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by Daniel Loria

The trend is impossible to ignore. Nearly every investor presentation from North America's biggest exhibition chains highlights enhanced seating options as the best way to maintain a competitive edge in the market. Seating upgrades are quickly becoming a staple of today's exhibition world as both large circuits and local players alike compete in an arms race to enhance customer comfort. Luxury seating formed part of Marcus Theatres's $50 million investment in premium features across its circuit, a push that also included large-format screens and expanded food and beverage concepts. The company plans to continue expanding its seating options in 2015 after installing its DreamLounger premium recliners at eight of its theaters across six states this year. AMC is crediting recliner seats as a catalyst for enhancing the productivity of existing assets after average attendance in theaters with premium seating options went up by 76 percent despite a seat loss of 62 percent. The company has deployed recliner seats across 505 screens in 44 locations. Regal, the largest exhibitor in the United States, plans to have recliner seats at approximately 25 sites by the end of year.

Seating manufacturers who contributed to this story all noticed an uptick in interest toward luxury seating around the turn of the current decade. Seating Concepts is a fifteen-year veteran in luxury-seat manufacturing but only began to see more of an emphasis in this type of offering over the past three years. "The concept was popular among exhibitors already active in premium offerings, like Cinepolis and iPic, but I started noticing a more widespread appeal after AMC installed luxury seating and other players saw their success," admits Marixa Flores, cinema sales manager for Seating Concepts. Dolphin Seating had a similar experience with its premium offerings. "Our factory has been making luxury seating for the European market for many years," explains Dolphin Seating's Sam Snell. "Now that the U.S. market has become interested in luxury cinema seating over the last few years, we started focusing on the requirements of luxury seating and recliners in the U.S."

Krian Cinema is a relative newcomer to the luxury-seating scene. The company began developing seating this year after noticing that premium offerings were more than simply the latest fad. Rob Poindexter, international sales manager for Krian, points to the central role that luxury seating has taken in the exhibition world. "The reality for most theaters in the current marketplace is either do it now and keep the market share you have or let your competitor do it first and lose some of your market share to them," he says. The stress of keeping up with the competition has especially affected smaller exhibitors still recovering from the costs associated with the digital conversion. After devoting a large investment to keeping up with larger players at the projection booth, local exhibitors are now facing the challenge to upgrade their seating in order to maintain a competitive edge. Krian is marketing itself to these exhibitors with a low down payment with a per-admission-ticket revenue-share program, offering financing as low as $99 down with 50 cents per ticket sold. "Pretty soon, most theaters will be faced with a choice," continues Poindexter. "Either make these seating upgrades or be relegated to a discount-theater status."

Implementing luxury seating comes with its share of challenges for exhibitors. Marixa Flores from Seating Concepts approximates that about 60 percent of a typical auditorium space is reduced with the installation of full recliners. Richard Murphy, president of Stadium Savers, has ample experience dealing with both new constructions and retrofits for exhibitors who want to install enhanced seating alternatives. Murphy gets to the point when advising exhibitors on their options. "Luxury recliners require more horizontal space than the current ‘standard' recliners," he says. "This added space requirement will widen the established floor/platform dimension. As a result, the concrete floor/platform will need to be adjusted with additional concrete. Two important issue come to light: First, will the existing structure allow the introduction of the additional weight? And two, the widening floor/platform will be expanded, preferably with lighter-weight material. Lightweight foam is a good material for establishing the floor/platform configuration with less use of heavy concrete."

Murphy says he believes that middle-sized theaters work best in incorporating recliners, while clarifying that any size auditorium can be converted to incorporate enhanced seating. "Large theaters would be somewhat less desirable to widen because of the greater loss of seats. The mid-size theaters are the most desirable because of less total seat loss with a more intimate environment. The small theaters would be the least desirable, but can potentially be marketed as specialty screens."

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Gaylord Stanton, VP of sales at First Class Seating and a proponent of the concept, cites costs, occupancy rates, and competition as prime factors to consider before making a decision. "Only upgrade to luxury seating if you are in a competitive market," advises Stanton. "The loss of seats could have a negative effect, and the investment may be very difficult on an ROI basis."

