by Daniel Loria
Since its inception in 1999, the Geneva Convention has given Midwest exhibitors access to the latest advances in the industry. The regional event returns to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, September 9 through 11, and will kick off with the now traditional Variety the Children’s Charity Golf Classic, a golf outing that reflects the networking opportunities available in such a relaxed setting. Networking opportunities will continue into the evening with an opening-night reception at the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa’s outdoor pool, the first time the celebration will be hosted at the outdoor space.
As to be expected, the Geneva Convention will also be offering top-notch educational opportunities for its attendees. “This year we wanted to address the overall performance by a cinema’s staff, so we booked two keynote speakers who touch upon leadership and management techniques. We have Mike Abrashoff, a former captain of a Navy ship who is a best-selling author. The other speaker is Dave Skogen, author of the book Boomerang and owner of a regional supermarket chain in Wisconsin. He writes about customer service and retention, issues that are top priorities for us in this business,” says George Rouman, co-chairman of the Geneva Convention.
There will also be a roundtable on closed-captioning requirements and standards led by a NATO delegate, which will include representatives from leading equipment providers in the field. “We want to make sure that whatever issue our industry is facing is brought into our show so that everyone in our region that isn’t able to attend CinemaCon can be up to speed with all the current issues,” stresses Rouman.
The trade show is another key feature of the event. “For a regional show like us, we really do have a very impressive trade show,” Rouman explains. “It’s a great cross-section of our industry, and our attendees always come out very impressed with that part of the show.” His co-chair, John Scaletta, agrees. “We focus on supporting our vendors by giving ample traffic to the trade show floor. We host cocktail hours at the floor, which are great and conducive to granting a lot of opportunities for the vendors to interact with both their existing and potential customers.”
The Geneva Convention is also known for its Hall of Fame, an annual celebration commemorating a cross section of the region’s top contributors in the exhibition business. The combination of all these elements results in a convention with a truly regional flavor that caters to the Midwest’s many independent and community-owned theaters.
By Shawn Robbins
Disney reports that Guardians of the Galaxy added $0.975 million in first place on Wednesday, off 35 percent from the same day last week. The year's top grosser so far has now accumulated $283.6 million through 34 days of release, 1.3 percent ahead of the pace of Marvel's first Iron Man. Yesterday marked the film's first day below the $1 million mark, a streak it maintained for an impressive 33 days--six more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier and just five short of Iron Man.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles posted $0.546 million yesterday for a 50 percent week-to-week decline. The reboot continues to impress relative to pre-release expectations as its total now stands at $167.7 million--25 percent ahead of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra at the same point in release.
Pierce Brosnan's The November Man took in $0.54 million on Wednesday, representing a 37 percent decline from opening day one week ago. That gives the film $13.2 million in all through 8 days of release, 20 percent behind The Debt.
If I Stay grabbed $0.45 million on Wednesday, off 57 percent from last week and boosting its cume to $33.5 million through 13 days. That's 21 percent ahead of where the fellow Chloe Grace Moretz-led Carrie stood at the same point.
Meanwhile, As Above/So Below added $0.47 million in its sixth day of release, bringing its total to $11.4 million. The horror/thriller pic is pacing 3 percent behind Apollo 18.
Rolando Rodriguez had
already left the exhibition business when he was offered the top job at Rave
Cinemas. Rodriguez had established himself as a veteran figure in the
exhibition industry throughout a storied career at AMC before taking an
executive role at Walmart. He returned to exhibition and was a key factor in
turning around Rave Cinemas, culminating in the circuit's sale to Cinemark in
May 2013. Rodriguez wasn't out of the exhibition business for long thereafter,
as he was appointed president and CEO of Marcus Theaters that same summer. Now
a year into his tenure at Marcus, BoxOffice catches up with the veteran
exhibition executive to talk more about the business.
You're a veteran in the exhibition business. What made Marcus such an enticing option for you at this point in your career?
My career track really started within the industry. I spent 30 years with AMC and took a side trip with Walmart, where I spent nearly five years. I was recruited to become the president and CEO of Rave Cinemas, which was owned by a private equity group. Their intention was to spin off that circuit within a three- to five-year period of time based on turning the company around and achieving the kind of returns we were looking for. We were fortunate enough to have a great team that was able to do that in a two-and-half-year period of time. I also sit in the NATO Executive Board of Directors, where Steve Marcus also sat for those years I was in charge of Rave, and we got to know each other. The timing for me was perfect, since Bruce Olson, my predecessor in this position, decided to retire after a long and distinguished career right around the time we sold Rave. I was one of the several candidates that Marcus was considering and, through the course of many interviews, I was able to join a well-respected brand in Marcus. It was also intriguing to me that it is a company that isn't just made up of theaters but has a broad view of the food-and-beverage and hospitality industries. That, combined with what I felt was a great company and great people, that's what brought me here.
