CinemaCon: Int'l Exhibs Keep Movies Relevant

LAS VEGAS — The future of movie theaters is simple: Expect champagne and oysters in France, airport-style e-ticketing and second screen viewership (tweeting teens start your engines!) in the United Kingdom, fresh food made in-house throughout Southeast Asia and Brazil, and more retail opportunities in Russia.

Moderated by Variety executive editor Steve Gaydos, CinemaCon’s International Day came to a close with a panel entitled “Defying Gravity: Keeping Cinema Relevant in a Growing Multi-Options Viewing World.”

“It’s innovate or die,” said Justin Skinner, the VP of marketing for Cineworld, a cinema chain in the United Kingdom and Ireland. He noted that in order to keep the younger generation coming to theaters they “don’t want to sit in an auditorium for two and a half hours unplugged.” He’s currently experimenting with second screen interaction while a film is onscreen.

But just as one social media-driven idea works for a certain population, the concept of moviegoing as a luxury is growing in several countries.

“I’m always saying we need an oyster bar and champagne,” says Eddy Duquenne, CEO of Kinepolis Group. “We still want to offer a good price and quality.”

To do that, Andrew Cripps, the exec VP of IMAX Corp., says freshly-prepared meals are key, a supplement to erecting “first class” auditoriums to bring people back into the cinema.

It’s already being done throughout Latin America, echoes Alejandro Ramirez Magana, the CEO of Cinepolis.

But what about the movies themselves?

Although Hollywood (and IMAX) saw great success with “Gravity,” the third most successful IMAX film of all time behind “Avatar” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” local films like Russia’s “Stalingrad,” which grossed $67 million internationally, compared to $980,000 domestic, proved to cinema owners that 2013 “was not a good year for movies to travel,” said Paul Heth, the CEO of Karo Cinemas.

Add piracy to the equation and what’s left is 3D, which some critics decry as a theme park novelty. Heth argues that in the face of piracy, 3D offers a technology and added experience that can’t be purchased on a street corner and watched at home.

Similarly, the ability to shop and interface with different kinds of retail, which Karo Cinemas is in the process of executing, provides an alternative experience, something theater owners have looked to provide since the beginning of cinema.

What was once a communal moviegoing experience is now a multi-faceted enigma, a subject sure to be mulled by CinemaCon attendees for many years to come.

(pictured, Cinepolis)

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