For Stanton, luxury seating has gained popularity in U.S. auditoriums because of an ironic cyclical dynamic between the home media and theatrical markets. "For years now the home-theater market has been trying to bring the movie theater experience into the home," he says. "Now, exhibitors are bringing the comfort of home to the theaters." But the seating conversation doesn't end with rocker backs and recliners, however, as immersive and interactive seating continues expanding its presence in the United States. These options look to bring an entirely different dimension to the theatrical experience.

"The cinemas and the studios are in a constant effort to drive people to the theaters. They are battling against ever increasing home-based and mobile-based entertainment options and are constantly looking for consumer-driven enhancements and technologies to make the theater experience a destination of its own and keep people coming back, as well as drawing new people," says Alison Jamele, president of MediaMation, a leading manufacturer of 4D products. The company's Twitter hashtag goes to heart of the matter: #YouCantGetThisAtHome. "Real 4D Motion EFX theaters such as ours add a tremendous value and excitement to the moviegoing experience that enhances the visuals, audio, and story to bring people into the movie like never before."

A panel on the topic at last year's edition of ShowEast outlined the concept's mission-to stand apart from existing technology as the emerging premium format on the big screen. "Immersive cinema should involve more than just sight and sound; a true immersion comes from a multisensory experience," said Theodore Kim, SVP, head of theater development and relations, CJ 4Dplex Americas. The company has a strong international presence in key markets like Japan, Russia, and Mexico.

Angela Killoren, senior VP of marketing at CJ E&M America, can remember when she started noticing increased interest for the format in the United States. "2013 was the first year we had a booth at CinemaCon," she recalls. "I think it helped to have a booth sitting next to a lot of the very large companies that work with exhibitors around the world, and it was when our partnership in Latin America with Cinépolis was fairly advanced. Sometimes what's happening in Asia can seem quite foreign and look like it might not translate directly to U.S. audiences, and perhaps considering that Latin America is closer geographically and maybe culturally, it started seeming more tangible."

The format's overall success in Latin America can be considered the spark that led to its introduction to the U.S. market. "A story we love to tell is one of our Latin American customers that signed on for three theaters to be installed over the next 18- to 24-month period," recalls MediaMation's Alison Jamele. "One month after the opening of their first theater, they called us up and ordered four more right away!"

The reception north of the border has been just as positive. Enhanced seating alternatives form an important part of leading Canadian exhibitor Cineplex's commitment to premium offerings. "More than 40 percent of our box office revenue is derived from premium tickets, more than double our U.S. peers," says Pat Marshall, the company's VP of communications and investor relations. "Premium charges range from three dollars for 3D premiums to as much as 12 dollars for VIP Cinemas, depending on the day of the week. Guests really enjoy the variety of options we offer and the varying amenities that go along with them. Reserved seating has been a big hit in Canada."

Among their premium offerings, Cineplex operates 11 VIP cinemas across Canada with seven additional locations scheduled to open by the end of 2016. Immersive and interactive seating is also part of Cineplex's strategy, with 21 theaters featuring D-Box MFX seats. The companies recently signed an agreement to add D-Box to 20 additional Cineplex locations.

Moving Image Technology is preparing to start shipping their new immersive-seating product, Cine-Sation, early in the first quarter of 2015. MiT originally approached talks with Korean-based company Acouve a little over a year ago to consider the possibility of a distribution deal. "We wanted to take it a step further as soon as we saw the technology and its advantages. We started positioning ourselves to do more than just distribution," recounts Joe Delgado, executive VP of sales and marketing at the company. "Because the product was developed in Korea, it needed productizing, and by that we mean for the Americas you needed to automate it. We also needed an American chair, a physical chair. The Korean chairs tended to run on the narrow side, cup holders were a bit smaller. Those were the things we started to discuss, negotiate, and implement. We automated the system and then went on to a sturdier processing platform. It runs off a processor that takes the time code from the DCP file, and that's where the effects come from."

When it came to manufacturing a chair, MiT went with the experience of Irwin Seating Company to design the physical chair for Cine-Sation. "For me it was pretty simple: the criteria had to meet certain benchmarks," says Delgado. "A, logistically, we liked the fact they were in the middle of the country, that part just made sense. B, I've known [Irwin] forever, I've known the company for about 25 years. And C, as one of the leading seating manufacturers in the world, we knew that they could handle the engineering involved. There had to be a ton of back and forth on the engineering side to get the chair to accept and transmit the effect correctly. [Irwin] met all those criteria, so it was a pretty easy decision for us to make."

