Cinema Technology — March 2020

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the e-sports boom

Studio moves for victory Generation magpie It's thethe reel thing Block-booked blues Planning After gold rush CT interviews What the rise Andrew of the David Hancock on the Cripps, Centurymeans Fox's "rented experience" impact20th of repealing the advocate forexhibitors change for UScinema "Paramount Decrees"

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make customers happy

grow your business

Photo courtesy of Zane Roessell

When the “Best Theatre in America”* wanted to combine the best movie experience with enhanced AV functionality for lobby, business meetings, parties, and alternate content, they turned to QSC. In fact, QSC became their brand standard for enterprisewide audio, video and control - and Q-SYS brings TM

it all together. Make your customers happy and increase your bottom line – with QSC. *According to Entertainment Weekly

©2020 QSC, LLC all rights reserved. QSC, Q-SYS and the QSC logo are registered trademarks in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and other countries. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners. 0216-2020

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The latest from around the world of cinema exhibition Cinema Tech Community’s regular quarterly update


15 21 26 30 35 38

Merger mania: which chains are heading down the aisle? “Paramount Decrees”: an old law with significance today Are exhibitors capitalising on the esports revolution? Why gaming in cinemas is a real technical challenge After the gold rush: we look at the Saudi cinema market Build a cinema in 6 weeks? Anything’s possible in KSA

MANAGING EDITOR: ALASTAIR BALMAIN Motion Picture Solutions Ltd, Mission Hall, 9-11 North End Road, London W14 8ST T: +44 (0)20 3026 1368 E: ART DIRECTOR: DEAN CHILLMAID E:

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48 53 59 62 64 69 73 76 80

Why Kenya is an overlooked force in African cinema


Peter Knight peeks under the hood at CinemaNext The end of Series 1 digital: it’s not the end of the world


We need to walk before we run in presentation terms Backyard Cinema: the popup with a passion for detail The Royston Picture Palace: cinema for the community Going large: reflections on the Widescreen Weekend Accessibility: a way forward to closed-caption subtitles? Yet another record-breaker of a year for event cinema?

Oh, yes, says the ECA’s Grainne Peat

COMMISSIONING EDITOR: PETER KNIGHT E: ADVERTISING: BOB CAVANAGH Caixa Postal 2011, Vale da Telha, 8670-156 Aljezur, Portugal T: +351 282 997 050



Istanbul was the scene for, a second successful ECM

event. Patrick von Sychowski reports



The resolution revolution: is 8K heading to our cinemas?

M: +351 962 415 172 E: SUBSCRIPTIONS Cinema Technology is mailed to IMIS Members. For subscription details and to read the magazine online, visit or e-mail

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Lose yourself in a different world: cinema… or gaming? In this issue, CT explores the gaming revolution. As Alastair Balmain argues, the cinema business has a run for its money when it comes to diverting audience attention for hours on end. T g gm m a gaagzai nz ei nf eo r f o c irn e O . 4> > 0 1 26//1 189 T hh ee l leeaaddi ni n cm i nae m a i n d u s ti n r yd upsrt or y fep s sr ioof e n sasliso n>a lVs O> LV.O3 L2 . 3N1 ON. 2

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Netflix & cinema Enter the 5G DCP Merger mania


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the e-sports boom

Studio moves for victory Generation magpie It's thethe reel thing Block-booked blues Planning After gold rush CT interviews What the rise Andrew of the David Hancock on the Cripps, Centurymeans Fox's "rented experience" impact20th of repealing the advocate forexhibitors change for UScinema "Paramount Decrees"

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But cinema’s immersive, so there…

market could be a $300bn industry by

Immersive is a word that’s so thoroughly overused in the

2025. And that’s not bad for a business

cinema marketeer’s lexicon that by now they must have

that’s been going for less than half a

realised it’s gone stale. But here’s the thing, in the video


games sector, a genuine state of immersion has long since

It only seems like yesterday, but I vividly recall spinning

been achieved by the likes of League of Legends and PUBG.

the control wheels against my brother and sister on one of

As a parent of two pre-teen boys, I assure you Generation

the earliest video games machines introduced in the 1970s

Alpha (those born between 2010 and 2025, keep up…) think

— the very two-dimensional and straight Pong. It was at

nothing of sitting for hours at a stretch, focused entirely on

exactly the same sort of time that I was queuing in the rain

the game they are playing (gaming), or the one they’re

outside the Cannon Cinema in Yeovil to watch the “Empire

watching someone else play (eSports). The cinema industry

Strikes Back”. Again. I could reminisce all day about video

regularly tries to convince itself and others that the definitive

games that shaped my youth — “Harrier Attack” on an

place where story-telling and gorgeous visuals combine is

Amstrad CPC464 [tape loading…], the ever-so-slightly blocky

within its auditoria. Have you played “Grand Theft Auto V”?

Ferrari Testarossa of “OutRun”, or “Operation Wolf”, the

So what does this all mean for cinema? Put simply, if you

archetypal first-person-shooter — but the kids at the back will

think feature films are the only entertainment format that

just roll their eyes and mutter “Get with the programme,

can draw in an audience and divert them for hours, think


again. We make a great play of cinema as the undistracted

If you compare those with today’s equivalents — the free-

advertising medium, but if I was looking to target the youth

to-play multi-vehicle combat game “War Thunder” that

market, I’d look elsewhere too right now. Is that a negative

attracts millions of online players, the gorgeously detailed

way to approach the cinema and eSports subject? Not in the

“Forza Horizon 4”, or the epic scale of the “Call of Duty” series,

slightest. If you want to know how cinema is striving to be an

it’s safe to say that video games have moved on a bit.

integral part of the gaming revolution, see p26-33!

Writing in this issue of CT




1 Helen Budge

2 David Hancock

3 Graham Lodge

Senior writer at Celluloid Junkie, on p30, Helen examines the technical challenges of eSports in cinemas

Research director at IHS Markit, on p21 David explores the legacy of the Paramount Decrees on exhibition

Managing director of integrators Sound Associates, on p59, Graham explains why there’s life after Series 1

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The Lexi turns to crowdfunding for its new Hub THE LEXI, IN LONDON’S Kensal Green is the UK’s first social enterprise cinema — and the team behind it have turned to crowdfunding to support its proposed expansion.

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“Powered by the energy and enthusiasm of 50 local

upheavals in Hong Kong, the Film Expo Group has announced that the CineAsia conference is to

but with one screen and just 75 seats, there’s a limit to how

return to Bangkok after a decade’s absence. From

much we can do, and we’re now at capacity,” explains the

7-10 December, the venue will be the Royal Paragon

Lexi’s founder Sally Wilton, “The new Hub building that we

Halls at the Siam Paragon Mall with screenings and

want to raise funds for will be an attractive, sustainable build,

presentations at the Paragon Cinema.

providing 2,000 hours of additional community space per

The management team had no trouble picking

year. Our mission is to change lives through film. The Lexi Hub

the location as “the support from local exhibition is

with its second screen would mean we can do so much more

extraordinary, the theatres are among the best-

for our community.”

designed and technically enhanced theatres in the

Plans for the new Hub include a second screen and no fewer than 3,860 additional places per year for local



December’s CineAsia due to the recent political

volunteers, the cinema is affordable, accessible and friendly,

schools and nurseries. Find out more at:


CineAsia heads back to Bangkok this December

world and the cinema itself is on the same level as “I am a cinema. Love me.” The Lexi is a prime example of cinema’s role in the community

the convention center,” according to Robert and Andrew Sunshine, the co-managing directors of CineAsia. Find out more at

15/02/2020 10:19


Paul Hermans and Oliver Pasch join Cinionic


CINIONIC HAS ANNOUNCED two new leaders to its team: Paul Hermans (right) and Oliver Pasch (inset), who are joining to support the delivery of expanded managed service and premium service solutions. According to Cinionic, the appointments cement a commitment to a growing exhibition landscape. Paul Hermans joins as senior vice president, cinema as a service (CaaS). Formerly at Barco NV where he led various global change initiatives in aftermarket service optimisation, Paul will now be responsible for the development and global scaling of Cinionic’s new CaaS business, which includes its laser as a service offering. Oliver Pasch joins Cinionic as vice-president, sales and business development in the premium cinema sector. Based in Germany, Oliver is an industry veteran with proven expertise in cinema operations and technology. Over the past 15 years, he was active in the first digital conversion wave, notably serving as sales director of digital cinema at Sony.

Pasch and Hermans will support managed and premium services

Cineworld and RealD announce multi-year partnership on 3D equipment CINEWORLD AND REALD have announced a

industry-leading 3D at our locations. It has

John Trafford-Owen, managing director of

continuation of their partnership on RealD 3D

always been our goal to create the best 3D

RealD Europe, said, “RealD is delighted to

equipment and 3D glasses within the UK. The

experience for our consumers. Movies such


renewal was signed in December as part of a

as “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”, “Wonder

progressive company as Cineworld. Together

wider deal to include Regal in the US.






Woman 1984”, and “Jumanji: The Next Level”

we will strive to develop technology and screen


are made to be seen in 3D. We firmly believe

the latest and greatest movies to consumers in

officer at Cineworld, said, “We’re proud to

in the future of the market and our long-term

the way they were meant to be seen: in

continue our relationship with RealD to offer

partnership with RealD reflects that.”

spectacular, bright and crisp RealD 3D.”




Galalite promotes the screen upgrade path LEADING SCREEN TECHNOLOGY company Galalite recently unveiled

forward-thinking innovation have been our watchwords for generations.

its latest marketing campaign for 2020. The campaign headline “Upgrade

Today, even mobile applications on phones need regular updates, so why

to Galalite” establishes the company as the superior choice. “Whichever

should cinema screens be any different? Upgrades enhance experiences.

screen you’re using, you need an upgrade if it’s not Galalite,” commented

And that’s what we stand for: offering an enhanced experience to the

Yusuf S Galabhaiwala, Galalite’s director of operations, adding, “At Galalite,

cinema-goer, and therefore, benefits to the cinema-owners.”

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C T Stunning visuals: the NC1201L laser solution from NEC


NEC brings epic cinema to Spazio Cines NEC Display Solutions has announced the completion of a new project with Spanish cinema Spazio Cines that brings stunning visuals to the screen while delivering operational savings. NEC has deployed its industry-leading laser projectors in seven theatres at Spazio Cines’ new cinema in Parla near Madrid. The projectors combine vibrant














project, NC1000C and NC1201L, ensure lower total cost of ownership and easier maintenance, resulting in lower lifetime costs and less downtime.

New features and performance improvements: the new DPA-Q series

QSC’s DPA-Q Series power amplifiers roll out globally

QSC HAS ANNOUNCED global availability of its new DPA-Q Series network power amplifiers in four- and eight-channel models. The new DPA-Q Series amplifiers unite the QSC legacy of robust power amplifiers, advancements in high-efficiency output devices, and native network transport, plus the control and monitoring capabilities of the Q-SYS Ecosystem. “The addition of DPA-Q amplifiers to a Q-SYS design is an excellent example of a native ecosystem approach to network design,” says Barry Ferrell, VP, cinema product development and strategy. “Technicians can take advantage of next-generation amplifier design, while also utilising the native signature features and technologies QSC is known for, like Intrinsic Correction. This native approach can greatly reduce installation and setup time.”

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ASSET FINANCE SPECIALIST, Medialease, has supported cinemas throughout the UK, funding everything cinema-related from projectors to bar areas and kiosks, often ensuring that even the smallest boutique cinemas can stay up to date. One current Medialease project is with renowned cinema architect, Bill Chew, who is in the process of developing ‘The Goods Shed Cinema’ in Wymondham, Norfolk. This will be a two-screen cinema, housed in a Grade II-listed building, with a bar/café area and an additional flexible event space that can be used for screenings, workshops, meetings or as a gallery for hire by the local community. This project came about following an approach by the local council and the building’s owner, as they wanted to give the 3,500 sq ft building a new lease of


life, transforming it into a cinema and


Transforming the Goods Shed

Pathé Gaumont strikes a deal for 200 Barco Series 4 laser projectors Cinionic — the Barco, CGS, and ALPD cinema joint venture — has struck a deal with Les Cinémas Pathé Gaumont to bring its all-laser solutions to the European exhibitor. With an agreement for more than 200 Barco Series 4 laser

leisure destination for the local area.

projectors, Cinionic will power

“Using finance will mean we can install

Les Cinémas Pathé Gaumont’s

the latest cinema technology, helping

new-builds in France and

future-proof the venue,” comments Bill.

Africa, beginning with its new

theatre in Sousse, Tunisia. “Our strategic relationships with key exhibitors such as Les Cinémas

Wanda chooses Christie for its 600th multiplex

Pathé Gaumont allow us to continue raising the bar for audiences around the world,”


noted Serge Plasch, chief commercial officer at Cinionic.

Curzon Cinema acquired by Cohen Media An auspicious installation — Wanda selected Christie for its 600th multiplex

Curzon Cinemas, the specialised UK cinema operator, has been bought by Cohen Media Group, an


illumination which deliver significant

Academy Award-winning

feature film distributor and cinema

breakthroughs in image performance

independent theatrical

operator, has chosen Christie’s compact

and brightness, operational lifetime

distribution and production

all-in-one, RGB pure laser cinema

and cost of ownership. All other

company. The deal includes

projector, with RealLaser illumination

auditoriums include a selection of

the purchase of Curzon’s

technology, for its 600th multiplex, the

Christie’s reliable 2K digital cinema

Artificial Eye distribution arm

Guangzhou Haizhu Wanda Cinema

projectors, for screens up to 100ft. The

as well as the Curzon Home

multiplex officially started operations

Cinema streaming operation.

on 30 December.

Curzon Cinemas has been a

With nine auditoriums in total, including a “Prime at Wanda” premium auditorium, the cinema is located in the

Since their official launch, exhibitors

respected name in arthouse

southern port city of Guangzhou. The

worldwide have adopted Christie’s RGB

and specialty films for more

premium auditorium is equipped with

pure laser cinema projectors as a

than 85 years. Curzon currently

power reclining seats, as well as

replacement for lamp-based projection

operates and programmes 20

invigorating surround audio and state-

systems and in new installations. Major

cinemas and 46 screens in and

of-the-art visuals from the Christie

chains in Australia, China, Indonesia,

around the London area.

CP4330-RGB cinema projector. This

India, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines,

pure laser cinema projector features

South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand have

CineLife electronics as well as RealLaser

all selected Christie laser equipment.

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CJ 4DPLEX introduces CGV’s Second Flexound

Odeon Islington Luxe & Dine opens

is now the second CGV screen to

Odeon has opened its new

feature Flexound audio in every

Islington Square cinema in

seat. Based on feedback and

London, launching its Dolby

experiences at its first Flexound

Atmos-equipped Odeon Luxe


& Dine concept, as well as a


new event space equipped

4DPLEX decided to continue the

with high-speed connectivity

co-operation with the Finnish audio specialists. The new SphereX Songpa

and a dedicated on-site

cinema featuring 73 Flexound-boosted seats opened in December.

events team. The screens can










CJ 4DPLEX and Flexound are in talks to expand the collaboration further in

be used for business

more CGV theatres, as well as incorporating Flexound augmented audio with

presentations as well as

4DX and ScreenX. “The original idea about multi-sensory listening came from

shows, with 202 fully reclining

therapy for autistic children,” explains Flexound CEO Merv Heinaro, adding

seats with built-in tables

“Soundwaves are vibrations that can be heard with our ears, but sound can

throughout. Carol Welch,

also be perceived with our body. Why only use our hearing, if we can also

managing director at Odeon

enjoy wonderful movies with our sensation of touch?”