Now that you've been at the company for a bit, what are some of the main goals you want to achieve moving forward with Marcus?
I joined the company on July 30, 2013, and we set out to build short- and long-term goals. We are making them happen, beginning with amenities like Take 5 and our lounge concept. We've introduced Zaffiro's Express, our branded pizza program, and have expanded it to many of our locations. And this has combined with a very strong remodel program that introduces our large-screen format expansion of Ultra Screen DLX, along with Dream Loungers, which is our branded recliner-seats program. That, coupled with the marketing initiatives we've put in place, including our discounted ticket day on Tuesdays, has really propelled the company into a nice position. Our ultimate goal is to see continued growth, and that will come from new amenities in our circuit, from organic growth, and from potential acquisitions.
You mentioned large-format screens and reclining seats, along with a renewed focus on concessions. Is it safe to say you are currently focused on raising the value-added propositions for your consumers at existing locations?
We've committed to more than $50 million of investment to our existing theaters in those areas. Within any industry, being relevant and forward thinking for the consumer is essential for any growth company. Retail, food and beverage, or entertainment-we need to provide a true price-value relationship with that consumer. For many years as an industry, we concentrated on sound, especially in the 1980s and '90s. Then we combined that great sound with the large-screen format. And after adopting stadium seating, we are now truly matching what people have at home with our reclining seats. That's within the context of providing the best experience at our theaters. And while audiences are at the theater, we want to provide a true total social experience with our lounges where you can enjoy your time before or after the movie. The idea should be how you provide that hardworking family a great three-hour experience instead of a great two-hour experience.
Can you tell us about your experience in adopting a value-pricing program?
We are living through a difficult economic time, and we never want to affect the weekend experience, but we had forgotten about a consumer out there who has been hit very hard by the economy. This consumer has stopped going to the movies, and, frankly, you have entire families that can no longer afford a night at the movies. We picked Tuesdays for a five-dollar admission for that reason, and we also provide free popcorn to members of our loyalty reward program. For a family of four that is a member of our free loyalty program, you now have the ability to afford taking your family to the movies, and you get the popcorn on us. We have a social responsibility to the consumers we had lost in our community, and we wanted to provide them an opportunity to enjoy a great moviegoing experience at our theaters on Tuesdays.
How is the Midwest region different from operating anywhere else in the country?
As you know this is the heart of America-these are hardworking folks who are committed to their families. They obviously don't have all of the other entertainment components that many of the other large cities have. Actually, we do have the Green Bay Packers, where it's like going to church every Sunday. So when folks spend their entertainment dollars, particularly for us in the Midwest, we provide the level of amenities and entertainment components that many of the other large cities have.
Marcus owns about 85 percent of the real estate of its cinemas. What sort of advantage does that provide?
That speaks to the commitment of the Marcus family in its investments. This is a company that has been in existence for 79 years and is truly committed to the theater business. It adds an extra dimension for us; it's close to our heart. We have a commitment to that community and to the company to make sure the theaters are as good as they can be. We are not dictated by equity investors; our commitment as a company is to show we are here for the long term.
What do you enjoy about the Geneva Convention?
I've gotten to know many of the members of NATO of Wisconsin and from other sister states. This is the CinemaCon for exhibitors in the Upper Midwest. All operators and business owners have the opportunity to have NATO provide education and a trade show for us. It's a truly small-town feel for a lot of key exhibitors to participate in a show of this scope. NATO also makes a big commitment to raising money for charities like Variety and Will Rogers through the course of that week.
What are the obstacles facing exhibition in the coming years?
I think there are opportunities for us in the long term; it's making sure film grosses grow and that attendance grows alongside it. Flat or declining attendance is a big cause of concern, and in any healthy business you need to have the growth in revenue and attendance. I think a big part of that is making sure that our price-value relationship is closely aligned with the consumer. It's important that we place a priority on amenities inside our theaters, so consumers can have a great experience inside our cinemas.
by Ken Bacon
Twenty minutes southeast of Boulder, Colo., sits one of the most livable cities in the United States, if Money magazine is to be believed. Louisville is certainly noteworthy. It is the home of SNC Space Systems' Dream Chaser, the low-Earth-orbit vehicle that may be taking astronauts to the International Space Station later this decade. And now it is the home to one of the country's premiere cinema eateries-Cinebarre. And it is out of this world.