TremorFX is another company that has called upon seating manufacturers to help complement the physical design of their product. "One of the things that sets TremorFX apart is its lower cost for theaters," says Joe Sorenson, CEO of RedSeat Entertainment. "The price for tickets is set and controlled by the theaters, meaning there's no revenue sharing with TremorFX's parent company, RedSeat Entertainment. TremorFX chairs are easily installed and require low voltage, and we've partnered with some of the leading theater-seat providers to provide premium seating and maximum comfort for consumers. TremorFX has a patented processing technology that allows chairs to respond in real time, meaning the technology works with any movie the day it's released. There's no programming required, and the technology also works with live events and other media.

"We have worked to make retrofitting a theater with TremorFX chairs as simple as possible," Sorenson continues. "The voltage requirements are relatively low (one circuit per 10 chairs), and from there the only requirement is to run a data cable (cat5) from the projection room that connects to the electronics mounted on a riser behind the chairs. TremorFX chairs are also floor-mounted so they are easily installed the same as any other theater seats."

Dolphin Seating offers an intermediary solution for theaters that want to take a more cautious step into the expenses associated with interactive seating. The company's VIB product vibrates from the audio hooked up into the sound system and can be added to any Dolphin Seat model for $200. While the affordability of implementing interactive seating in a theater varies by auditorium size and product type, there appears to be few arguments from exhibitors who have embraced the format. "What we're seeing is that it's driving higher occupancy through the customers' interest in the format, and the surcharge is obviously driving higher revenues," says Angela Killoren. Whether the seat rocks back, reclines, or vibrates, it looks as if the focus on seating will continue to surge in the exhibition market in the coming years.

 

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feb13wknd.pngUniversal reports that Fifty Shades of Grey added $4.2 million on Wednesday, bringing its six-day domestic total up to $102.7 million. The film is currently outpacing Valentine's Day by 51 percent through the same point in release.

Kingsman: The Secret Service continues to hold well as it added $2.23 million in second place yesterday. The Matthew Vaughn-helmed graphic novel adaptation has taken in $47.3 million through its first six days, 17 percent ahead of the pace of 2008's Jumper.

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water was up 29 percent from last Wednesday to $1.86 million yesterday. The family pic's 13-day haul stands at $107.8 million.

American Sniper pulled another $1.04 million yesterday, down just 29 percent from the same day last week. The blockbuster biopic's domestic total stands at $308.8 million as it continues its march toward becoming 2014's highest grossing release.

Meanwhile, Jupiter Ascending capped off Wednesday's top five with $0.59 million -- down 42 percent from last week. The sci-fi pic has earned $35.3 million domestically up to this point.

 

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mm.pngTORRANCE, Calif . . . Thursday, February 19, 2015 Award-winning interactive technology house MediaMation, Inc. (MMI) is "riding high and ‘Taken' it all in" following its highly successful VIP industry screening of the Liam Neeson box-office hit, "Taken3" at its flagship U.S. MX4DTM Motion EFX Theatre in the Plaza Stadium Cinemas 14 in Oxnard, CA.

According to MMI Head of Cinema Sales Heather Blair, domestic and international exhibitor interest in MMI's MX4DTM Motion Effects Theatres "has surged dramatically" in the wake of the event, which was tied to the recent International Cinema Technology Association (ICTA) conference held late last month. "In fact," Blair notes, "the positive response following this event is quite impressive. We are on the verge of announcing several major sales and installs for our MX4DTM theatres in various regions of the globe."

On January 21, invited cinema industry insiders were treated to a gourmet box dinner and champagne aboard a chartered luxury bus that departed from the ICTA conference in Los Angeles. Once arriving at the aforementioned Plaza Stadium Cinemas 14, each VIP was treated to popcorn and a drink courtesy of Santa Rosa Entertainment Group, owners of the cinema house. After brief welcoming remarks from MMI executives -- President/CEO Alison Jamele, VP/CTO Dan Jamele, and Head of Cinema Sales Heather Blair -- the house lights dimmed in MMI's 104-seat MX4DTM "Cinema 9." Shortly thereafter, the crowd of theatre chain exhibitors, vendors, technicians, media reps and other industry lights became immersed in the "pitch, heave and roll" seat motion EFX, as well as the carefully nuanced rumbles, pokes, smoke, water and air blasts that punctuated the car chases, fight sequences and other on-screen action in Fox's "Taken3."