A new way of thinking about sound: Flexound augmented audio

UK and Ireland said: “We’re thrilled to be taking Luxe to the next level with an all-new dine-in proposition. We can’t


wait for fans to get a taste of the new experience, as well as our new gourmet menu.”.

Cineplex shareholders approve sale to Cineworld As CT went to press, shareholders in the Toronto-based Cineplex chain overwhelmingly approved a $2.8bn agreement that will see the company taken

Cost-effective and reliable — the first ever JBL-branded cinema amplifiers

JBL Professional announces its latest DSi 2.0 Series of cinema amplifiers JBL PROFESSIONAL HAS ANNOUNCED its new DSi 2.0 Series cinema amplifiers,

over by UK-based Cineworld

that the company claims offer class-leading power output, state-of-the-art DSP and

Group. The transaction is

advanced networking capabilities for the entire range of JBL cinema loudspeakers.

expected to be completed

The first-ever JBL branded cinema amplifiers, the DSi 2.0 Series builds on the

in the first half of 2020, after

legacy of Crown DSi amplifiers to combine the DSP of Crown’s CDi DriveCore Series

which time its shares would be

amps with a high-power design delivering efficiency and audio fidelity. The DSi 2.0

delisted from the Toronto Stock

Series includes 350W, 700W and 1,200W power configurations, available in analogue

Exchange. The entertainment

and analogue-plus-digital versions with Dante/AES67 and SNMP connectivity.

brands revealed in mid-

“As cinema systems grow larger and more complex with 5.1, 7.1 and immersive

December that they’d signed a

audio, venue owners require more efficient ways of powering and controlling

deal whereby Cineworld agreed

networked audio systems,” commented Karam Kaul, vice president of audio at

to assume Cineplex’s debt and

Harman Professional Solutions. “Cinema managers and integrators looking to

pay $34 per share in cash.

maximise power investment and future-proof systems can count on the DSi 2.0 Series to deliver robust, reliable performance in a compact, cost-effective package.”

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N E W S R E E L :



Supporting the Industry in 2020 2019 PROVED TO BE A stellar year for CTC where the

add in to the mix our podcast which, due to its popularity is set

organisation continued to provide impartial support and

to go bi-monthly, our ever increasing members-only web



content and our continued support of trade events around the

experience and helped exhibitors to realise better outcomes

world along with our very own Cinema Technology Magazine

from technology. Among a range of deliverables including a

and its clear that CTC has a busy year ahead.





report on 3D ghosting, a guide to Premium Cinema Experiences, providing support and educational sessions on

New governors

three continents, podcasts, video content and raising

To deliver on our vision, CTC has recently welcomed three new

awareness of diversity and equality in cinema through our

members to our team to help provide support and expertise

leading Women In Cinema series, CTC continued to educate

with our deliverables. Saul Mahoney

with training courses aimed at ensuring movie-goers get the best possible experience.

Join our cause

(Sundog Media Toolkit), Grainne Peat (Event Cinema Association) and Suhaila

In 2020, the CTC board is going all out with a plan to

Behind everything that we do

Mahmoud (Goldcrest Film International)

support the industry further sharing knowledge and expertise

at the Cinema Technology

join our highly talented cross industry

in key areas including the production workflow process, event

Community is a passion for


cinema, accessibility, the customer journey, end of VPF

ensuring that moviegoers — in

technology upgrade pathways, 3D consumer insights, diversity

fact cinema-goers — have the

in cinema and a long awaited new edition of CTCs leading

best experience that it is

Continued thanks to our sponsors and members

Digital Projection Handbook. Our educational programme will

possible to achieve. If you

As a not-for-profit organisation, the

also continue to grow with new advanced projection and DCP

share that ambition, you can

CTC’s rapid growth and ambitious plan

creation courses set to launch this year to complement our

please join our community

is only possible because of the support

highly successful courses. Add if all of that wasn’t enough then

today by heading over to our

of our members and sponsors. As we


enter 2020, we’d like to say thank you to our

CTC EXECUTIVE TEAM Richard Mitchell (President), Graham Lodge (Vice President), Mike Bradbury, Sandie Caffelle, Michael Denner, Danny Jeremiah, Peter Knight, Sarah Lewthwaite, Adam MacDonald, Suhaila Mahmoud, Saul Mahoney, Andre Mort, David Norris, Alessandra Pavan Bernacchi, Grainne Peat, David Pope, Toni Purvis, Jim Slater, Simon Tandy, Patrick von Sychowski, and Paul Willmott.

013_MAR20_CTC_COLUMN.indd 13

CTC ADVISORY COUNCIL Tom Bert (Barco), Mark Christiansen (Paramount Pictures), Laurence Claydon (Consultant), Brian Claypool (Christie Digital), Theresa English (TK Architects), Nicolas Hamon (Kinepolis), Roland Jones (Vue International), Dominic Simmons (BFI), Russell Smith (Motion Picture Solutions), Sriram Sistla (Harman India), Debbie Stanford Kristiansen (Novo Cinemas), Alexey Vinokurov (RealD)




members our



in and

Corporate sponsors for their generosity in supporting us. Christie Digital, Harkness Screens, QSC, RealD, Arts Alliance Media, Movio, NEC, Picture House Uckfield and Strong MDI — thank you for your support. 0 3 / 2 0


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14/02/2020 16:10

Film services since 1938. This is how we connect.

Empowering exhibitors worldwide with proven, reliable IP delivery and live-streaming Gofilex CT ad March 2020.indd 1

Gofilex is proud to support Paralympian Niels de Langen in his pursuit of gold at the Paralympic Games, Beijing 2022. 19/02/2020 17:50


Multiplex Merger Mania December delivered not one but two Christmas cinema crackers — a proposed $2.1billion acquisition of Canada’s Cineplex by Cineworld and Cohen Media Group’s purchase of Curzon. With more consolidation likely this year and beyond, Patrick von Sychowski examines merger mania in the exhibition sector.



provide the benefits achievable through consolidation (or at

we are seeing among the larger

least not to an acceptable timescale). Those benefits of course

exhibitors (and to a lesser extent to date

involve efficiency savings on ‘back office’ functions, but also

on the distribution side of the house in

the increased negotiating power that comes from being a

studios) is unique to our industry,”

larger player in the market.” Cineworld more than any seems

commented Phil Clapp, head of the UK

to embody this ‘efficiency savings’ drive. In December it raised

Cinema Association and president of UNIC, when CT contacted

its ‘synergies’ goal from $150m to $190m for Regal, citing

him for his take on the subject. “Rather it is something seen in


many mature industries where organic growth alone does not

elimination of excess costs.” In January it was announced that

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Regal would follow Cineworld’s lead in switching from CocaCola to Pepsi, only the most prominent of brand and supplier Clapp is confident, however, that we will not just see large and uniform cinema brands in the future. “While mergers and acquisitions of the scale seen recently grab headlines, more general growth and investment in the cinema experience means that if anything its diversity will continue to expand,” he predicts. “I see diversity of offerings — ­ not just film content, but also experiences and environments — continuing to grow.” He points to the different focuses that has seen Everyman grow its comfy couches proposition across the UK, Odeon its Luxe recliners and Cineworld its 4DX sites. “At its core [cinema] will remain the unbeatable social experience of seeing a film in a room with a bunch of strangers, but how that is presented, and how it is linked with other social experiences, will continue to develop.” This is not just a UK trend. “Nothing I see across many European territories suggests that the public’s appetite for that is anywhere near exhausted,” Clapp notes. Yet the most significant mergers in 2020 might not be in Europe or the Americas, but China. With box office growth slowing from double-digits to 5.4% in 2019 in mainland China and the spread of Coronavirus seriously impacting exhibition, several local cinema chains are feeling the heat. Already in 2018, mounting debts of $60m in unpaid wages and rent forced SMI Holdings to suspend operation of 140 of 320 sites. The company still hasn’t recovered its financial footing and could be the most high profile target of any M&A activity. There is a chance the biggest deals might be in cinemas you wouldn’t necessarily have heard off. Below is a guide to those that might find themselves on the block this year.


10 to watch in 2020

‘harmonisations’ across the Atlantic.

China’s BO growth slowed from double digits to 5.4% in 2019

These are the ten cinema operations to keep an eye on this coming year, in terms of M&As or changes of ownership. Some of these have signalled publicly that they are available to buy, while others look likely as strategic acquisition opportunities. Yet with almost no truly large chains (think over 1,000 screens) left to buy, the time is starting to run out for mega(plex) deals.


INDIA Carnival Cinemas

Given the high stock market valuation of Indian multiplex majors PVR and INOX, they are likely to be unaffordable for an outsider to swoop in and nab. With the country’s #3 Cinepolis India already being part of an international exhibition major, this just leaves Carnival as a prime target for anyone wanting to establish a major presence in India. While Carnival is supposed to be buying Novo, it may well end up itself being the target of an overseas acquisition.

WHY: India is the world’s largest cinema market in terms of tickets sold each year, with a buoyant domestic film industry. While it has not grown as fast as China, growth has been sustainable and there is still a lot of scope for expansion.


USA / LATIN AM Cinemark International

With Wanda having effectively merged AMC and Carmike and Cineworld proposing much the same with Regal and Cineplex, this leaves Cinemark as the only one of the original Top 5 cinema operators in USA/Canada that is now still domestically controlled. However, with its geographical footprint across both North and South America, it represents an interesting target. Theoretically Marcus, Harkins, or National Amusements could be an easier target, but they are all family-run operations that probably would have already sold out if they wanted to.

WHY: Cinemark is large and has a foot in both the mature North American and the growing Latin American cinema markets. It will soon be the only major cinema operator in North America that is not controlled by either Wanda or



Cineworld recently raised its ‘synergies’ goal from $150m to $190m for Regal

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Cineworld. The company is well regarded and considered to Mounting debts meant SMI holdings had to close 140 of its 320 cinemas

have good management.

15/02/2020 09:39


10 8 2

9 6 4 3




CHINA Golden Village

Flush with cash from the sale of its mainland China cinema network, Hong Kong’s Orange Sky Golden Harvest (OSGH)


bought out a 50% stake from Australia’s Village Roadshow in a deal worth $129m. This created a unified ownership structure that could enable OSGH to spin or sell off the GV cinema operation to focus on film production or other media.


While GV is established in mature Asian cinema

markets (Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore), cinema-going in Singapore in particular is still expanding. It is also affordable enough to be part of a larger network across South-east Asia.


AUSTRALIA/NZ Village Cinemas

Village Roadshow was the subject of a $517m takeover bid by Pacific Equity Partners last year. This includes not just Village Cinemas, but also Village’s Australian studios (home to “Thor: Ragnarok”, Aquaman,” and other big titles), a distribution operation and theme parks. The feeling is that these could be worth more if broken up and separated.

WHY: The cinema business would be a relatively easy and quick stand-alone sale. Village competes with Wanda-owned


Hoyts and Event (which is selling its German CineStar to Vue)

NIGERIA/GHANA Filmhouse/ Silverbird

in Australia and New Zealand. This means that potentially anyone from Cineworld to Cinepolis could come knocking.

African market could do worse than invest in one of the two


major operators over in West Africa: Silverbird Cinema or

Helios is a part of Polish print and publishing conglomerate

Filmhouse. This is not an investment with quick or immediate

Agora. It competes with Vue’s Multikino and Cineworld’s

pay-off, but with the second IMAX multiplex opening in

Cinema City but tends to be spread out more, with presence

Nigeria (there are already two in Kenya), there is clearly the

in mid-size towns. Expansion has meant the chain has been a

potential for long-term growth in the continent with the

drag on the parent company (usually it’s the other way around

world’s youngest population.

with print companies), but unlike Sweden’s Bonnier selling off

Anyone looking to get a head-start in the billion-strong

WHY: Although these are the smallest of all the cinemas listed in terms of actual screens (Silverbird has 65 across 10

POLAND Hellos Cinemas

SF Bio (now part of Odeon/AMC), there has been no indication from Agora that it is looking to divest its exhibition business.

sites, while Filmhouse has one more site and plans for 25 in

WHY: Poland is Central Europe’s largest cinema market

total) their long-term potential is huge. Audiences in Nigeria

and continues to grow strongly. Vue and Cineworld would not

and West Africa have a proven taste for film and the rise of

be able to buy it on competition grounds, so this leaves the

the middle class and malls creates demand for cinemas.

door open for other chains to make an audacious offer.

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£2 bn


India is the world’s largest market in terms of ticket sales, while China is the fastest growing. Malaysia, however, is Southeast Asia’s only territory with a dominant single-country operator





It would take a brave international cinema operator to step in and buy a major cinema chain in the country that lays claim to inventing cinema and treats it as an art and not just a business. Yet of the three big French chains (Gaumont-Pathé, CGR and UGC) it is UGC that would be the most obvious target. Analysts also agree that the market is ripe for a shake-up, with Kinepolis making small in-roads from Belgium and and no bigger

Malaysia’s largest cinema chain Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC)

consolidation than CGR’s purchase of Cap’Cinema in 2018 and

let it be known in 2016 that it was up for sale and discussions

Gaumont Pathé buying Luc Besson’s cinemas the year before.

were held at the time with Korea’s CJ CGV. Ultimately, the Koreans had to issue a statement in December that year explaining that they had no intention to buy GSC, with people

Amount Vue cinemas was put up for sale in 2019

WHY: France remains Europe’s largest cinema market by revenue and cinema is firmly entrenched as a cultural activity.

familiar with the discussions saying the parties were too far

Because of the lack of overlap with other major European

apart on price. Since then there has been no mention of a

circuits, it would make it relatively easy for anyone other than

further sale, but once for sale, most likely still for sale. If the

its two French competitors to buy it. But… it is French.

price tag on GSC is too high, perhaps Mr International Cinema Buyer would be interested in their smaller rival MBO at a much more affordable price.

WHY: With neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are already dominated by big international players. Malaysia is

France is Europe’s largest cinema market by revenue



The sale of Vue seems to have been longer coming and even

the only territory in Southeast Asia with a large single-country

more delayed than the “Avatar” sequels. Rumours about a

cinema operator. The market is dynamic and still growing, not

possible sale or IPO have been swirling for years, but in the

least with the states of Perlis and Kelantan being the only

summer of 2019 it was revealed that Vue would be for sale —

territories on earth without cinemas, now that even Saudi

with a price tag of over £2billion. That would value the operator

Arabia has allowed them.


UK The Light Cinemas

If you were to design a cinema chain to be a tasty acquisition morsel, then it would probably end up looking a lot like the UK’s The Light cinemas. This new entrant has bought, refurbished and sprung up a series of low-cost but highdesign multiplexes, in rock-solid locations such as Sheffield,

Russia is Europe’s largest cinema market by admissions

at around twice what AMC paid for Odeon Cinemas and still more, even if the Nordic Cinema Group acquisition was factored in. Several industry insiders have baulked at this valuation, particularly at a time when Vue has attracted


criticism from its rivals for its ticket price cutting strategy.

