“It’s crucial for our industry to invest” in premium movie experiences, Regal CEO Amy Miles told investors today as she kicked off the Gabelli & Co Movie and Entertainment Conference. It’s a subtle shift in message in an industry that has spent the last few years focusing on paring down debt, consolidation, and keeping shareholders happy with dividends and share repurchases. But Miles says that Regal leads the exhibition industry in generating cash, and wants to seize the opportunity to boost revenues with venues that can charge higher prices for tickets and concessions. “We’re all going about this strategic objective of improving the premium experience,” she says. Regal plans to roll out as many as 25 of its large-screen RPX venues in each of the next four years. Regal also expects to have recliner seats at 25 sites with just under 300 screens by the end of 2014. The chain has been helped by the struggles that many mall owners are having maintaining traffic as shoppers buy goods online. “Our landlords are becoming very good partners” for example with co-financing. “That’s been a positive.”
Regal Cinemas has picked up Girl Rising, an indie directed by Richard E. Robbins that until now had only been available via on-demand theatrical distribution at crowdsourcing site Gathr. Narrated by Cate Blanchett, Priyanka Chopra, Selena Gomez, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, Chloë Grace Moretz, Liam Neeson, Frieda Pinto, Meryl Streep and Kerry Washington, the social-issues documentary details stories of girls from around the globe who are fighting against their circumstances. Regal has set a week-long engagement starting April 19 in more than 150 theaters across the country. At Gathr, the film generated more than 17,000 screening requests with 65,000 tickets reserved.
“With Girl Rising, we took a risk on a new model of on-demand theatrical distribution, and the leap of faith paid dividends,” said The Documentary Group’s Tom Yellin. “We’ve established a new model for impact filmmaking, to build a movement – and an audience — around a film. Regal joining this effort means an opportunity for people everywhere to see this beautiful and important film.” A portion of all ticket sales at Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres will go to the 10×10 Fund for Girls Education.
At least three analysts have already reduced their earnings forecasts for the top publicly traded exhibition chains after Q2 ended with industrywide box office sales -2.9% compared with the same period last year. “We had originally built in flat- to modestly-higher trends in overall second quarter Box Office results,” Barrington Research’s James Goss says this morning. As a result, he cut his earnings-per-share projection for Regal by 40% to 15 cents, with Cinemark -30% to 33 cents, and Carmike -27% to 33 cents. He says the current quarter might also fall short of last year, which included Paramount’s Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Paramount’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and Sony’s The Smurfs. But he’s impressed with the opening performance for Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man and Universal’s Ted, and seems optimistic about Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises, Sony’s Total Recall, and Universal’s Bourne Legacy. That could result in “an upside surprise” in Q3 leading into
Men In Black 3 opens Friday and it’ll be on plenty of 3D screens despite disagreement between exhibitors and Sony Pictures Entertainment over who should pay for 3D glasses. Movie studios have been footing the bill for the glasses but Sony’s announcement last year that it would end payments with the release of MIB3 rankled major exhibitors. As discussions continue neither side is budging — at least publicly. Sony is keeping quiet but Bloomberg reports that executives from Regal Cinemas and Cinemark have said they won’t give in, and the National Association of Theatre Owners indicates nothing has changed on either side. The movie is obviously booked into theaters in 3D and 2D because as the saying goes, the show must go on. So will that surcharge for 3D tickets, which theaters and studios split as they do regular ticket prices. Meanwhile negotiations continue although Sony has already made clear it doesn’t intend to continue paying for the glasses indefinitely.
Web platform Tugg is teaming up with a group of exhibition powerhouses for a plan designed to give consumers a programming role in their local theater. Chains Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, AMC Theatres, Bow Tie Cinemas, Cinemark Theatres, Goodrich Quality Cinemas, Rave Cinemas and Regal Cinemas have signed on with Tugg for an initiative in which theatrical venues will be provided for individually curated events showcasing Tugg’s library of studio and independent films. Oscar nominees The Tree Of Life and Bullhead are two of the options available through Tugg’s library. Individuals and groups will select a title, screening time and local theater. After spreading word and reaching the necessary number of people committed to attending, the event will be confirmed. Tugg will reserve the participating theater, handle ticketing and arrange delivery of the film. Said AMC Theatres programming president in a statement: “As we continue to evaluate the program though trials at our theaters, we’ve experienced its potential firsthand through successful results by not only putting the choice directly in our guests’ hands, but also through the power of grassroots, guest-advocate marketing.” Tugg will unveil its partnerships with distributors prior to the opening of the SXSW Film Festival in March.