Noted Thomas McCalla of Covergent: "I thought it was enjoyable. I found it really enhanced the experience," he said. "Since this movie [Taken3] had a lot of cars in it, the [motion EFX] ride with the car went with [the car action in the film] very well. "

Added another industry guest: "I really liked it, I had a good time. It's different than seeing the movie -- it's like ‘being in' the movie . . ." he said, "Actually the ticklers were the best thing, so unexpected!"

Reflecting on the success of the "Taken3" event, President/CEO Jamele remarked: "The success of the ‘Taken3' event in our MX4DTMOxnard venue really has exceeded expectations. Our sales team is reporting a lot of solid, positive activity that can be directly attributed to the buzz surrounding the event and the related industry exposure of MMI's unique pneumatically driven MX4DTMtechnology ‘in action' in a real-life theatre setting."

MX4DTM is MediaMation's uniquely branded "4D" pneumatically driven motion EFX system. In general, 4D refers to an emerging "immersive" technology which allows movie-goers to experience big Hollywood "blockbusters" in a new way via the addition of moving seats, air/water blasts, leg ticklers, fog, scents and other special effects that emanate from specially designed theatre seats, or from inside the theatre itself. This array of special effects are programmed to both sync with and enhance the action on the screen for a more exciting and realistic movie-going experience.

About MediaMation, Inc. - Founded in 1991, MMI has sold/installed MX4D® Motion EFX seats and turnkey 4D/5D theatres throughout the world. Most recently, installations have included 250+ seats each for Cinemex's X4D® Cinema Theatres installed/installing throughout Mexico in 17 of their cineplexes. Cinemex is the 6th largest Cinema chain in the world and was recognized as the "Best International Cinema" at the ShowEast Conference in 2013. Cine Colombia, the largest chain in Colombia, has added five Motion EFX 4D rooms.

Longstanding MMI clients such as "Ripley's Believe It or Not," Moving 4D Theatres in San Antonio, Texas; and Baltimore, MD and more; as well as Legoland Discovery Centers in Toronto, Chicago and other locations, continue to use MMI to supply them with high-quality 4D immersive theatres. MediaMation's MX4DTM Motion EFX Theatres are installed in more than 34 countries, such as multiple locations in the Museo De Cera's Viaje Fantastico Theatres in Mexico and the Royal Saudi Air Force Museum. For more information, visit www.mediamation.com , email: heather.b@mediamation.com , or call 310-320-0696.

 

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tg.pngSANTA MONICA, CA - Feb. 19, 2015 - IMAX Corporation (NYSE: IMAX) today announced that Paramount Pictures and Skydance Production's release of Terminator Genisys, the reset of the blockbuster franchise, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney, will be digitally re-mastered into the immersive IMAX® 3D format and released into IMAX® theatres by Paramount Pictures worldwide starting July 1.

Terminator Genisys is directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and is produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg of Skydance Productions. The screenplay is by Laeta Kalorgridis (Avatar, Shutter Island) & Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry). The film also stars J. K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matthew Smith, Courtney B. Vance and Byung-Hun Lee.

"This film marks IMAX's first foray into the Terminator franchise and we're thrilled to be a part of it and team up once again with Alan Taylor and our friends at Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions," said Greg Foster, Senior Executive Vice President, IMAX Corp. and CEO of IMAX Entertainment. "We believe it's going to be a gangbusters summer at the movies next year, and Terminator Genisys is sure to be one of the season's most anticipated movies for IMAX fans worldwide."

"We are so proud of the world we have built in Terminator Genisys and are thrilled that audiences will be able to experience the film in IMAX and IMAX 3D," said Ellison. "The IMAX experience is the most immersive film experience in the world, and I am thrilled that fans of the franchise and newcomers alike will be able to experience the film in this premium format."