In 2019, Village Roadshow was subject of a $517m takeover bid by Pacific Equity Partners.

This means there are few potential buyers, unless a smaller

WHY: There is no larger circuit currently available for sale. cinema chain wants to do a reverse-takeover, as Cineworld did with Regal. The price is likely to be a deterrent even to anyone who fancies giving Tim Richards and co. a big pay day.

Bolton, Stockport, Bradford and elsewhere. The company is still expanding, but is sufficiently well regarded to sit nicely in a larger international configuration, at least for someone ready to compete with Cineworld, Odeon and Vue on their home turf. The Light has shown that it can be done.

WHY: With a portfolio of 10 sites, the operator has reached critical mass in terms of sale-ability. It might also help that its management has close ties to the Saudi Muvi exhibition operation. 1 8


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20/02/2020 10:33 10/02/2020 17:43


The vertical challenge… The decades-old Paramount Decrees in the US restricted the dominant vertical integration of Studio and Exhibitors, banning practices such as block-booking of content. Now the US Department of Justice will soon repeal them. David Hancock considers the implications for exhibitors worldwide — not only in the Domestic market.

HILE POWELL AND PRESSBURGER’S film “The Red Shoes” was beating George Sidney’s “The Three Musketeers” into top spot at the US box office, and Laurence Olivier’s “Hamlet” was taking both Best Film and Best Actor at the Oscars, 1948 also saw the end to a highly significant anti-trust case that had been rumbling on for most of the previous decade.

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The case, dubbed The Paramount Decrees, was an

the impact on the business. The DoJ considers that the

amalgamation of two broad strands of dispute: first, the

integration that made the decrees necessary are no longer

vertical integration of studios from production through to

in place, and today’s distributors are not in a position to

screening the films and, second, the business practices of

bring them back, even if it made economic sense. In

block-booking films and making circuit-wide deals.

addition — and significantly — the general advances in anti-

By 1945, studios owned 17% of cinemas in the country, but a telling 45% of film revenue. The case began in 1938

When the subject was first mooted last summer, the

studios of the time. The list of defendants is surprisingly

exhibitor association NATO commented on the harmful

well-known to us these days: Paramount, MGM, Warner

effects of block-booking, which fall within the two-year

Bros, 20th Century Fox, RKO Pictures, Universal Pictures,

sunset period. The market has two years to work out a

Columbia Pictures, United Artists. Looking from today’s

viable position. More recently, the Directors Guild of

perspective, a notable absentee from this particular list is

America, called the changes ‘a step in the wrong direction’

Walt Disney, which agreed to abide by the ruling (as did

and believes more market scrutiny is needed, not less.

The case itself was won in 1940 but non-compliance

different from that in place during and before 1940. The after-market for films is bigger than the box office itself,

the effects, led to a renewed attack. The DoJ won this case

and the US (domestic) market is less important

in 1945 and an appeal was finally heard in 1948. This

proportionally to film studios than it was back then, but

appeal led to the overall ruling that the industry now

within the USA, the studios still have a dominant position

knows as the Paramount Decrees. The ruling coincided

in the theatrical arena.

with the advent of mass market TV in the USA, with both

Will studios now move back into the theatrical

seeming to take their toll on the movie business. From

business? The most likely answer is no. The Paramount

more than 4bn admissions in the 1930s and most of the

Decrees only applied to the US, and while studios have

1940s, annual admissions dropped below 2bn in 1957 and

been known to own cinemas outside of their domestic

below 1bn by 1969. The same impact was felt on

market, this has not been common practice and is almost

withered. From a peak of 20,000 in 1944, the screen base fell back to 13,000 by 1967.

Back to the future… Fast forward 71 years, and somewhat



Paramount Decrees are back.

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It is true that the market for movies today is vastly

by the studios, who formulated a Unity Plan to circumvent

the screen base, as cinema


impacts that the decrees were designed to prevent.

as the US Department of Justice (DoJ) sued the major film

others) but wasn’t specifically mentioned in it.

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trust law will also cover some of the potential negative

“The Directors Guild of America said the changes were “a step in the wrong direction”, calling for more scrutiny”

gone now. The business of cinemas is not a media one; it is a property- and leisure-based one. The studios have enough on their plate working out their response to the more contemporary content-watching avenues, such as streaming,





distribution pipelines that make more economic and strategic sense. This

Except they aren’t; they are being removed from the law

seems to be the case too for streaming giants Netflix and

books and the conditions imposed on the defendants are

Amazon, which have been linked to buying cinema chains

being removed. The timing isn’t prompted by any

in the past. While Netflix is acquiring the landmark

particular hostility to the cinema industry, but is part of a

Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, however, this

wider removal of around 1,300 legacy decrees that the

single site seems to be more of a venue and entry route to

DoJ considers to be no longer relevant.

the major global cinema awards, as well as a conciliatory

The DoJ is terminating the decrees as they feel they

statement to the wider industry. The possibility is there,

have served their original purpose and are no longer in the

though. The DoJ itself acknowledges that the courts of

public interest. There will be a two-year sunset period on

today will look at vertical integration in the light of how it

the bans on block-booking and circuit dealing to assess

can help the industry, not simply be harmful.

14/02/2020 17:00


The more likely cause of concern to the exhibition





industry is summed up by the phrase ‘theater by theater, picture by picture’, as written about by industry veteran Jim Amos. This was the leitmotif of studio sales teams. Even if they tried all other tactics to pressure exhibitors into taking movies, the explicit demand that one film was


taken with another was not allowed.


The first element of this phrase to unpick is ‘picture by





picture’ ie the removal of the ban on block-booking (in two





years). In an industry consultation process conducted by





the DoJ, many of the comments came from smaller exhibition circuits and independent cinemas (the socalled Mom ‘n’ Pop outfits) which considered they didn’t have the scale to resist larger content providers imposing block-booking and would therefore lose their ability to


create their own desired programming schedule. This is a


credible concern as block booking was often used to





bundle lesser content in with attractive films. In an era





when the release schedule is already crowded (to the tune





of 15 new films a week), filling screen space with films that you have not specifically chosen yourself is not of great interest to mid-to-small-sized exhibitors, even if it is less of a problem to the larger players. The concerns expressed by independent theaters about the ending of the decrees


also apply to indie distribution, which can be crowded out by this practice.

The perils of circuit dealing







The other area that is covered in the decrees is that of circuit dealing. This is the practice of making an exclusive deal with a specific circuit, gaining preferable terms by doing so. It is not hard to see how this could harm the market, and harm the screens excluded from such a deal. Areas of the country may not have access to a film, and the



Remainder 100











90 80 70 60 50 40






30 20 10 0

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

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0 1937













Learning the lessons of the past

may end up in losses by the other circuits while that film is

It is easy to see how legal rulings from seventy years ago can be

being played.

dismissed as irrelevant in today’s more complex marketplace.

The US is not the only country that took the view that

However, there are sufficient similarities between the two eras

cinema exhibition and distribution should be kept as separate

to warrant some caution. It does seem that the strategic

activities, even if it is the most well-known example. There are

direction of film studios does not include acquiring cinema

long-standing examples of vertical integration around the

circuits, but the concern exists for smaller players, both in

world, even if they are in the minority. In Japan, Toho, and to a

distribution and exhibition. For these players, the cinema is a

lesser extent Toei are both highly integrated, being exhibitors

self-contained ecosystem, not burdened by issues such as

as well as major

streaming, and any changes in the market dynamics brought


distributors in the country. In its role as exhibitor, Toho has 18.2% of the screen base and a 27.2% share of distribution.



impact of a major blockbuster being tied to a certain circuit



“It is easy to see how legal rulings from 70 years ago can be dismissed in today’s complex marketplace”

about by the removal of the Paramount Consent Decrees could have a significant impact on their business. It is to be hoped that the existing anti-trust legislation is sufficient to avoid major harm. David Hancock is Research Director, Cinema at IHS Markit (now a part of Informa Tech) and the President of the EDCF.

In France, domestic major Gaumont was for many years vertically integrated until it sold off its exhibition activities to exhibition partner Pathé, which is integrated in its own right, as well as operating across a number of countries. In Germany and Austria, Constantin Film has been a major distributor for many years, and is also the owner of the major Cineplexx circuit. In the UK, a smaller player in Curzon operates as a distributor (acquiring Artificial Eye in 2006) and exhibitor or arthouse films, as well as offering a streaming platform (Curzon Home Cinema). Curzon has been acquired by Cohen Media Group (see p15), a US group comprising theatrical distribution and Landmark Cinemas which they acquired last year. 2 4


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14/02/2020 16:58

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19/02/2020 17:03

Ready to play...? Is the cinema industry capturing the esports flag, or is it struggling to find the health boosts needed to survive? Melissa Cogavin plugs in and sees where this sector can lead exhibitors.

AYBE YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH to remember Sony’s launch of the original PlayStation in 1994? If so, you’re arguably too old to be fully aware of the gaming revolution taking place right now. First, a few numbers. The number of online gamers globally is predicted to rise to 2.7bn by 2021, up from 1.8bn in 2014. The average gamer spends 90 minutes online a day. The global value of the industry in 2018 was $135bn, compared to global box office last year which was $41.7bn. The gaming industry is worth more than the music and movie industries combined. Cinema esports events are a novel sideline and an exciting development worthy of investment, but they are far from the gaming industry’s core business. Gaming forms a tiny fraction of the box office share of your average multiplex; some are dabbling, others are committed, but it’s still early days and

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light-years from the cinema industry’s core business. There are

of music events in cinemas six to eight years ago. It is clear

tiny percentages from both sides making progress. It is limited

from speaking to all parties across the supply chain from

but the potential is huge and the buzz palpable.

amateur/pro gamers, sponsors, distributors, production

Esports in cinemas surfaces on industry panels occasionally and while the speakers wax lyrical about potential it is obvious

companies and exhibitors that all are excited by the possibilities.

to all that we haven’t even got close to achieving that. Gaming

Jonathan Woodhouse, former national sales manager for

and esports are increasingly becoming a serious consideration

events at Cineworld and himself a committed gamer thinks

for circuits, though; IMAX recently announced a partnership

esports in cinemas will be a big revenue stream within 15

with Vindex, distributing exclusive esports events across its

years. “If it’s commercialised sufficiently it could surpass studio

theaters worldwide; progress is slow but internationally circuits

product,” he added which, given the numbers, is possible.

everywhere are taking the plunge to some degree.

“Retail spend alone makes it worth investment by exhibitors.”

Just another form of event cinema, right?

Let’s get some preconceptions out of the way. First, esports isn’t gaming. Fans in this area will roll their eyes, but to the uninitiated they may appear to be the same. Alban Dechelotte,

There are technical, commercial and cultural challenges to

head of sponsorship and business development at Riot Games

esports and gaming in cinemas, and viewed through the

— the owner of League of Legends — patiently explained to me

broader prism of event cinema itself, the sector is reminiscent

that gaming is the business of playing games while esports is

Commercial considerations With platforms such as Caffeine and Twitch offering free

cinemas in 2015. The results were mixed. “The exhibitor

access to esport tournaments, the challenge for cinemas

community, to their credit, embraced the concept and

is how to monetise events. Cinepax CEO Mariam el Bacha

those who were not 100% convinced trusted that we were

explained that the appeal of cinema advertising pales in

trialling something new — and tried the initiative based on

comparison to exposure sponsors get from partnering

trust. We were open that this was a new concept and we

with esports producers who advertise during tournaments

were hopeful, but unsure of the commercial potential.”

in cinemas. Such willing partners solve the ticketing issue,

To get around the issue of Twitch and Caffeine, he

covering the costs of the tournaments. Wim Stocks added

explained: “We invested in behind-the-scenes content so

that it’s all about who you want to reach. “For Generation

that cinema attendees saw bonus content not available

Z/Millenials, if you’re a brand looking to reach this audience

elsewhere.” Making it worth leaving the house is key; the

then it’s through esports, via influencers.”

addition of exclusive content is a great PR tool and word-

If the average concessions spend in a cinema visit is

of-mouth recommendations can’t be overestimated.

$10, as Oliver Delaney, European channel director at Coca-

Simon Smith-Wright, founder of Advncr, a creative

Cola informed me, multiply that over a 4-5 hour period.

production agency with clients including Xbox, Red Bull

With a sponsor on board, free entry ceases to be an issue.

and EA Games as well as key influencers agrees. “The

Further to an association with Riot Games and League of

moment has to be spectacular. But it’s about the shared

Legends, Coca-Cola signed a deal last year with Activision

experience. That can’t be replicated in your living room.”

Blizzard Esports Leagues to become the official partner of

This is perhaps why Alban is reluctant to scale up

Overwatch League, such is the level of their commitment

League of Legends to anything more than a Summer Final,

to esports in cinemas. Robert Borchard-Young co-founder

“We’re not ready to do weekly shows,” he said. ”With finals,

of BY Experience, pioneers of event cinema and distributor

it’s an event. Football tournaments in some territories work

of the Met Opera, trialled some early esports events in

in cinemas — but not weekly. It’s the same for esports.”

026_MAR20_ESPORTS.indd 27

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concerned with watching others do so. The opportunities are large but if they are to be exploited, cinemas have to be clear

The technical considerations

what they are trying to achieve in their estates. Second, the generation gap. It’s not just about what the

Cinemas are used to their estates being used as multi-

kids are into; gamers are not an anti-social, nerdy demographic

purpose venues, but the issue of wifi is a recurring

you never come into contact with. They’re very social, they just

theme. King Kima Perez, creative director at Hammers

don’t socialise the way their parents do. Gamers are already

Esports, made his case very clear. “Give the gamers

your core audience; they are already coming to your cinema.

separate wifi access. Give them continuous bandwidth

They are likely — but not exclusively — male, aged between 15-

for the rooms where we are hosting these events. The

30. They are used to consuming media in ways utterly different

worst part about trying to play a game is to experience

from anyone aged over 40. Their preferred medium is online.

lag, or internet drop off. That’s a gamer’s no. 1 irritation

TV guides and terrestrial television are meaningless to them.

and losing the signal for a split-second could be the

Their social outlets are Snapchat, Caffeine and Twitch, not

difference between winning and losing.”