Entrepreneur Terrell Braly, in partnership with Regal Entertainment Group, is a grand showman. Texas tall, brash, and gregarious, Braly knows how to throw a party. On July 31, the Cinebarre CEO and chairman opened the doors to a just a few invited guests-over 600, in fact-to the newest in his family of cinema eateries and the second in Colorado. Braly and his crew-many of them family members-transformed the 20-year-old monster of a multiplex, formerly Regal Colony Square Stadium 12, into a cinema showplace in just 90 days.
Chad Rankin, Cinebarre's VP of construction, describes the process: "Total construction project time was under 12 weeks with two weeks being demolition. Any time you remodel a 40,000-plus-square-foot building at such an expeditious rate, you uncover several unforeseen special challenges. By adding a large commercial kitchen and two bars, the remodel takes several skilled people that must be on top of their game. The key is to surround yourself with good people that can take direction on the fly. I've found that managing projects of this scope and short time frame, one must be able to adapt and overcome many daily obstacles in order to stay on schedule. Some challenges are big and some are small, but they all must be treated the same because one little thing can have a domino effect on the entire project."
Rankin worked with Renew Urban Theatre of Charleston, South Carolina, who specialize in cinema eateries. Renew Urban's motto is "Graciousness," and that attitude was certainly exemplified in one of their installers, the charming Jonathan Crump, who was thrilled with the finished result. "Spectacular," he told us while sipping a well-earned CineBrew.
Cinebarre Boulder, as the theater is now called, is the eighth location Braly and his talented squad have opened in recent years. Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace (Wash.) was featured in these pages several years ago when it was named one of BoxOffice's Marquee Theaters. Cinebarre Boulder certainly lives up to that standard.
The black-and-silver-themed venue is lined with classic movie posters enlarged to gargantuan proportions and red-upholstered couches and chairs accompanied by black-and-silver storage trunks that double as coffee tables.
Braly says of his newest store, "We give the civilized, mature person the experience of watching a movie the way it was meant to be: in a full-service dinner-and-movie setting without the distractions of the standard ‘mall' movie theater."
VIP Night guest, Army Wives star Terry Serpico said, "Terrell and the staff at Cinebarre Mount Pleasant (S.C.) opened their doors to Army Wives and gave us a home to screen our season premieres. We'd have a red carpet and press line. A big party. The environment at Cinebarre made it feel old-Hollywood glamorous."
Guest Tuesday Bebbe said, "Cinebarre is our second home. We eat dinner and watch a movie once or twice a week. If it's not playing at Cinebarre, we wait for it to come out on DVD. Love the leather chairs and great food!"
The cinema eatery is a growing concept that more circuits are entertaining. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, probably the most well-known cinema eatery in the country, was an in-theater dining pioneer. In 2005, Entertainment Weekly called it "The Best Theater in America." The CEO at the time? Terrell Braly. The man knows how to put on a show. And a hell of a party.
Katie Clayton, Cinebarre's director of special events for the East Coast and Signature Events, with Cinebarre VIP NIght guest John Ratzenberger (Cheers, Wall-E). Cinebarre special events nationwide include Monday Night Football, $6.00 Tuesdays, Cry Baby Day, Sons of Anarchy premiere in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (partnering with Harley-Davidson), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest event in Salem, Ore. (where the film was produced), and various smaller fund-raisers and one-time events.
Cinebarre CEO Terrell Braly (center) celebrates with wine consultants Tom Smith and Elizabeth Smith during VIP Night. Founders of Wine News, the couple are working with the Cinebarre team to reimagine the theaters' wine lists. "We culled wines from the world's most distinguished regions," Elizabeth Smith says. "They met one or all of the following criteria: grown in a foremost appellation for the varietal; easy-drinking and accessible; and boasting an outstanding quality-to-value ratio." In addition to being a wine expert and fine art photographer, Tom won a Super Bowl ring with the 1973 Miami Dolphins.
There is nothing a food-service worker loves more than a brand-new kitchen. The Boulder facility is huge, having replaced one of the original auditoriums. Orders come in from either the bar or any of the screening rooms, are then prepared to order, and raced out by food runners who deliver the burgers, pizzas, and snacks to patrons at their seats. Theatergoers may order at any time-before or during the film. The full menu is also available to visitors who choose to just enjoy the bar. On Day One, the kitchen was in full fury as servers, runners, and cooks put their training to the test, as it was also the opening day of the megahit Guardians of the Galaxy.