The IMAX® 3D release of Terminator Genisys will be digitally re-mastered into the image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® with proprietary IMAX DMR® (Digital Re-mastering) technology. The crystal-clear images, coupled with IMAX's customized theatre geometry and powerful digital audio, create a unique environment that will make audiences feel as if they are in the movie.

To learn more about Terminator Genisys visit the studio's Official website:
www.paramount.com.


About Paramount Pictures Corporation
Paramount Pictures Corporation (PPC), a global producer and distributor of filmed entertainment, is a unit of Viacom (NASDAQ: VIAB, VIA), a leading content company with prominent and respected film, television and digital entertainment brands. Paramount controls a collection of some of the most powerful brands in filmed entertainment, including Paramount Pictures, Paramount Animation, Paramount Television, Paramount Vantage, Paramount Classics, Insurge Pictures, MTV Films, and Nickelodeon Movies. PPC operations also include Paramount Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures International, Paramount Licensing Inc., and Paramount Studio Group.

About Skydance Productions
Skydance Productions tells big stories and creates immersive worlds, producing narratives that span film, television, games and more. Skydance is currently in post-production on a reset of the TERMINATOR franchise, TERMINATOR GENISYS, to be released on July 1, 2015. The company is also in production on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5, the latest installment in the highly successful franchise starring Tom Cruise with Chris McQuarrie directing. Additionally, Skydance is currently in production on the disaster film GEOSTORM written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot with Devlin also directing. Skydance will next begin production on STAR TREK 3, the third installment in the JJ Abrams franchise. Currently in development is AFRICA, a sweeping epic about paleo-anthropologist Richard Leakey's battle with ivory poachers that threaten the existence of the African elephant population and the very soul of Africa. Angelina Jolie is attached to direct the film based on Eric Roth's screenplay. Skydance's recent releases include JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT, from director Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Pine; WORLD WAR Z, starring Brad Pitt and directed by Marc Forster; STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto; and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION, directed by Jon M. Chu and starring Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum and Dwayne Johnson. Skydance's previous projects include Christopher McQuarrie's JACK REACHER, starring Tom Cruise; MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - GHOST PROTOCOL, starring Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner; and the award-winning Coen Brothers film TRUE GRIT, starring Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon.

About IMAX Corporation
IMAX, an innovator in entertainment technology, combines proprietary software, architecture and equipment to create experiences that take you beyond the edge of your seat to a world you've never imagined. Top filmmakers and studios are utilizing IMAX theatres to connect with audiences in extraordinary ways, and, as such, IMAX's network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event films around the globe.

IMAX is headquartered in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, with offices in London, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. As of Dec. 31, 2014, there were 934 IMAX theaters (809 commercial multiplexes, 19 commercial destinations and 106 institutions) in 62 countries.


IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, Experience It In IMAX®, An IMAX 3D Experience®, The IMAX Experience® and IMAX Is Believing® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information about the Company can be found at www.imax.com. You may also connect with IMAX on Facebook (www.facebook.com/imax), Twitter (www.twitter.com/imax) and YouTube (www.youtube.com/imaxmovies).

 

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Fifty Shades of Grey is now a $300 million worldwide hit. The film hit the global box office milestone this week after adding $209 million from overseas sales to its $102.7 million domestic tally. The worldwide total of the erotic thriller stands at $311.7 million going into the weekend.

Universal issued a press release stating the following overseas box office milestones:

Fifty Shades of Grey opened No. 1 in 54 territories.

  • It is the biggest opening weekend for all films (all time) in 13 territories: Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Paraguay, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela. 
  • Fifty Shades of Grey is Universal's biggest opening weekend of all time in 35 markets. 
  • It is the biggest opening weekend for an R-rated (or its international equivalent) film in 42 territories. 
  • The film grossed $55M on Saturday (2/14) and set the record as Universal's highest grossing day ever. 
  • This is Universal's second biggest international weekend behind Fast & Furious 6 with $161.3M. 
  • It is the biggest opening weekend for an R-rated film internationally, beating the previous record holder, The Matrix Revolutions ($117M) and other films such as 300: Rise of an Empire ($89M), Hangover 2 ($60.3M) and Sex and the City ($59M).

 

 

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