Facebook. Gaming is much more aligned with the millennial

Jonathan Woodhouse explained further. “A split-

mindset than feature films (attention span, agility, tech savvy,

second lag wouldn’t be noticeable to an amateur

multi-tasking), but they’re also a generation used to not paying

gamer but with professionals participating, any kind of

for content, something we will touch on later.

lag is 100% noticeable.” The irritation is akin to

Gaming is a community, much like a Facebook feed.

watching the winning goal in a cup final when the

Georgie, a 22-year-old amateur gamer told me that her social

screen goes black, and everyone’s phones around you

life is tied up with watching other pro gamers at her friends’

starts buzzing with the news that you missed. In

houses compete for big prize money; they will all gather

addition to better wifi access, other solutions include

together and watch the tournament on TV via Twitch. Those

networked cinemas so tournaments can take place

with social anxiety find hiding behind an online avatar a huge

between sites. For more on the technology, see p.30.

release and it gives them an outlet and inspires confidence. Craig, a semi-pro gamer explained to me that gaming, in his view, is the only form of media where the gamer himself is actively playing a part in his own entertainment. All other

Cinemas have a number of options available: to screen

content renders the viewer exactly that — a spectator. “Where

esports tournaments taking place live elsewhere in the world,

else can you find that kind of fulfillment?” he sighed.

to stage esports tournaments themselves or expand their

Surprisingly considering the younger demographic, the male-heavy ratio in esports has resulted in some ugly

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a long game and it’ll take time to find your audience.

offering and offer gaming areas in their lobbies with banks of consoles and screens. Or all three.

treatment of women; Georgie told me she is reluctant to use a

On the surface the conventional cinema auditorium, with

microphone in first person shooter (FPS) online games like

its big screen and surround sound seems tailor-made for an

Battlefield as she has been on the receiving end of considerable

esports tournament screened live — a League of Legends

abuse as a lone female in a game featuring multiple male

Summer Finals for example, but the reality is that these

players worldwide. “There’s a rating system now like Uber so

tournaments are lengthy — 4-5 hours at least — and the crowd

it’s better than it was five years ago, but it’s still there,” she

are sociable. For that amount of time, they expect to move

explained. Jonathan told me that the esports tournament

around a lot. They expect the lights to be low, not dark. This is

auditorium therefore must be a safe environment where

a sociable atmosphere where people are meeting friends, and

people can meet in person, perhaps for the first time, and

using their phones is a prerequisite, obviously. Consoles at the

above all have fun. With that in mind what are the challenges?

front feature actual gamers at work — the audience will want

More joined-up, long term thinking, managed expectations,

to see what’s going on. Cinemas have to be prepared to lose at

investment in people and cinemas’ estates, likewise a deep

least two standard shows to accommodate one tournament,

understanding of the gaming culture at the executive end of

possibly at an unsocial hour, and with free entry. Superficially

exhibition. Like all event cinema content, cultivating esports is

this sounds a terrible deal. Conventional cinemas are okay for

15/02/2020 09:35

E - S P O R T S

now, but to make the jump to the next level, investment in

decided it There is a market in Pakistan.” As a result, this year

remodelling sites is increasingly going to be a consideration.

Cinepax will screen exclusive esports championships in an

Show your workings…

initial four of its nine cities this year, bringing teams from the UK to compete. They have launched a unique training initiative

It wasn’t easy getting UK exhibitors to talk about their

giving gamers the opportunity to improve techniques and

experiences, which is revealing in itself and a reminder that we

compete live with their heroes. “It gives something back to

are still in the sector’s relative infancy; people are happier

customers, and gives gamers invaluable exposure,” she told

sharing good news in general. In Canada, Wim Stocks, CEO at

me. It’s also the first time a cinema has actively addressed

Worldgaming and Collegiate StarLeague, a division of Cineplex

social engagement and is a major PR coup for Cinepax.

has overseen a substantial refit of cinemas and with huge enthusiasm told me, “When you sit in a theatre, it’s designed

No-one said it would be simple

for you to sit there and look straight ahead, there is no ability to

It isn’t easy for exhibitors. They are constantly being told to

get up and move around and that’s a big part of any esports

invest and upgrade, running to stand still. Studio product is

event. They are 6-8 hours in one day and taking place over

their core. Esports take place at odd times of the day and night,

several days — quarter, semi, finals over two days.” Wim said.

conflicting with peak times. It’s not regular business. Esports

“You can’t sit there for two whole days like that.”

companies still think about cinema in terms of revenue rather

StarLeague is investing heavily in remodelling certain

than as part of their marketing spend, a shift the music industry

Cineplex auditoria, taking out seats for these events. “We have

made a few years ago which helped its growth exponentially.

tried all sorts of configurations,” Wim explained. Jonathan

Certainly there are changes to be made if exhibitors are to

Woodhouse believes adaptable seating is an inevitable part of

profit long-term from gaming and esports, but in all likelihood

the evolution of the cinema as a multi-purpose venue — and

these changes will pay off; this time the multiplex will benefit

why not? In Turkey, one chain has embraced both gaming and

more than the indie — up until now the traditional home for

esports, combining them in a series of lavish venues — banks of

event cinema. Jonathan Woodhouse was firm on this: “Invest in

flatscreens and gaming suites as well as a refurbished cinema

passionate gamers who understand the culture and medium

for esports tournaments — across the country. Adnan Akdemir,

as staff. A dedicated gaming events manager would be ideal.

CEO at FDR Oyun Cumhuriyeti showcased his operation at the

Invest in dedicated wifi. Invest maybe in your seating. Take

ECM conference in Istanbul in November with impressive early

the long view. Recognise the generation gap and the

results. “We opened our first site six months ago in Istanbul

mindset of millennials. Find partners to make your events

and occupancy is around 20%. Our second at the Metropol

sustainable. Learn from gamers. It’s a mindset — gaming is

mall is 25% and our latest, in Adana, opened last month with a


whopping 50% occupancy at a 14-hour operational cycle.”

At Riot Games, Alban summed it up. “We’re privileged. We

Mariam El Bacha, CEO of Cinepax in Pakistan explained the

aren’t growing as fast as we expected, but we are thankful,

decision to move into esports; in an early experiment featuring

not frustrated. We have trusted networks, good relationships

competing teams playing in one of her lobbies, streamed live

with exhibitors and several great events each year. We are

to a packed auditorium next door, Mariam was struck by the

educating and being educated by our fans. But if you’re going

engagement of the all-male audience aged 15-24. The cinema

to make a go of this, exhibitors need to think about scheduling

was full. “They were shouting at the screen,” she laughed. “That

esports as a priority, not as a back-up.”

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TO GAME... OR NOT TO GAME? Cinema’s relationship with esports and gaming has been building steadily over the past five years or so. Whether it’s playing League of Legends on a specially set up console in the local multiplex (“gaming”), or watching a major Fortnite tournament in Screen 2 in the

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E - S P O R T S

eSports vs gaming? The first thing to realise is that, fundamentally, eSports as an event cinema concept requires a similar technological set-up to other live event screenings. Caspar Nadaud, CEO of distributor Piece of Magic Entertainment, says, “In principle an [eSports] event is similar to satellite broadcasts, like the ones used by The Metropolitan Opera or the Royal Opera House.” And operators are well-versed in the technical problems that can occur, having been using this method since circa 2005. But for an operator encouraging customers to spend time actively gaming in their kitted-out cinema foyer or arena, the requirements are a completely different beast. And there are technology-based pitfalls to be aware of if a smooth gaming event is desired. Latency, ping and lag may not be terms that trip of the tongue of many in the cinema industry, unless you have a predisposition towards gaming — but these three terms

early hours of Tuesday morning (“eSports”), cinemas can cater to each discipline in different ways. But given the extensive technology demands, Helen Budge uncovers what’s actually required when an exhibitor is looking to convert its sites into successful gaming venues?

030_MAR20_ESPORTS_TECH.indd 31

describe different elements of technical delay experienced when gamers play high-speed games. And these can not only be atmosphere-killers if they cause problems, but entire tournament killers. High monetary and prestige stakes of the top gaming tournaments mean they can be devastating, but even at a lower level these are to be avoided. So what technical aspects need to be taken into consideration to avoid these issues and ensure a cinema can successfully convert itself to a gaming centre? And how well suited are they as venues?

A place in cinema? Undeniably so, but only if supported by the technology

Hosting major tournaments demands high connectivity

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E - S P O R T S

The GFinity eSports Arena — a model for the future? GFinity in south-west London, is perhaps the example that most readily springs to mind when talking about cinema venues adapted for eSports and gaming within the UK. Based in the Fulham branch of international cinema chain Vue, it’s a purposebuilt venue for gamers. One converted screen is dedicated to gaming action, another is a Green Room and there’s a warm-up space for players. James Dobbin, director of event cinema UK and International for Showcase Cinemas, says of these kinds of adapted spaces, “The reality is that with retail in decline I believe we’ll see more retail and cinema spaces used as fixed eSports locations. Their permanence means

“Cinema design doesn’t allow for much movement in the screen. After all, you’re normally there to see films”

they don’t require rigging/de-rigging, they’re likely to be more centrally located, and most importantly they allow for multi-player set ups.” One can be forgiven for thinking that this kind of venue would take significant investment to fit out. But Jon Winkle, founder and managing director

of gaming events company epic.LAN, explains that although a venue like GFinity would have to consider substantial outgoings for their broadcast technology, some other costs aren’t as expensive (relatively-speaking) as you might think.

So what are we talking about? Perhaps surprisingly to some, Winkle explained that when an event operator books a venue to put on a pop-up gaming night, they’ll typically take the necessary kit with them. This includes everything from cabling right the way through to gaming seats and consoles and these (generally-speaking) aren’t the venue’s concern. With his “event operator” hat on though, Winkle outlined that the main considerations for him when looking at a cinema or other potential venue for a gaming night would actually be the physical layout and available space in an established cinema. A cinema’s design doesn’t allow for much movement in a screen — why would it when you’re normally there to watch a film — but space is necessary for an event due to the need to accommodate extra bodies Winkle says, “If I’m considering potential cinema venues

such as commentators and press. This is also a key consideration for a venue looking to purpose-adapt any of its screens permanently in the way that Vue did with GFinity. And it’s not, Winkle says, just front of house space that should be considered, although this

Casual gaming is now ubiquitous — Fortnite is what your mobile phone was made for, obviously

for an event, the questions I’m going to be asking are about the physical layout of the cinema, the available power circuit, the connectivity / the LAN (Local Area Network), the ventilation system.”

area is important in setting the tone for the event. For

He adds that a cinema converting itself to a permanent

example, audio in the auditorium needs to be heard by the

venue would obviously need to invest in its own kit and the

audience to keep them abreast of the live-action play, but

necessary specifications for computers, consoles etc. would

the players actually shouldn’t be able to hear commentary,

have to be to a certain standard. But relatively speaking

partly to avoid distraction but also to avoid any tactical

these costs are manageable — a decent gaming PC can sit in

comments that might provide an advantage.

the region of £1-2k — it just takes research.

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Sponsorships and partnerships When it comes to costs such as gaming seats, PCs, even player uniform (mainly applicable at higher levels of contest) this is where relevant sponsorships need to be explored. Sponsors will often agree to provide branded equipment, saving the operator money but gaining exposure for themselves. At the ESL One Birmingham 2018 (UK) contest, a whole host of sponsors supplied different elements, taking financial pressure off the organisers. The outfit Need for Seat provided, unsurprisingly, player seating and DHL went all out with its incredibly well-received immersive package delivery robot EffiBOT.

The fountain of youth & the holy grail? The conversation around esports in cinemas often carries an undertone, with some seeing it as an amateur, niche area that exhibitors are hesitant to invest in. But esports fans are the Holy Grail: the “younger cinema audience”. And they’re known as some of the most passionate, tech-savvy fans out there — but they can also be some of the most unforgiving. A one-off technical hitch might be forgiven, but honest communication really is crucial. If the venue has regular technical issues, trust will be lost with that operator, and it’s hard to win it back. Johnny Carr, Vue’s group event cinema manager, notes “When we put on an esports event one of our priorities is to

Connectivity: the need for speed Of course, internet connectivity is perhaps the biggest issue for any potential gaming venue. Despite some cinema buildings being old, there’s a misconception that this means they’re difficult to connect to the modern world. Winkle explains that typically location and infrastructure determine how strong the internet connection is. He emphasises that cinemas should not use guest wifi for gaming, “There must be a dedicated, wired connection physically or technically segregated from the accessible network. This cannot be the public wifi, it’s just

promote an arena-feel and crowd atmosphere that is notably Screen 1, down the corridor? The 2016 CS:GO MLG tournament saw NaVi battle Luminosity in the game’s first $1m prize pool contest — hosted live in an 18,000-seat ice hockey stadium in Columbus, Ohio

different from our usual film-going experience. Our screens using Dolby Sound and 4K technology are a significant part of this.” Carr adds that they encourage what some would see as “anti-social cinema behaviour” which is key to fans’ enjoyment. Without this, as Dom Sacco says, “Atmosphere and crowd enjoyment is great justification for putting on the event in the first place.” To illustrate this point, Vue’s esports “instructions” on its website include the following: “Sit at the edge of your seat or leap to your feet and watch from the aisles.”

So is this something cinema can achieve?

too unreliable. People streaming live to Facebook, taking pictures or even the weather can impact performance.”

Cinemas acting as gaming venues makes a lot of practical sense. As the conversation

Dom Sacco, content director at the British eSports

continued with Jon Winkle, he said, “The more we discuss cinemas as gaming venues

Association, explains what is at stake: “Games that require split

the more it makes sense. They cope regularly with big groups of people in purpose-

second reactions like CS:GO [Counter Strike: Global Offensive]

designed, comfortable auditoria offering a high-spec audio-visual experience. If

or with hundreds of people playing at once like Fortnite need

connectivity isn’t an issue, then I’m already buying into this as a concept.”

efficient connectivity. A lot of pressure from a high volume of

It’s true that perhaps more outside-the-box thinking is needed, and more

actions can result in disaster for players.” Winkle adds, “If it can’t

research can be done. But these types of cinema-gaming projects are happening

be escaped that the network is shared then there must be a

and, more importantly, are adapting to the available environment well. With such a

dedicated IT management team monitoring this, who are able

huge eSports / gaming market out there, cinemas have most of the necessary

to solve problems should they arise.”

technical set-up but a “can do” attitude helps. The tide seems to be changing.

030_MAR20_ESPORTS_TECH.indd 33

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20/02/2020 10:35







The state of cinema in Saudi Arabia In 2018, the first cinema for 35 years opened within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — and interest in the market has been febrile ever since. Mike Thomson looks at the realities of a mass multiplex building programme.

UST OVER 18 MONTHS AGO, in August 2018, a new cinema opened in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the first for over 35 years. Except it wasn’t a true cinema, but in the words of one Vox exec a “pop-up”, converting a theatre into a one-screen cinema. However, it signified a change in Saudi culture and was the first signs of a territory re-opening its doors. Saudi citizens had to travel to another country to see films up until then. The floodgates were open and numerous operators announced they were going to open in KSA. The market was seen as one of a few left untapped — a boom was on its way.

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The question the team at The Big Picture consultancy posed at the 2018 Emerging Cinema Market Conference, a few

Singapore Sling

months later in Istanbul, was what sort of market would the Saudi cinema market develop into? Would it see the same

Just like its fabled long drink, Singapore’s cinema market has proved to be a more

problems that Germany has, languishing with the unfulfilled

long-term entertainment proposition. Back in 1995, cinema operators entered the

promise of high attendance, or would it flourish in the same

market, anticipating reaching admission levels of a minimum of 2.0 per capita.

way that Singapore’s market has, exceeing expectations?

By 2002, it was clear that Singapore was going to exceed that expectation and the reality in 2018 is of 3.4 admissions per capita and 4.4 screens per 100k people.

