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Exhibs irked by media hype

Owners unfazed by B.O. slump, pre-show ads

Exhib chain CEOs objected to the notion that last year’s box office slump meant that their businesses are in trouble during a ShoWest panel billed as a discussion about how theaters could enchance the moviegoing experience.

In the process, they blamed the press for creating phony controversies over such moviegoing issues as the box office slump, patron objections to pre-show advertising and simultaneous release strategies.

Mike Campbell, chief of nation’s largest exhib Regal Entertainment Group, said the theatrical business “is not the doom and gloom we read in the press a lot,” he said.

The other execs, including AMC chief Peter Brown, Century chief Joseph Syufy and Harkins Theatres owner Daniel Harkins, concurred, pointing out that despite recent declines in attendance and box office, that the long-term trends are still positive.

“The peaks are higher and so are the valleys,” Brown said. Campbell also blamed the media for biased reporting creating the impression that people don’t like pre-show ad reels.

He also sounded a note of defiance on the issue. “I think it’s here to stay — it’s not going to go away.”

On the subject of whether films should be released simultaneously in theaters and on DVD, Campbell said “This has been a hot topic in the press the last few months” and predicted that if box office numbers improve, “I think the press will focus on other topics.”