people to come to our theaters — now not so much from the other chains, but we need to get them off their Xboxes at home.”

Which is not to say he’s particularly worried. Having logged 20 years in the entertainment business since joining Cineplex as vice president of finance in 1987, Jacob has been through the shifts in the business and has always come out intact.

“Every time there’s a structural change, people get concerned,” he observes, adding that in order to compete, theaters in Canada will have to expand into “entertainment destinations.” A new Cineplex theater near Toronto, for example, boasts billiards, bowling and child care.

“The introduction of digital and 3-D will see more people coming back, and things like the Hannah Montana concert (film) are going to happen on a regular basis,” adds Jacob. “People love coming to the movies, but we’ve got to give them reasons to stay here.”

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