But to step back first

Clearly screen provision is adequate and the cinema market is healthy, with room

In 2018, as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative, driven by the

for further development. For Saudi Arabia, a comparison that is closer to home is

heir apparent, Mohammad Bin Salman al Saud, towards

the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which has 4.8 screens per 100k population,

achieving the Quality of Life Program’s goal, Saudi Arabia

whereas KSA has ambitions for 7.9 screens per 100K population — 64% up on UAE!

began to authorise the construction of new cinemas for the first time in 35 years. The General Commission for Audiovisual Media (GCAM), the licensing authority, took the sensible approach of limiting the licences on offer and deliberately set a high standard of

Certainly, muvi has an ambitions programme. Having

entry level to ensure that the KSA permitted only gold standard

opened in Jeddah and Riyadh (20 screens) last year, it has

cinemas. It wasn’t going to open up the market to just anyone.

further plans to open another 17 cinemas (160 screens in total)

The first five licences were granted to AMC (USA), Cinepolis

in 2020 alone, with more to come after. Likewise, AMC has

(Mexico), Empire (Lebanon), VOX (UAE) and finally to The Light

plans to open up to 40 cinemas in some 15 Saudi cities over

Cinemas (UK) operating as muvi cinemas, KSA’s first own-

the course of the next five years and it too has now opened its

brand cinema chain, in conjunction with the Fawaz Al Hokair

first fully operating cinema in Saudi Arabia.

Group (FAHG). The latter is where the consultancy I am a part

Vox took the route of getting open quickly, initially with a

of, The Big Picture, fits in. As consultants to FAHG, we

small four-screen cinema in Jeddah, though that incorporated

highlighted a key area of cinema growth in KSA: property. In all

an IMAX screen and was built in such a way that it could be

cinema expansions, property is key. Without the locations it is

easily expanded. Vox has since opened its full multiplex offer

difficult to expand. The inability to secure partners for

cinema and intends to open no fewer than 600 screens

expansion has certainly prevented some players from applying

throughout Saudi Arabia over the next five years. Not to be

for licenses in the Kingdom, including one major player that

outdone, Cinépolis has started the process to open a number

had announced big plans for KSA, later quietly dropping them.

of cinemas in Saudi Arabia. This will include introducing 63

Peaked too early

Location, location, location

Pop-up deflated?

Already cinemas are reporting a drop off

There is evidence that cinemas are being built

Pop-ups can be a great marketing tool for

in attendance outside of key holiday

“because there is space to build a cinema”

forthcoming cinemas, but they can also help

times. Occupancy is circa 92% peak and

which will result in some cinemas being

to gauge demand. A recent pop-up, operated

between 70-80% off peak. Whilst

quickly cannibalised by the right cinemas

before Christmas, vastly underperformed,

occupancy rates at peak in the 90s are

built in better locations. The old adage of

despite being next to a good mall, indicating

what many operators can only dream of,

location, location, location still rules.

that demand is not necessarily a given.

the drop off in off-peak and holiday


periods indicates that the demand will level out and spread amongst competing cinemas, so — as mentioned before — building to meet the demand now but not too big for the future is key.

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Occupancy in cinemas in the area is around 92% peak and around 70-80% other times

15/02/2020 09:56

screens to Dammam, Jazan, Jeddah, Riyadh and Najran. The multiplexes in Saudi Arabia are geared to the younger audience (the majority of KSA’s population is under 30) with IMAX signing a deal with VOX Cinemas to open at least four

Opened in Mall of Arabia, Jeddah, muvi is the KSA’s first home-grown cinema operator

KSA: OK or KO? It is early and data is relatively sparse, but there are indications that operators should be cautious not to overbuild. GCAM’s sensible approach has ensured the KSA is getting good-

IMAX venues. muvi opened in Jeddah with the first ScreenX

quality cinemas from experienced operators. As long as they

and 4DX at VOX. The scale of growth is rapid — the government

research and adapt to local conditions carefully, they should

hopes that by 2030, Saudi Arabia will already have more than

avoid KSA becoming like the recent US or — worse still —

300 theaters with more than 2,000 movie screens.

Germany 2.0.

So, is KSA the golden ticket or will the market overheat, and exhibitors get burnt? How will exhibitor interests balance between a high demand initially without ending up overscreened when the market settles and competition increases? With such rapid building, there is a danger of the “land

VOX has major ambitions for the KSA market — with 600 screens posited within the next few years.

grab” the UK saw in 1996-2002. That produced some stunning cinemas, as well as some turkeys as exhibitors snapped up land, “build them and they will come” being the assumption. Will KSA end up like Orange County where large multiplexes sit underused with too many eateries sat opposite each other? It is very early days still, but there are a few warnings signs.

Human resources: not enough people to go around

masse, teams for the future. But even with

Germany: achtung, baby

this there will be a shortfall, which will mean lower operational and service standards in a

In 1998 Germany was languishing with 0.7

A final issue already manifesting itself is the

competitive environment, which may well

admissions per head and 5.8 screens per

lack of local resource. The expectation in

impact attendance.

100k people. Cinema operators entered

Saudi Arabia is for the creation of 30,000

But what of Germany and Singapore and

the market, anticipating admission levels

permanent and 130,000 temporary jobs. Even

their relevance? Both countries are ones we

of a minimum of 3.0 per capita as in other

an established country would stretch its

looked at as having potential in the past…

territories such as France. However, by

cinema workforce with such an expansion, let alone one with no cinema expertise at all. The better-prepared chains are combatting this with opening teams, or hit squads, from their home bases focusing on getting cinemas opening whilst training, en

035_MAR20_SAUDI.indd 37

2002 it was clear that Germany was not

130,000 Amount of temporary jobs that will created by the boom - plus 30,000 perm roles

going to meet that expectation. The reality is that, in 2018, it was still stuck at 1.5 admissions per capita. Germany is clearly over-screened and mass casualties have been felt in the intervening years.

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FTER A BAN ON CINEMA EXHIBITION of more than 35 years,

— and with it, cinema had arrived. This event was closely

the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) opened its first new

followed in June 2018 by the Kingdom granting women the

cinema — the 620-seat, single-screen AMC cinema in Riyadh

right to drive. A host of other relaxations have occurred since

— on 18 April 2018. The opening up of the sector is a key part of

then. More will likely follow.

the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 — a gradual modernisation and relaxation of the entire country.

There is a desire to modernise and open up the Kingdom.

worldwide. It showed KSA dignitaries and officials, male and

Currently, KSA is an economy heavily reliant on oil dollars; it is

female, with AMC’s CEO, all seated, bunched up together in

estimated that one in eight barrels of world oil production is

the front row. Officials, foreigners, and women, all together;

from KSA. In the near future, we will, out of necessity, be less

this was indeed a moment of change. The film they were

reliant on oil, and even more interconnected via the internet,

watching — the first for 35 years — was “Black Panther”, a movie

so KSA has a need to find new sources of income, be more

with a primarily non-white cast. There was little censorship of

progressive and be better aligned for the benefit of younger

the film. This was not the KSA of old.

generations. Cinema has a place in all of this change. It has

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What’s behind such rapid change?

The press photo for this event (see over) was published

always been at the forefront of cultural shifts. Cinema buildings

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Saudi Cinema:

WHERE SPEED AND ENTHUSIASM COMBINE A cinema in just six weeks? Anything’s possible. David Wallace gives the inside track on the realities of the expansion of the cinema market in Saudi Arabia.

are a highly visible change, one the population can immediately experience and enjoy. Only 17 years ago, China also ushered in cinema when Warner Bros. opened the first modern venue in 2003. Now, there are over 60,000 screens in the country. Shortly after AMC swung wide the doors on the Kingdom’s first cinema, VOX Cinemas opened its four-screen cinema at

The Muvi Cinema at U Walk, Riyadh, due to open this quarter. It includes Saudi’s first Dolby Cinema and Onyx LED by Samsung

build. I understand that the AMC project, although involving only one screen, was assembled in just a few weeks. For those involved in the delivery of these projects, it was a huge race to catch up with the rest of the world after a 35-year absence.

The signs of a promising future

Riyadh Park. Since then, multiple cinemas licences have been

At this time, my firm Chapman Taylor was busy developing

awarded and many cinemas have opened. The KSA authorities

cinemas in the UAE for Reel Cinemas; we were involved in

have announced that 300 locations, hosting 2,000 screens, will

building eight locations in Dubai over a two-year period. I often

be built before 2030. AMC has plans to open 50 locations in

noticed many KSA visitors at the Dubai cinemas, recognisable

three years, and VOX is aiming for 600 screens by 2023.

by their distinctive red and white head-dress and smart collars.

All of these cinema opening announcements seemed to

They would often watch many films continuously,

happen almost overnight. In fact, the sites themselves are

sometimes throughout the night. It was clear that KSA

being built almost overnight! When I visited VOX at Riyadh

nationals enjoyed cinema. It was also clear that, once cinema

Park, I was informed by the manager it took just six weeks to

was permitted in KSA, it could only be a huge success.

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It was a risky move, and investment was low. This

One dark and miserable October Monday morning, while taking the kids to school in the UK, I received a phone call from KSA’s largest retail developer, Fawaz Al Hokair, which wanted to start its own brand of cinema. These were to be built within

The interior of Muvi’s new cinema at U Walk, Riyadh

cautiousness was reflected in the design; the early cinemas were built in such a way that, if the cinema concept failed, the interior could be quickly and easily removed, and the building

its own ‘Arabian Centre’ shopping malls. They asked me to

shell converted into a simple retail shed — which at that time

meet them to discuss the idea.

was a much better bet for property developers. There were relatively few blockbuster movies released in

The following evening, I was in Riyadh and met the client next

the early 1990s, and these centred around school holidays,

morning — I left

which made the business of cinema cashflow one of massive



peaks and troughs. I recall listening to cinema operators

with four cinema

saying, when “Jurassic Park” released in 1993, that they made

projects to design

as much money from that one film as they did for the entire

as quickly as we

previous year. Such was the business of cinema at that time.




For the first few years of this phase of UK cinema, there

The first opened

was a general suspicion among property developers that


in October 2019 at The Mall of Arabia, which, at that time, was the largest cinema in KSA. A further two are now open in Riyadh and Dammam, and another seven locations are now under construction, with seven more due on site in the next month. Muvi Cinemas’ plan is to have 20 cinemas opened by the end of 2020.

A look back to compare

The grand opening of the AMC Riyadh in April 2018 — the first cinema in KSA for 35 years

cinema would not prosper and would not enhance their shopping centres. As such, these early cinemas were built as an appendage to malls — the rents paid by cinemas were low, so why give them centre stage? Compare that to KSA right now. The roles of retail and cinema have reversed. Worldwide cinema attendance has been, on average, one of continuous growth, and any aspiring retail development must have a cinema. The cinemas we are

It is interesting and informative to compare the KSA’s cinema

designing now are taking centre position within malls — their

start with the UK’s 1990s cinema restart; it’s a comparison that

immediate success will draw customers through the mall and

clearly demonstrates the massive change that has occurred in

help increase footfall.

cinema within that period.

When cinema developers were preparing their business

The first of the new generation of cinemas in the UK

plans in the early 1990s, the occupancy rate was expected, on

appeared in the early 1990s. At that time, cinema was in

average, to be 20%. The actual occupancy rates for the first

decline throughout the world (except perhaps in India, where

cinemas in KSA are close to 100%. Of course, this is likely to

it is deeply embedded in the culture). The first of this new wave

reduce as more cinemas are built, but the comparison is very

of UK cinema exhibitors could not find willing development

clear to see.

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When the first modern multiplex cinemas opened in the UK, each auditorium had the same design, seats and offer;

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But is the pace realistic?





ScreenX, the Kingdom’s very first Dolby Cinema and the first Onyx (the massive LED screen from Samsung). When it opens

A speedy pace of development is the norm in KSA. During a typical week in KSA, it is easy to fall into the rhythm of design, eat, sleep, design, eat, sleep, design, don’t

this will be the most advanced cinema to date in KSA.

eat, don’t sleep — and so on. To design, build and open 20 cinema locations in just

There are challenges, too

over one year is astonishing. However, VOX is developing at a similarly ambitious

The challenge for exhibitors, designers and construction

pace, closely followed by many others. The Kingdom’s stated aim of opening 300

companies is the lack of locally available skills and materials to

locations by 2030 is not just possible, it is well under way. This pace of development

serve such an explosion of development. Local knowledge of

may seem fanciful, but I would not doubt that it could happen. KSA has many

cinema design norms and construction techniques is limited.

ambitious plans on the drawing board, from resort cities larger than Dubai at

Building materials specific to cinema are being imported for

NEOM City to the world’s tallest tower (1km-high) at Jeddah Economic City. The

now, until local suppliers and manufacturers catch up.

holy city of Madinah is planning to increase Islamic tourism from 16m pilgrims to

Imported electrical items, of which there are many in any

35m pilgrims in less than five years. A new railway station to cater for the predicted

modern cinema, now have to comply with recently introduced

influx is already open, and Chapman Taylor is currently designing retail malls and

Saudi Arabia Standards Institute (SASI certification). Many

several hotels to accommodate this growth.

items are being tested for the first time, and the time taken to test and certify often does not match the speed of the cinemas’

The ambition to deliver so many cinemas in record time reflects the country’s


wider ambition to develop rapidly. I have been involved at the beginning of modern

The spaces offered for cinema development tend to be

cinema development in a number of countries, including the UK, China, Portugal,

existing spaces within shopping malls — spaces previously

Italy, Mongolia, Germany, Japan, Spain and Vietnam. However, KSA is unique in its

designed for retail. Cinema has many differing requirements

speed of development. In all the others mentioned, development was happening

for key design parameters, such as structural loading, acoustics,

as the movie industry was just beginning to grow after decades of neglect. Cinema

spatial heights and column arrangements. A square metre of

worldwide was almost dead in the 1980s; consequently, developers were cautious

cinema generally needs more electrical power supply than a

with their plans for the first few years, to see how the public reacted to the new

comparable square metre of retail.

multiplex. KSA cinema development, by comparison, is exploding from nothing

All of these differences and shortcomings make designing

during a period of record attendance and record revenues for movie companies

and constructing a cinema much more of a challenge in

worldwide. It is as sure a bet as a bet can get that cinemas in KSA will prosper as

comparison to a purpose-built project elsewhere. However,

quickly as they can be built. This healthy environment for cinema will mean the

this will change as existing retail spaces are built out and new

KSA cinema industry will expand at unprecedented speed — faster than China,

purpose-built developments come on stream.

where initial growth was hindered by the limited availability of film products. It is exhilarating to be involved in this period of the country’s development.

The future So what is next after KSA builds 300 cinema locations in the coming years? Will LED screens be the norm? Will VR finally make a massive technological shift and allow cinema to

there was little competition and the prospects of success were

become truly immersive? Will screens beyond 40metres in

uncertain. By contrast, when we designed the Muvi Cinema at

width be achievable? Will Netflix influence cinema attendance?

Mall of Arabia, it included Suites VIP cinemas, the Kingdom’s

I expect all of these questions will find answers in KSA during

first ScreenX and Muvi Cinemas’ own brands, such as Muvi

this rapid period of development. One thing is for sure: cinema

Xperience and Muvi Junior.

will respond, as it always has, to any challenges it faces. KSA’s

At the 13-screen Muvi Cinema at U Walk, Riyadh, which is currently under construction, the offer will include Suites VIP,

Untitled-17 1 038_MAR20_SAUDI_BUILD.indd 41

current rapid development is just another contributor to the continual evolution of the industry.

17/02/2020 10:00 10:04 15/02/2020

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E V E N T S With the Bosphorus as a backdrop and a truly global cast-list, ECM 2019 was a big success. Patrick von Sychowski reports on its second outing.

