Screenvision’s blast from the past

Co. designing content for off-peak hours

NEW YORK — Remember matinee moviegoing with all those kiddie cartoons? Well, they’re coming back.

In a move designed to help exhibitors attract new auds and expand profitability, cinema advertising supplier Screenvision soon will deliver programming designed for off-peak hours at movie houses.

Idea is to draw patrons at times when theaters are less attended, such as weekend mornings and late at night. (Several exhibs have experimented with renting out their theaters off-hours to churches and civic or business groups as a means of boosting revenues.)

Mann Theaters has started tests of the Screenvision matinee service as have select hardtops of Loews, Rave and Dickenson. Screenvision execs said they expect 15 chains to be onboard by the end of 2006.

To supply the content, Screenvision has finalized a deal with Kidtoon Films, a national distributor of G-rated product, mostly straight-to-video animation titles. First deal involves “My Little Pony,” which will be supplied to theaters as they go digital.

Kidtoon Films will split the revs from ticket sales with the exhibitor; terms of the split were not released.

Prices of admission, which are likely to be lower for these add-on screenings than for the main feature, will be determined by each cinema chain.

“Our partnership with Kidtoon Films and the development of this entertainment content business strengthens our high-definition ad services to our more than 130 exhibitor partners,” Screenvision CEO Matthew Kearney said.

Kearney told Daily Variety the movies being offered to chains are generally ones that kids and their parents have not seen — straight-to-video animated titles that will be available to the theaters before the DVD window opens up.

Kearney said for Screenvision the initiative is “a value-added proposition,” but would not elaborate on what revenues, if any, the initiative would generate for his company.

Initial titles to be offered include “Tom & Jerry in The Fast and the Furry” and “Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy,” produced by Warner Bros. Animation; “Make Way for Noddy Christmas,” produced by Chorion and SD Entertainment; and “My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas,” produced by Hasbro and SD Entertainment.

Kids under 10 are the target audience for this first wave of product. Only 3% of theatrical films are G-rated.

“Parents want to share the bigscreen movie theater experience with their kids but there are few age-appropriate movies,” said Jonathan Dern, co-CEO of Kidtoon Films.

Screenvision plans gradually to expand its content portfolio to include music concerts, animation and latenight programming — all tailored to appeal to targeted auds during off-peak hours.

Screenvision boasts 95% penetration in all 50 states and 50% of total admissions. Major client chains include Loews, Carmike, Rave and Dickenson.

In addition to its U.S.-based operations, Screenvision has an extensive pan-European presence.

Screenvision is a joint venture of Britain’s ITV commercial broadcaster with Thomson, which owns Technicolor and RCA, and other equipment and services providers.

Kidtoons, which theatrically distributes G-rated movies for kids nationwide on a regular basis, is a subsid of SD Entertainment, an intellectual property production and distribution company.