The atmosphere is “very different than [in 2011] when we had the premium VOD conversations,” Regal chief Amy Miles said this morning at the MKM Partners Investor Day Conference. “Conversations” is a polite word for exhibitors’ angry response back then when they forced Universal to abandon its plan to show the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy caper comedy Tower Heist on VOD just three weeks after it opened in theaters. But studios have pretty much given up any talk about offering new releases directly to consumers in the two-month period when films are still in theaters, she says. “When we look at most recent trends in windowing it’s not encroaching on theatrical” as studios look for help to encourage people to stop renting films and buy movie digital downloads. Regal is glad to help: “We can partner with studios and say, ‘We have this great data base’ ” from its Crown Club loyalty program that includes members’ movie preferences. Exhibitors are in no mood, though, to make financial concessions to help studios that are licking their wounds from the summer’s over-supply of big-budget action and family films. “Studios are doing a lot of things to adjust the cost side of their models,” she says, but “meaningful gains are not going to come from our side.” She doesn’t fear that studios will retrench to the point where theaters won’t have enough strong films. “I don’t expect the next few years to look much different from the last 20 or 30 years.”
CEO Amy Miles seems confident that consumers will continue to flock to theaters, even with the higher admission costs. “Sometimes we joke and say we are an industry that has been dying for the past 50 years,” she told investors today at Barclays Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference. But “as long as we continue to provide that great, affordable out-of-home experience…people are going to continue to go to the movies.” What’s “affordable” is in the eye of the beholder: Regal CFO David Ownby told the group that his company’s ticket prices for 2D movies “will go up in that 3% to 4% range” that’s been the pattern over the last few years. He notes that for IMAX movies Regal adds as much as $6.50 to the price of the basic 2D ticket. The chain’s own RPX large-screen venues have as much as a $5.00 upcharge while regular 3D films cost about $3.50 more than conventional 2D. This year’s potential blockbusters should help the cause.
“It is a decades-long trend,” actress Geena Davis, who founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, said at a luncheon panel on the subject. “We want to believe that things are getting better. But the evidence shows that it’s not.” The conventional wisdom is that “women will watch men but men won’t watch women…It’s not true.” Director Paul Feig said that he faced “enormous” pressure to have his film Bridesmaids succeed. Casting women in lead roles “was always shut down so quickly. ‘We can’t have a woman as a lead.’ It was almost a rule…I was terrified.” Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson says the problem is exacerbated by popular culture. She cited a reader survey by the blog SFGate that deemed Anne Hathaway as the year’s “Most Annoying Celebrity” to illustrate that misogyny is “a sport in the media.” She adds that women have been shortchanged by “franchise fever” which has “squeezed out the variety of movies that are made” and by efforts to reach boys with PG movies. The trends are bad for business says Regal Cinemas CEO …
Last year was a good one for the exhibition industry, and the CEO of the No. 1 theater chain. Regal gave Amy Miles the highest compensation package she has seen since 2009, according to the company proxy just filed at the SEC. It included $800,000 in salary, $1.79M in stock awards, $1.2M in non-equity compensation, and $668,409 in other compensation. Miles’ compensation was 2.8 times higher than the median for the three other executives listed in the proxy, in the safe zone for corporate watchdogs wary of excessive CEO power. Regal shares appreciated 16.8% last year. The company plans to hold its annual meeting on May 8 in Knoxville, TN.