The ECM conference 2019




annual Emerging Cinema


(ECM) conference held in Istanbul in

late November saw a renewed focus on the territories that will be the growth engines of theatrical exhibition in the coming decade, stretching all the way from Kazakhstan over to Cote d’Ivoire. Produced by DCS Events together with the Big Picture, the event was held at a dramatic venue in Istanbul, a hotel that immediately overlooks the Bosphorus, with a significantly expanded focus, speakers, sponsors and attendees. Organising an event with such a broad focus was never going to be easy,

due. Between them the territories of

round table discussion by the Cinema

Africa, Turkey, New Europe (the Balkans

Technology Community (CTC). This

and former Soviet states), Central Asia

opened with a presentation of ‘The

and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Customer’s Journey’ from Movio’s Sarah

represent a market opportunity of 1.7

Lewthwaite, who argued for a transition

their stride. A large delegation turning

billion people served by only 6,850

from a “build it, they will come” attitude

up on the morning of the first day

cinema screens! With growth peaking

to a more customer-centric cinema

wanting to pay for their conference

in China and Latin America, there is a

approach. From a practical perspective,

passes in cash? No problem…

tremendous interest in these regions.

organising delegate seating in wide

but the team behind the conference had clearly learned from the inaugural event and took whatever organisational challenges were thrown at them in

When it comes to indicators of success, the arrival of IMAX points to a maturing cinema market

The focus of the conference was

In the first of many partnerships,

circles, instead of having everyone

broad. but with each market getting its

before the conference there was a

facing a podium, contributed to a lively

043_MAR20_ECM_CONF.indd 43

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discussion with inputs from Jacro, Sound Associates, IMAX, RealD and others. While recognising that different

eSports Eats Cinema

markets had different economic levels,

The eSports demonstration and production facilities delegates visited at Fitas Digital Republic

the speakers pitched in about how to

(FDR), in Istanbul’s Taksim district proved an eye-opener for delegates, not least because they saw

give every audience the best cinema

a third-generation cinema operator (Adnan Akdemir) gut part of his family’s cinema to replace

presentation. As Jacro’s Sandie Caffelle

screens with monitors and seats with office chairs. Rows and rows of high-end PCs offered gamers

observed, “customers don’t care if it’s a

the chance to play any one of thousands of games on the central server. There was a bar, restaurant

hamster in a wheel” that’s driving the

and an Esports Performance Centre or in-house dormitory where eSports teams could come and

presentation, so long as it is good.

stay during tournaments. In addition there was a recording studio for YouTube ‘influencers’.

Touring Istanbul

FDR has been valued at over five million dollars in the latest investment round. The company is

An early highlight of the ECM event has

expanding into Greece and Central Asia, where avid gamers cannot afford the top spec computers

been the ‘Celluloid Junkie 21st Century

stations (which can cost over $10,000 fully equipped) but can pay for a few hours of gaming. FDR’s

Shopping Centre and Production Tour

motto is that it “builds social digital experience zones close to you,” which is why Adnan considers

of Istanbul’, looking at some of the top

it such a natural extension of his cinema business, And to top it off, the whole enterprise subscribes

cinemas in the Turkish capital. The CJ

to the UN Millennium Development Goals for sustainability and more. Whatever political and

CGV Istinye Park, which included both

economic issues Turkey may be facing, CGV and FDR shows that the country is a leader when it

VIP, IMAX and RealD enabled delegates

comes to next generation location-based digital entertainment of the highest grade.

to see the best that Korea’s multiplex major has to offer in Europe (its only other nearby sites are in Moscow). The

data that one has come to expect and

outlined the potential for New Europe,

visit included sampling the popcorn

some surprises, such as Ethiopia being

CIS, Middle East and Africa. An ECM19

and the frozen yoghurt treats… A small

the second-fastest regional growth

exclusive was that Paramount’s “Sonic

group had also previously visited CGV’s

market after Saudi, or that emerging

the Hedgehog” would be released

Cinemaximum with its Gold Class and

markets account for 10% of total global

dubbed in Kazakh, neatly showing the

Cine Mini, with race cars for seats for

screens with higher-than-average five-

growing importance of localisation in

the kids and a pirate’s ship of indoor

year growth rate at 51%. She also noted

these emerging markets.

climbing and activities. It all lived up to

that often emerging markets can be

CGV’s motto of “always evolving”.

Building on trust Welcoming everyone on the second

2nd Ethiopia has become the emerging market’s second fastest growing territory

trend setters as ‘built from scratch’

Delegate distractions

cinemas try new technologies, seating

With time for networking and talking

patterns and design.

to sponsors in the breaks, as well as an

Comscore’s Arturo Guillen laid to

endless supply of tasty Turkish treats

rest any notion of ‘the death of cinema’,

(and Polish vodka from POSitive!), it was

showing the steady global increase of

sometimes hard to persuade delegates

cinema on trust and integrity. Emerging

box office since 2008 from $28bn to

back into the venue with its dazzling

markets often face high cost of capital,

$41bn in 2018. He also noted that at 110

wall-to-wall LED display.

lack of infrastructure (malls!) and IP

minutes, cinema has a far longer

Turkey’s Deputy Minister of Culture

piracy. Just like hotel chains and retail

uninterrupted average engagement

responsible for cinema was warmly

brands that spread across Africa and

with consumers than smartphones

received (if only more countries had a

(nine minutes) or tablets (18 minutes).

minister with a cinema brief!). In the

Novo’s “proud” CEO Debbie Stanford-

panel session that followed, the success

Kristiansen leant the event dazzle with

of local film (Turkish films regularly

a showcase of what the operator had

have a +50% market share), though

built across the Gulf and Middle East,

Serge Plasch noted that “the only real

that “always promise a great night out,”

growth market is the premium market.”

day, Rob Arthur struck up the themes of the conference in terms of building

elsewhere, so too cinemas take root. He was followed by the British Chamber of Commerce




Christopher Gaunt. With Istanbul being the second-ever outpost of the BCCT when it opened in 1887, highlighting Turkey’s role as a commercial and

110 The average uninterrupted engement within the cinema is 110 mins. And on tablets? 18 mins

with “immersive social experiences.”

In a friendly ‘ambush’, Mariam el

cultural hub. Charlotte Jones of IHS

This was followed by the Hollywood

Bacha and Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen

Markit (now part of Informa) opened

studio’s perspective in the form of

presented a ‘Visionary’ award to yours

her presentation with the authoritative

Paramount’s Cameron Saunders, who

truly on behalf of Women In Exhibition

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(WIE), which was followed



Harish Thilakan CEO OF Influx

photo-call for all the



the room. They

Zimbabwe’s Hon (Sen) Monica Mutsvangwa

surprised themselves at the sheer numbers when all grouped together. After lunch, the focus was on “How to create the ‘wow factor’ in Emerging Markets” with the growth of offerings such as 4DX/D-Box, VR and, of course, “IMAX is IMAX” one (non-IMAX) panelist opined. And 3D is still going strong in emerging markets RealD’s John Trafford-Owen explained, with much of it powered by NEC blue phosphor laser projectors according to Mark Kendall.

The Big Picture’s Mike

Adedayo Thomas CEO of Nigeria’s National Film and Video Censor Board takes the stage

diversifying the experience through

A focus on Africa

technology, including input from IMAX,

The third and final day saw a full-on

Cinionic, CinemaNext, and CGV/Mars.

focus on Africa. With just one screen on

This was followed by the Comscore-

average per one million inhabitants, it

sponsored awards, of which the most

represents the single greatest global

remarkable was possibly the one given

opportunity for cinemas to grow. But


to a small Turkish cinema on the border

‘Africa’ is not a country, and it is to the

distribution, during which Movio, Aures

with Syria that had kept going in spite

organisers’ credit that they made sure

Cinema Intelligence provided startling

of the difficulties of a war raging next

all of the differences and many facets of


Thompson panel


chaired film





door. For anyone thinking that it was

the continent shined through in each

scheduling could achieve in terms of

heavy going, the drinks at the rooftop

panel and by the speakers invited.

maximising a film’s length of play and

bar with the shimmering lights of the

takings in cinemas. In the day’s final

Bosphorus straits behind us, was

Ijeoma Onah counselled those in the

session Vista’s Till Cussman chaired a

sufficient to make all the delegates feel

room, “You need to come to Africa to

powerhouse of a panel that looked at

like extras in a James Bond film.

understand Africa, you can’t get it from



043_MAR20_ECM_CONF.indd 45




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afar.” But the room was treated to the next best thing in the form of the cream of cinema people from Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Mozambique and the many other nations represented on stage and sharing their insights. The day kicked off with a video message from Andrew Crips, the global studio and IMAX veteran, freshly installed in his new role as head of global theatrical distribution at Warner Bros. His message was that “In mature markets companies defend — cut costs, analyse the competition, follow best practices and work to established processes.” This is someone who has practiced what he preached. The Hon. (Sen) Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Information, Publicity and

Lucy Jones, with Paul declaring that

Broadcasting Services of Zimbabwe

“we should be extraordinarily optimistic

gave the ‘Focus on Africa’ day a rousing

about the potential for cinema” in

opening with her infectious optimism,

Africa, giving the example of how he

talking about Zimbabwe as “an African

helped open up the ‘no-hope’ Russian

country of promise and hope” that is

cinema market. IMAX’s Ali Bernacchi

CEO of the National Film and Video

“poised to deliver cinema.” She ended

highlighted the opening of the second

Censors Board. With a combined

with an open invitation to host ECM20

IMAX in Nigeria (there are already two

population of over 230m, West Africa

with the Victoria Falls as a backdrop.

in Kenya), confirming this potential.

represents the continent’s biggest

(Tempting, though logistically slightly challenging.)

and Ghana, including ‘frenemy’ rivals Positive action: all the women of ECM 2019 crammed on the stage for their photocall

Silverbird and Filmhouse, as well as representatives International







Adedayo Thomas, Director General/

The session was followed by an

potential, with just 33 cinemas opening

in-depth look at Francais Africain,

between 2015 and 2018. The success of


Susanna Hermida Barbato of NOS

including the northern Maghreb region

Audiovisuais observed that “if you were

and sub-Saharan countries, courtesy of

to describe the ideal cinema audience


it would be African: young and mobile.”

insights from Khalil Staily (Ymagis), Eric

NOS has been doing a lot to grow


cinema going in Portuguese-speaking


African countries, with 31 cinemas and

Numerique Ambulant, in Cameroon,

Saudi Arabia a year on from its

238 screens in total, despite low

whose video message made everyone

opening of cinemas seemed almost

average income and 66% of population

sit up and take notice, saying that

an after-thought. John Sullivan was

living in rural areas. ECM veteran Kene

cinema in Africa cannot simply be a

not present to give an update of his

Mkparu of Komworld quoted Tumi

reproduction of what it has been in the

‘Singapore or Germany’ anlysis for the

Frazier in noting that, “to succeed in

West. It was also the first time at any

Africa, it is critical to have a better

conference that we heard from Canal

understanding of how to access a

Olympia, which is building over 100

broader group of consumers and how

cinemas across Africa, with Simon

to provide offerings that are tailored to

Minkowski flying in from Africa that

different consumers across different

morning just for this talk.

countries on the continent.”








Stephanie Cinema

The post-lunch panel ‘Spotlight On

Canal Olympia plan to build over 100 cinemas across the African continent


local content has seen the creation of a local



previously Nollywood was just for distribution on VHS, DVD or cable TV. After this look at cinemas next ‘Eldorado’, the final session’s focus on

Kingdom, so Mike Thomson stepped into his shoes. The success of Majid Al Futtaim’s

Africa has around 1 screen per 1 million inhabitants






competitors in the Saudi market should not have come as a surprise, it was





connection and long preparations for

Just how to do this was highlighted

Nigeria and West Africa’ was a veritable

the KSA market. Let’s see at ECM20

by speakers ranging from former Fox

high level summit of the great and

how well AMC, Muvi, Empire and

honcho Paul Higginson to Comscore’s

good of the cinema industry in Nigeria

Cinepolis have done in catching up.

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Cinema in Kenya & Nigeria: Between the burning discs & the big screen The maxim that ‘Africa is a continent, not a country’ holds true for cinema. Yet one corner of the continent tends to be overlooked. South Africa has modern multiplexes; West Africa has Nollywood; North Africa has the rich film and cinema history of Egypt and the Maghreb. Only East Africa, notably Kenya, often doesn’t register in discussions about how cinema is developing. Words: Patrick von Sychowski


HEN CINEMA TECHNOLOGY LAST covered Africa’s cinema market in September 2017, Kenya had already put itself on the global map with not one but two IMAX screens in the capital Nairobi, putting it ahead of most European capitals, which typically make do

with one or no IMAX screens. Today, only South Africa with eight IMAX screens (plus an additional two opening this year) is notably ahead, while Egypt has two open and one in backlog. Elsewhere, Morocco and Angola each have an IMAX screen, while Nigeria also has two, with one on backlog. And IMAX performs — ­ in Nigeria, average box office is higher than average box office per site in Europe, as noted by Alessandra Bernacchi, IMAX senior manager for theater development in Europe and Africa, in a presentation at the 2019 ECM Conference [see p.43]. As with IMAX and cinema in general in Africa, a turning point was the release of “Black Panther”. Embraced by audiences as ‘their’ film, nowhere was this more true than in Kenya, due to the lead role for Oscar-winning Mexico-born Kenyan actress Lupita Nyongo. There was even a Movie Jabbers Black Panther cosplay screening in Nairobi, proving that cinema and movie fandom go hand-in-hand.

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Yet even when Comscore expanded its Africa focus in May

sectors, while also not contributing to public finances in the

of 2019 to nine territories, these only covered Western and

form of sales and entertainment taxes. Yet even this crackdown

Southern Africa, with Kenya left out. There is hope that with the

has an unintended toxic legacy.

change of regime in neighbouring Sudan and the return of cinema, as well as an end to domestic and cross-border

Piracy: unintended consequences

conflicts in Ethiopia and Eritrea, that West Africa can return to

Talking about this to Heike Wolkerstorfer from the cinema

the cinematic family of African regions.

advisory The Big Picture after the ECM conference in Istanbul,

Elsewhere in Africa, the authorities are cracking down on disc piracy, realising that it hurts both jobs in the legitimate film production and cinema

Authorities in Nigeria kicked off a campaign to destroy pirated content last year

she revealed how she became an almost accidental activist in this fight against piracy. “I have no solution to this very complex issue (poverty, youth unemployment, lack of infrastructure and access, religion, etc),” she professed, “but I am trying to support Nigeria’s tremendous effort in confiscating pirated DVDs.” The country has truly stepped up its anti-piracy efforts significantly in recent time. In the months around New Year the Nigerian Film Censor publicly burnt pirate DVDs with a street value running into millions of dollars. “However, the burning has devastating effects on the environment (such as poisoning the groundwater),” she acknowledges, “hence I am trying to get some contacts of people who are experts in the DVD field and know of environmentally safe ways to discard of them.” There are shredders that can safely destroy CDs and DVD, she says, “but since we are talking about millions of DVDs, only industrial shredders would be an option and those aren’t available in Nigeria. Buying them isn’t an option due to budget restrictions.”

Paying a price for doing the right thing?