Offering in-theater dining at a movie theater presents challenges that go well beyond delivering food freshly prepared, tasty, and on time. Cinebarre chose New Zealand-based Vista Entertainment Solutions' suite of software tools to manage its ticketing and food-and-beverage operations. The key package, Vista Cinema, has three modules-Box Office, Concession Sales, and Food & Beverage to help cinemas manage all aspects of theater transactions. Andrew Purdy, Vista's Los Angeles-based consultant, traveled to Boulder to ensure that not only were all systems go, but that staff were thoroughly trained. Vista also offers Veezi for smaller independent theaters.
Cinebarre Boulder's circular bar is the centerpiece of the poster-festooned lobby. In addition to the central bar there is a service bar dedicated to making cocktails for in-theater filmgoers. In addition to General Manager Matty DesMarias, several members of the Mountlake Terrace, Washington, Cinebarre crew traveled to Boulder to help train and prepare the new staff. With VIP Night featuring a hosted bar, the bartenders were tested by fire as the event drew 660 thirsty guests including Cheers! regulars Norm and Cliff (actors George Wendt and John Ratzenberger), who kindly posed for photos with fans.
Cinebarre Boulder's maximum capacity is approximately 860. The 11 auditoriums range in size from 46 to 143 seats. The original stadium seats were removed for the renovation and replaced with new Signature Rockers from Irwin Seating Company. To accommodate dining, every other row of the original seats have been replaced with long dining tables, which has the additional benefit of providing substantial legroom. Lighting in the auditoriums is precisely controlled to ensure not only a great moviegoing experience, but to allow patrons to clearly read the menu, see their drinks, and ensure that the food runners can see where they're going.
The menu features pub fare with flair-chicken fingers are Goldfingers, the club sandwich has been dubbed Fight Club, sliders are Slideways, and the pepperoni pizza is The Italian Job. For the popcorn fan there is Children of the Popcorn, while the tub of corn tossed with fresh rosemary is called, of course, Rosemary's Baby. Fancy a cinnamon roll? Try the Princess Leia, so named for reasons only a Star Wars nerd will understand. In addition to wine and specialty cocktails, the theater also has its own branded beers, CineBrew and CineBeer. And with the Denver-Boulder area renowned for its microbrews, it's no surprise the beer list is top notch.
VP of Creative Affairs Vanessa Rankin has concocted a preshow that is unique to the Cinebarre experience. Filmmakers from around the globe submit short films to Cinebarre's Vimeo page with the very best selected for the preshow. A new preshow is assembled each month and uploaded to Cinebarre's FTP server so each theater can download and ingest into their film servers. Films are between three and seven minutes in length, while the entire preshow is 30 minutes. Since many of the theaters allow children, the selected films must be G or PG. Animation is popular, and many student films have made the cut.
By Daniel Garris
Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy grossed $1.39 million on Tuesday to remain in first place at the daily box office. The blockbuster sci-fi superhero adaptation from Marvel has now led the daily box office for the past eleven days. Guardians of the Galaxy was down 76 percent from Monday's inflated Labor Day performance and down a healthy 34 percent from last Tuesday. The film has grossed a tremendous $282.59 million through 33 days of release. That leaves Guardians of the Galaxy $17.41 million away from becoming the first release of 2014 to reach the $300 million domestic mark.
Paramount's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles placed in second with $0.861 million. The successful franchise re-launch fell 77 percent from Monday and 48 percent from last Tuesday. While the film's box office run is slowing down now, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles continues to exceed expectations in a very big way with a 26-day take of $167.14 million.
The November Man claimed third place with $0.861 million. Relativity's action thriller starring Pierce Brosnan was down 62 percent from Monday, which represented one of the day's stronger daily percentage holds among wide releases. The November Man has grossed $12.63 million in seven days. That is in line with pre-release expectations and places the film 19.5 percent behind the $15.69 million seven-day start of 2011's The Debt.
Let's Be Cops took fourth place with $0.722 million. Fox's low-budget action comedy was down 65 percent from Monday and down a respectable 45 percent from last Tuesday. Let's Be Cops surpassed the $60 million mark on Tuesday and has grossed a very solid $60.22 million in 21 days.
Warner's If I Stay rounded out the day's top five with $0.711 million. The low-budget drama starring Chloë Grace Moretz was down 71 percent from Monday and down 54 percent from last Tuesday. If I Stay has grossed $33.04 million in twelve days. The film continues to perform well given its modest price tag and is running 21 percent ahead of the $27.21 million twelve-day take of last year's Carrie.
Universal's As Above/So Below landed in sixth on Tuesday with $0.672 million. The low-budget horror film was down 59 percent from Monday, which represented one of the day's stronger daily holds among wide releases. As Above/So Below has grossed $10.96 million in five days. That is on the low end of expectations and places the film 3 percent behind the $11.31 million five-day start of 2011's Apollo 18.