Theaters brace for loss of core male audience

The monthlong World Cup soccer tournament kicks off today in South Africa — and theaters in Europe can say goodbye to much of their core male audiences, who will be glued to TVs and portable devices.

Exhibs hope to at least stay in the game by counter-skedding femme-skewed pics, family fare and arthouse pics to lure in, well, anyone not watching soccer.

Andreas Cruesemann, marketing director of Cineplex Deutschland, said that European cinemas had learned not to compete with events like the World Cup.

“You can’t play against the World Cup,” he said. “Particularly if your national team is playing — that’s impossible. So, we’re offering alternative content such as open-air cinemas and documentary films in hopes that we attract intellectual people, women and children.”

U.K. auds in particular will be showered with femme-driven pics at the start of the event, despite the fact more women than ever are tuning into soccer matches.

Yet, while most studios are steering clear of the tourney timeframe, some have given the go-ahead for day and date rollouts.

Twentieth Century Fox debuts its male-driven “The A-Team” in 35 territories this weekend, including key markets like Australia, Russia and Mexico. And while Fox will wait to launch the film in most European countries until after the World Cup, studio said it hopes to benefit from a market left relatively bare of new studio entries.

Holdover “Sex and the City 2″ is still doing well and, like Fox’s guy troupe, Warner Bros. hopes to keep its Manhattan quartet at the forefront. Its international poster shows a glittered heel stomping on a deflated soccer ball with the tag “There are other ways to score.”

Meanwhile, romantic comedies are getting a lot of love. Summit Entertainment’s “Letters to Juliet” opened in the U.K. on Wednesday and will expand to Poland, Greece, the Netherlands and Russia during the month.

Touchstone Disney’s “When in Rome” opened in Italy today before bowing in Austria, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands nest week. And Lionsgate’s “Killers” opens across Europe from today.

Paramount Pictures Intl. prexy Andrew Cripps said that family films were “appropriate, especially at the end of the tournament” when fewer games are featured on the schedule.

Disney will launch day and date “Toy Story 3″ in larger markets like Russia Mexico and Brazil on June 18, with the Netherlands to follow June 23. But the toon doesn’t go wide around the rest of Europe until after the World Cup ends on July 11.

Paramount’s “Shrek Forever After” was released beginning the weekend of May 21 in 19 overseas territories. But it is not set to rollout across most of Europe, including France and Germany, until June 30. With more than a month between the release dates, some B.O. experts have questioned Par’s strategy, particularly over concerns that the film could be extensively pirated.

Meanwhile, Lauge Nielsen, managing director of Pathe Theaters in the Netherlands, said that most exhibs tend not to worry too much about the tourney’s impact on ticket sales.

“There’s typically a boom in business after the World Cup,” he said. “People want to catch up on their movies on a cumulative basis so it’s not that big of a hit.”

He added that most exhibs even “staff down” during the event.

Mark de Quervain, sales and marketing director for Blighty’s Vue Cinemas, said the low audience numbers during the World Cup was “not dissimilar to the first really hot, sunny week of the year when people don’t flock to the cinemas.”

Some countries, including Italy and Spain, are unspooling the tournament on the bigscreen in 3D.

German cinemas had already turned the concept down after a trial screening was deemed to be of insufficient quality.

“We will, of course, be quieter at this time of year,” said de Quervain. “But we were, and still are, hoping we can show some of the matches in the cinema in 3D. The jewel in the crown is to show football in a way that you can’t see it elsewhere.”

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