Tackling toxic piracy

Even as countries like Nigeria and Kenya are trying to rebuild their cinema infrastructure and create a market for domestic films, they risk poisoning the very ground under their feet by

One thing that unites all cinemas across Africa is the scourge

trying to battle illegal forms of film consumption. “Ideally, and in

of piracy. The closure of the single-screen cinemas across the

my little world of unicorns and elves, I would like to find a

continent in the 1980s and 1990s can be directly traced to

studio(s), philanthropist, etc. who would be willing to supply the

the rise of optical disc piracy and the illegal video parlours

shredders for free and ship them to Nigeria,” Heike says. The

that played both local and international content. There was

alternative would be to find another solution of discarding the

simply no way a commercial cinema could compete with a

pirate DVDs in an environmentally friendly manner [Ed: such as

CRT television set and a DVD player in a shanty town shack in

commercial reclamation of plastic and aluminium elements].

Nairobi, Lagos, Marrakesh or Soweto. Even as cinemas have

“For studios, this gesture of support and recognition would

made a return thanks to the growth of malls in many African

be good publicity,” Heike says, “and with this very act they would

cities, the arrival of IMAX and some brave entrepreneurs, the

recognise Nigeria’s effort of combating piracy. This in itself

illegal disc piracy continues. Authorities across the continent

would be very empowering. Not to mention the possibilities of

are starting to take a range of actions. In South Africa, the

building a bridge between Hollywood and Nollywood. The

producers of the Oscar-nominated “Tsotsi” themselves sold

opportunities could be endless…” she trails off.

copies of their film on discs amongst the pirates, except with

While there are thus reasons for optimism that countries

the twist that after 15 minutes of the film the screen went

like Kenya and Nigeria are rebuilding their cinema infrastructure

black and a message thanking the viewer for having helped

themselves, it would serve the interest of Hollywood as well to

to pay for the film was played — the next on-screen message

make sure that the next “Black Panther” film is seen legitimately

urged them to go and see the rest of it in a regular cinema.

in an IMAX or another big screen, while the illegal copies of it do not contribute to the environmental damage to the continent. If anyone reading this thinks they can help, get in touch with us. The higher up the better.

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Celebrating 90 years in cinema


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CinemaNext: building the future Peter Knight looks under the hood and discovers a passion to serve the experience at CinemaNext


ANY WILL BE AWARE of CinemaNext as it has been in existence since 2004, though you may well know it by another name. It started out in life as XDC when

A technical test-bed: the 40-seat preview theatre in Liège

to the supply chain and logistics. The Liège-Barchon offices also house sister-company Eclair’s Benelux team, which provides colour-grading and DCP mastering services for international movie releases alongside digital distribution and theatrical delivery solutions.

founded by Laurent Minguet until 2012 when it changed its name to dcinex —

As you would expect, the offices have a 40-seat screening

until it was bought by Ymagis Group in 2014 and renamed again

facility available for a variety of uses. The auditorium includes a

to CinemaNext. Headquartered in Liège, Belgium, the company also has offices in 25 other countries, including the UK, France, Spain, Germany and Russia and it employs around 200 people. CinemaNext offers a range of different services, including installation and maintenance of projection

Find us here

showroom for cinema seating and has a variety of different

CinemaNext, Liège, Belgium

quality control of content as well, so there is a control panel in

types within so visitors are able to try everything from a simple reclining seat, to the most luxurious ones. The space is used for the centre of the auditorium. Work is shortly going to start on making sure that the auditorium is equipped for both white

equipment, sound systems and outfitting for cinemas. They also advise cinemas on their financing and the management

The firm moved

and non-white screens, allowing for the greatest variety of 3D

of refurbishment projects.

to new buildings

content to be played back.

In December, CT was given the opportunity to visit the

in 2018 — one of

There is the ability to play content back from three different

the most modern

projectors — one using a xenon lamp, one a mercury lamp and

hub is located in Liège-Barchon (Parc Artisanal) and features a

logistic hubs in

one a laser so that true side-by-side testing can be carried out

2,400m² two-story building that includes 1,400m² dedicated

cinema services.

and observed. This was an interesting exercise during my visit

offices in Liège which opened in July 2018. CinemaNext’s main

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time through screens in the office. From the NOCs, technicians and parts can be dispatched. With the implementation of consistency among the way that equipment is installed within the cinemas it means that it is a lot easier for the support team to be able to diagnose and understand where the issue might be.

Logistics: the right time, the right place Have you ever considered the challenge of a new build or refurbishment cinema auditorium where practically all of the new equipment needs to be in the same place at a specific time and from a variety of different manufacturers and suppliers? One of the key areas that CinemaNext specialises in is doing just that. They have a specialist team who work out the logistics of getting different items to the warehouse and then package it all up together, one pallet per screen then to be sent as it’s not every day that you get to have a go at guessing to see the same content played back across three different light sources. The same can also be done with the audio system, so that different audio configurations can be observed.

The opportunity to compare three different light sources in one location is rare

to the relevant cinema or location, managing all the necessary paperwork involved. This is not just as simple as sending a small parcel through the post, but a complex challenge of making sure that the

The projection room is more of a technical test bed space,

lead-times are managed so that products arrive when they are

with a variety of other projectors set up, that can, if necessary,

needed, while not sitting around the warehouse for needless

be moved into place. This means that a whole variety of

long periods of time.

different equipment can be tested and observed from within the offices, anything from Series 1 projectors and servers to the TMS equipment, including CinemaNext’s own in-house TMS

Products, Services & Support

solution. Like any test setup, this projection space along with the cinema auditorium are going to be constantly changing

CinemaNext has a number of strings to its bow, offering a wide range of

and updated or reconfigured in order to test and experiment

products, services and support to the cinema community. These include…

as technologies develop.

Global Local

Sphera – the Premium Cinema Concept

Operating across 26 countries with offices in the majority of

Launched in 2017 at Village Cinemas at The Mall Athens, Greece, Sphera is a

them, CinemaNext believes that this means that it can offer

premium cinema offering that delivers cinema exhibitors state-of-the-art

both the advantages of a large international business, able to

projection, sound, comfort and design for a fully immersive cinema

operate across borders, with the advantages of also being local

experience. What makes Sphera different to other similar products is that it is

through country-specific offices. Thus, if a project comes in at

a turnkey solution designed for small, medium and large-size cinema

the last minute and there are not any local teams available,

multiplexes that provides a cutting-edge experience based on EclairColor

teams from other countries can be called upon in order to help

HDR, 4K cinema projectors, Dolby Atmos, premium seating, impressive LED

get the customer out of a tight situation, especially when it

cinema visuals and contemporary design. The dynamic light show with

comes to complex refurbishment projects that have so many

interactive ambient light system are different to other setups, as they sit

different moving parts, any small change can cause a much

along the edge of the auditorium and interact with the content.

larger one elsewhere.

Support at an international scale

Cinema Outfitting

When you support more than 9,500 screens, the Network

It is not just the technical fit out of the projection room or the front end of the

Operations Centre (NOC) is an important part of the enterprise.

auditorium that CinemaNext is involved in. It also provides the rest of the

CinemaNext has six different teams, each having dedicated

cinema outfitting, from the auditorium carpets and seats through to the

language teams, with the international team based in Belgium.

lighting and acoustic treatments.

The NOC is able to track what is happening with an issue at any 5 4


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The warehouse has a mixture of ‘standard’ consumable

point out that it is worth contacting them before buying some

products that are constantly shipping in and shipping out to

equipment to ensure your Shop account is configured with the

customers and technicians. Added to this is a range of second-

correct commercial terms. Talking to the logistics and shop

hand and refurbished products that are available to be

team it is evident that there is a growing amount of second-

distributed out as well. The team have setup the warehouse

hand equipment starting to become available as companies

space to be as logical and efficient as possible for the team.

start to upgrade. This equipment will start to become available

Consumables and more online

via the online store in the future.

Backing up this logistical expertise, CinemaNext launched its

In-house software solutions

online shop in December and is being rolled out globally over

In common with the innovative approach to online purchasing,

the next few months. The CinemaNext Shop allows customers

the CinemaNext TMS is a fully featured one at the cutting edge.

to buy everything from everyday consumables to complete

The latest developments include CinemaNext TMS Mobile,

projectors and everything in-between.

which allows exhibitors to use a smartphone or tablet as a

From the user interface it is, in theory, possible to purchase

remote control to transform the auditorium into a conference

everything from the projector, pedestal, server and sound

room by controlling every feature (sound, lights, projection),

system right through to the lens and lamp to put in it. This can

screening time synchronisation from a point of sale system,

then all be tracked to delivery, and, in common with all well-

automatic import of advertisement packages, automatic

designed online stores, it is possible to see a complete order

management of power supply equipment, quality control

history so that you can reorder the same product, if required.

monitoring (colour, luminosity, sound), DCP creation tool and

While this is not the first time that it has been possible to do

push notifications to prevent any potential issues. It is

this, most readers will remember the printed catalogues that

compatible with third-party software (e.g. digital signage),

existed in the celluloid days. While it is one of the first

making it fully automated.

eCommerce sites to exist in our world, CinemaNext is quick to

Audio and Projection Systems CinemaNext specialises in working with all of the projector, server and audio manufacturers in order to provide the right solution for customer’s needs, rather than having to compromise. This means that it has knowledge (and data) from right across a full range of products to improve the wider products and services it offers. It says that part of the company’s value is in “advising clients on the best

The TMS is also interoperable with all existing server

13k+ screens installed since 2004

projection system equipment for the ultimate movie-going experience at reasonable cost, from project management, sales and financing to installation and maintenance tocinema projectors and best-in-class support, servers, screens, 3D systems, consumables and accessories.” Separate to this, CinemaNext also works with different screen manufacturers to offer the right unbiased solutions.

Accessories built in house CinemaNext design and build a number of their own accessories in-house to their own specifications, such as projector plinths and the lifts for boothless projection. This allows for greater flexibility and consistency of installation.

Other services, products and support The range of services and products offered by CinemaNext is fairly comprehensive.It also includes: Project Management, Commissioning & Installation, Content Management, Spares & Consumables, Service Agreements, Support and financing

053_MAR20_CINEMANEXT.indd 55


screens currently under service contracts (maintenance & NOC)


cinema screens connected to content delivery network

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A View from the top Tim Potter, VP of Sales, CinemaNext EMEA & International “Cinema is at the heart of the communities our customers serve — customers who range from small art houses in Bordeaux, multiplexes in Moscow, prestigious film organisations in London and even cruise ships serving the Mediterranean. Our customers are the catalyst for the regeneration of towns and cities, adding value to the district or banlieue they serve. Their venues screen the latest Hollywood blockbusters or art house films, broadcasting live from the opera or ballet, hosting corporate and eSports events. Our customers offer more choice through the deployment of innovation; premium offers utilising the latest sound , projection or emissive LED display technology; from recliners with built-in touchpads to order food and drink to your seat, to VR arenas, rides and kiosks; and smart scheduling systems that ensure they have the right content on the right screen at the right time. It is CinemaNext’s raison d’être to support these technologies. Our broad portfolio of products and services allows us to choose the best solution to meet the need. This helps everyone, from smaller independents, who can struggle to obtain the best commercial solution, up to multi-

technologies and compatible with projectors from Barco,

national customers who demand consistency and continuity of delivery

Christie, Kinoton, NEC and Sony. Its CinemaNext Monitoring

across their territories. We assist customers in making the right choice when

tool monitor and optimise a cinema’s assets with intuitive

investing in technology that is sustainable, lasts longer, lowers energy costs

dashboards giving at-a-glance confidence that everything is

but does not compromise the experience.

running as it should, including detailed device status, storage status, lamp status, warnings, KDM errors, playback status, real-

We are here to help increase occupancy and drive box office sales, whether

time alerts, and a number of other features. Designed to help

choosing the best seating solution or through our business solutions such as

guarantee a cinema’s hardware is working properly, the system

CinemaNext TMS. It is our mission to deliver solutions and services that are

is also interoperable with all existing server technologies.

integral to delivery of the best entertainment experience.

End-to-End and Manufacturer Agnostic In fact, interoperability was one of the things that the team at Interoperability with equipment from a range of manufacturers is fundamental to CinemaNext’s operations

CinemaNext was keen to emphasise. Theirs is an end-to-end company that works with all manufacturers. They are keen to help cinema operators create the best possible spaces for their customers and the team believe strongly that knowledge of all models of equipment helps them achieve the right solution.

The Hidden Show The CinemaNext team is adamant that technology should be a hidden part of the show, the audience should not know about what is happening, and should simply see and hear the best experience. They are working hard on technology and resources that will help cinema owners keep on top of all their technology. One of these projects is about how, using log data from all different pieces of equipment, it is possible to predict when something is about to fail before it does. This is clever thinking as it requires the ability to analyse years and years’ 5 6


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Trying out the Sphera PLF solution... In 2019 I was able to experience CinemaNext’s in-house premium cinema offering, Sphera, for myself. It had been installed into a new-build cinema and its number one premiere screen had been installed with Sphera. It featured a laser projector, complete with immersive sound system, comfortable seating, and LED side lighting. There was, of course, the external auditorium branding, together with pre-show product teasers. The cinema in question reported that customers would actively check to see if content was in the Sphera screen before booking. Being the largest screen, most content opened in this screen each week. The actual experience in the auditorium was enjoyable and Sphera definitely brings an alternative option to those that might wish to have a PLF experience in their cinemas, but without having the need to create their own bespoke one.

players, and Illucity VR Ride, for one player. The Hestia uses D-BOX chairs to allow a user to be moved around as they either soar as an eagle or experience a 360-degree space experience. The eagle experience is a first-person game where you get to fly and carry out various tasks, while the 360-degree space experience is more of a traditional ‘movie’. The VR Arena offers the opportunity to play against three other opponents, while the VR Ride is more like arcade-style systems with a selection

Part of Ymagis, CinemaNext shares space with the Eclair content services operation

Logistics and warehouse distribution are key to CinemaNext services

of different content, including games and linear stories. The price is currently €5 per person and indications are that it is proving popular before shows and that there are worth of data across a range of manufacturers and equipment

definite repeat customers who come before or after a movie

models to show and understand when something will fail.

screening. It is still early days, however, and it will take time to

Virtual Reality: the next big thing? One of CinemaNext’s biggest recent developments is its own

Built on a diverse portfolio

in-house virtual reality offer. Unsurprisingly, when the first

Most people will have heard of CinemaNext, but I suspect few

Illucity-branded VR corner was launched it was in the local

will be aware of quite the range the company offers. Certainly I

Kinepolis cinema in Liege, Belgium. Opening in October 2019

was surprised by the number of different products and services

the opening was one year after the launch of the acclaimed

available. There were many things that I simply considered

Illucity adventure park in Paris, the first VR location-based

before, especially in terms of the logistics of getting what are

entertainment centre of its kind.

quite often heavy and large products to the right place at the

CinemaNext has taken over a corner of the cinema foyer, where there was previously some seating, with a variety of

Untitled-17 1 053_MAR20_CINEMANEXT.indd 57

see how well it is received.

right time. Or there were the things that were just a little bit clever, such as the projector setup in the internal cinema.

different VR experiences. The 80m2 Illucity corner is located at

CinemaNext has worked hard to develop local and

the cinema’s entrance and features three distinct immersive

individual relationships with customers, while also having the

experiences for visitors of all ages and skill levels: Illucity VR

back-up and support of an international company that is able

Arena — 4 players and escape game, Illucity VR Hestia — multi-

to provide the flexibility that provides.

17/02/2020 14:51 10:09 14/02/2020

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To all those who have, or had, some interest in projected moving images, past and present. Perhaps you’re already connected with today’s cinema, technical or otherwise, but have an interest in vintage equipment, or you have been retired from the business so long, you would wish to revisit “the good old days”. Take heart and consider joining The Projected Picture Trust and help preserve the magic of cinema. Apart from equipment restoration, the Trust provides help and assistance to non-commercial community cinemas and museums exhibiting film related artefacts. The National Museum of Cinema Technology has perhaps, the largest collection of all types of film equipment in the U.K. The Data Archive within the museum holds over 3,000 items including technical manuals, film related documents, press cuttings etc. Membership of the P.P.T. will give you access to these amenities as well as the collections within the Trust’s regions. JOIN US TODAY by contacting either of the following addresses. e-mail: The Projected Picture Trust, Dean Clough Mills, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX3 5AX

THE GLOBAL CINEMA TECHNOLOGY NETWORK. CTC, is an independent, not-for-profit trade organisation providing valuable resources to the global cinema industry. From digital marketing and e-ticketing through to interactive lobby displays, projection and sound equipment, accessibility and experiential technology, CTC understands the importance technology and indeed the way in which it is utilized can have a profoundly positive effect on the moviegoing experience. CTC engages in a number of activities aimed at educating and improving the cinema experience. These include training courses, lectures and seminars, technical handbooks, educational visits, networking events and the industry leading Cinema Technology Magazine.

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The end of Series One projectors... but not the end of the world CTC’s Graham Lodge on the implications of Barco’s recent announcement that its Series One laser projectors will be “end of life” from this September.


HE SERIES ONE RANGE of projectors manufactured by Barco between 2000 and 2010 saw thousands of these workhorse digital units enter the field. The company’s recent announcement

A good innings: many of Barco’s earliest digital projectors have given solid service for nearly 20 years

that, as of September, it will no longer

support these earliest digital projectors has led to some concerns in the cinema industry. Many who still own Series One projectors believe that they will be obliged to purchase a new Series 2 or Series 3 projectors, but this really isn’t the case — ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’! At Sound Associates, we sold our very first Series One projectors in early 2007 and our last ones were sold in 2010

059_MAR20_CINIONIC.indd 59

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What does “end of life” entail? — about 100 or so projectors in total. Many of these are still in situ and are happily running in cinemas today. There is no

Barco recently announced that it will be ending service for the Barco Series One

reason why these cinemas shouldn’t continue to use these

projector range as of September 2020. This covers the DP1200, DP1500, DP2000

for many years to come.

and DP3000 models.

Cinemas that are concerned particularly that they will no longer be provided with DCPs because their projectors are


no longer supported need not worry — one of the original

Consequences of this end of service are that after 30 September, 2020:

statements issued by the DCI when it was first formed was

No DP-1200, DP-1500, DP-2000, DP-3000 nor specific spare parts, consumables

that “equipment would never be made obsolete by non-

or kits will be available

availability of content”. What this means is that if you have a

No training will be given on these products

Series One projector and server that has been installed and

No repairs will be done on DP-1200, DP-1500, DP-2000, DP-3000 specific parts

that currently runs DCPs, then the Studios will continue to

No service actions will be done on these products

provide features to run on these projectors.

Production tools will be removed

Series One — good enough for SMPTE With the latest firmware installed for both projector and server there is no reason why the projector cannot play the

At the present time only GDC has a solution that is

newly released SMPTE standard DCPs that are fast becoming

compatible with Series One projectors: this involves taking

the ‘norm’ for all DCP releases, rapidly replacing the older

one of its Series 2 Integrated Media Blocks and mounting this

‘Interop’ format.

into an external frame that allows it to communicate with the

It may be true that these older projectors might not be

Series One projector and still maintains all the necessary

able to handle High Frame Rate releases or Dolby Atmos

security requirements that the DCI regulations demand to

soundtracks or certain types of subtitles, but they will still be

protect the encrypted content from the Hollywood Studios.

able to show all ‘standard’ features. The announcement from Barco states that as of September there will no longer be spare parts sold by them for the Series One projectors. That will probably mean a strong second-hand market for replacement cards, power supplies, light engines etc will spring up on such places as eBay and other

“Older projectors may not be able to handle HFR and Dolby Atmos, but they can still show ‘standard’ features”

online marketplaces. It is fair to say, however, that as time

What to do with your Series One? Well, if your projectors are running reliably, then absolutely nothing, for now. That said, plans should be put in place. The projector, together with the server, is vital to the operation of a cinema, even if the projector itself is happy for the timebeing, any future problems could potentially result in the cinema having to go off screen for several days while either spare parts or even a replacement projector can be found, delivered and installed.

goes on, the availability of some critical parts will become

Given the inevitable march of time, it is best to be

restricted and more expensive. Without a manufacturer to

prepared and for you to start thinking of possible replacement

repair these parts or to check that they are fully operational,

projectors. What would be the most suitable replacement?

then reliability will start to become a concern.

How would the projector be paid for? Should you pay cash,

At Sound Associates, we still have approx. 10-15 Series

lease it, or pay on hire purchase? You should also consider

One projectors running in independent cinemas around the

what is involved in the physical replacement of the projector

UK — and all of these are running very well and reliably.

and server. Physical access, automation changes, projector

Server compatibility

base changes are all aspects that you will need to give some thought to — best to do so now, before you absolutely have to.

The bigger concern owners of these projectors should have is

In summary, there is no need to panic, but it is almost

the availability of replacement servers that will run with their

inevitable that other manufacturers — Christie, NEC and Sony

Series One projectors. Dolby servers were withdrawn from

— will make announcements along similar lines, that they too

sale many years ago and the Series One-compatible Doremi

will end support for early Series One projectors. It’s time to

servers have also been withdrawn for over a year now.

get informed about what’s on the market and plan ahead.

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There’s too much talk on the premium experience, and not enough focus on the standard, argues CTC’s Toni Purvis as she ponders presentation. The latest technology is all very well, but if you can’t get the basics right, then why bother with the whistles and bells?

T’S AN EXCITING TIME for cinema. It’s almost as though we’ve managed to get through a decade of digital and the big question now is ‘What can we do next?’ It appears anything is possible, from 120fps per eye 3D, to wonderfully immersive objectbased audio. Now we’re seeing HDR on the market, chairs that move, air vents that blow wind in our faces, on purpose no less, and aspect ratios that we haven’t seen for a long old time finding their place in the modern digital world.

The luxury feel of real (or fake) leather In addition to the technology, we are finding ourselves on leather (or faux-leather if the fan base includes the animal conscious population) reclining seats, with gourmet burgers and a glass of champagne being delivered to us, without even having to move. All of this combined leads us into the realm of the ‘Premium Experience’. Of course, there are many 6 2


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other ingredients that could be added into the recipe, but

up the projection booths, which in the earlier years did

that would take me over the word count {Ed: Quite right.].

involve going into the booths and flipping the odd switch at

My quarrel here is that it’s all well and good having the

least. Now we don’t even need to do that. Technology has

newest, shiniest, fanciest sound and projection equipment,

enabled us to set up our equipment from the comfort of our

combined with chairs that we can melt into, but what good

office chair, or the kiosk. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m

is it if the basic requirements of cinema are not met?

all for technology making life easier, but just because we no

Over the past year, we’ve seen the same old topics rear their head as influential celebrity figures take to social media

longer have people dedicated to sound and projection, does not mean that standards should slip.

to criticise their local cinema experiences. ‘It’s not bright

‘So what’s the answer?’, I hear you cry. Well, in my opinion,

enough’ and ‘It’s too loud’. These are two fundamentals of

with new technology should come new ways of working and new responsibilities that take into

cinema. These are also the two things that every guest is going to notice if they’re not right. You don’t need to be a technical genius to tell that there’s something wrong when your ears are bleeding and you’re scheduling an emergency optician’s appointment. Before I offend all cinema owners, I’d just like to point out that I am

“Just because we no longer have people dedicated to projection does not mean we should let standards slip”

account the fact that there’s not always someone sitting upstairs monitoring the screens. To make this all happen seamlessly, we need to ensure all involved from front door to auditorium are instructed correctly, and trained. There is nothing worse than being expected to do a task when you have

generalising… but I will continue to do so. By not presenting a

no idea how to do it, even in a world where YouTube is our

film correctly, we’re doing a disservice to our clientele who

oracle. It could lead to team members being disinterested

are paying for the privilege, as well as a disservice to the

and uninvested in the quality, which is definitely something

filmmakers and the teams that get the films to the screen.

we want to avoid when showing films is the primary purpose

Just hit play, right? Wrong...

of the cinema. Of course, we all understand that there are budgets to be

When a film is created, from conception to finished DCP,

met, and other jobs that need to be done which help to

every single detail is considered. The filmmaking process is

increase the daily revenue, but we must not forget that the

incredibly extensive, time-consuming and its vital to achieve

customer is there first and foremost, to see the film. I

the work of art we all await in anticipation. Unfortunately, in

personally don’t go to the cinema simply to buy the popcorn

my experience, the intended level of quality is very rarely

(salted of course). The popcorn is my secondary focus.

replicated in the everyday cinema.

So get the troops on the ground aware of what they

I find this very disappointing, as I’m sure filmmakers also

should be looking for and listening to, and half the battle has

do. A visual effect, or a subtle but deliberate sound on the left

been won. The other half of the battle is having an engineering

channel can be lost if the theatre is not correctly set up. These

team or integrator available when our trained and trusted

are details that have been put there on purpose, a creative

floor staff notice a problem that’s outside of the realm of the

decision to enhance the storyline or evoke some emotion.

fader, or bulb replacement. Get those two nailed, and there’ll

Next time you ingest a feature, take a look at the CTT, and see

be no looking back!

if it has any tell-tale signs of which version it is, because you can bet your bottom dollar it’s not the first. Each version will

You’ve got it right? Then go shopping

have tweaks to the VFX, or the print master, or indeed may

Once the standard projection requirements have been met,

contain a completely different scene from the last. Perhaps if

and we have a wonderful 2D, Scope, 14ft/l picture, with a

we were all aware of the painstaking lengths the production

well-balanced 5.1 audio calibration specific to each of our

and post-production teams go to, before the general public

auditoria, maybe then it is time to up the game and bring in

sees the next big thing on the big screen, we might all put a

the motion chairs, object-based audio systems, ginormous

little more effort into its presentation.

screens, and additional content on the side walls. Get the

It can be argued that presentation and the ‘magic of

basics right, and the rest will fall into place. We should learn

cinema’ got hit pretty hard with the digital revolution. Tabs

to walk before entering into the 100m Olympic sprint. Oh,

and masking became isolated, pageants barely used, and

and if at all possible, let’s leave the burgers in the restaurant

automation became king. Floor staff became expected to set

area — I’ll take the champagne through, though.

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From backyard to big top bonanza By the River Thames, in an old TV studio, a fantasy land of movie-magic is screening modern hits and classics to spellbound audiences. Peter Knight learns about a ‘pop-up cinema’ that’s true to its roots.


NLESS YOU’VE BEEN LIVING as a cinematic hermit in a dark auditorium for the past decade (and in our industry that is possible…), you cannot help but have noticed the surge in the number |of pop-up cinemas that have been

sprung up in all sorts of innovative locations worldwide. I’m most familiar with the pop-up scene in London, which notably boasts a fantastical and interesting selection. Of all these, a handful are now quite well-known — Nomad, Luna, Skylight, Rooftop, Backyard, Secret Cinema to name a few. Each has a different style and approach towards the events they put on and each has a different backstory. One of the most intriguing, by a country mile, is Backyard Cinema.

The genesis of a great idea... As the name suggests, Backyard Cinema has its roots in an

With some investment, Backyard started to screen films

unprepossessing location, namely the backyard of Dominic

at Camden Market in 2011 as part of its night market. There,

Davies’ house. He would run movie screenings for his friends, in

Dominic met James Milligan who was events manager at the

the back garden, providing the food, the beer and other fun.

market and later became a business partner. Dominic admits

As it became more and more successful and the cost of

this experience taught him a lot. They made mistakes that

supplying refreshments for an expanding and appreciative

they learnt from, but there was a definite appetite, selling out

audience spiralled, Dominic realised there was an opportunity

all 140 tickets for each of the four nights they screened. In the

to take the idea to market commercially.

second year they ran three nights of three shows for six weeks

In a small local venue Dominic set up a screening with 30

— a total of 400 tickets a week. This grew to 840 in 2013, and

chairs bought from the back of Argos catalogue. While the

4,500 the year after, with tickets selling out two months ahead.

majority of that first public audience was made up of friends and family, a few members of the audience had heard about

A move to a new ‘permanent’ location

the screening by word of mouth and thought it might be fun

Continued success prompted a move in September 2019 to a

to come along. It was at this point that Dominic thought that it

new home in Capital Studios — the former film and television

might be possible for it to become something bigger.

studios nestled behind the Youngs brewery south of the

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Attention to detail and atmosphere: the hallmarks of Backyard Cinema’s experience

14/02/2020 14:33

P O P - U P S

Backyard Cinema @ Winter Wonderland December 2018 One of Backyard’s most memorable pop-ups was the multi-room space at the Winter Wonderland event in London’s Hyde Park in 2018. Using a variety of different spaces and projection techniques, the famous and highly appropriate animated ‘Snowman’ film was screened. One of the most interesting setups saw the audience sat opposite each other along the length of a table laid out just as in one of the film’s most iconic scenes, with the snowman himself making an appearance at the same time as he does in the film itself. It was an imaginative retelling of the traditional movie and it saw the Backyard team working with Penguin books on the project. It opened for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for eight weeks. Dominic admitted it was a challenge to achieve and was different to anything they had put on previously, but the opportunity to work with such intellectual property owners was exciting.

Thames in Wandsworth (see box overleaf for more on these

the film screening. Across the courtyard is the second screen,

former studios). Out of use for five years, the studios had,

housed in a marquee — not that you would know it. There is

amongst many acts, played host to the Beatles and Bowie —

currently an amazingly detailed façade of a shop window

and nothing less than the TV game show “Ready Steady Cook”.

through which you enter into a space that is set up to feel like

Backyard Cinema has a five-year lease on the site, and spent

an amalgam of movie-style shops, with plenty of details to

two months getting ready for the Christmas season last winter.

uncover while waiting for the next element of the experience.

Under its current, winter-themed guise, there are two

Discussing the move to the studios in September 2019

spaces — Snow Kingdom and the Winter Kingdom. Each has

and the decision to have a permanent home, Dominic

been set up to deliver a wholly different experience. This new

explained: “We’ve always been a cinema in someone else’s

home is the first permanent base for the team, and allows

venue. Having our own now means we have complete control

them to do much more than before. One of the studios has

over every aspect including the food and beverage. This

been given over to an auditorium, with bean-bags for seating,

control means we can control the quality — but it is also all our

and the old control gallery housing the projection team. The

fault when it goes wrong. This venue was empty for years and

other studio is now a space that features a bar, pizza restaurant

we now have a five-year lease which is unusual and scary, but

and band area. This offers a space to chill out before and after

it also offers real opportunity with what we can do. We’ve used

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The f&b offering takes on a very different feel to the average cinema

Setting the scene LA Nights, Camden

Local suppliers offer a variety of refreshments

Roundhouse Taking over the outdoor terrace at Camden’s Roundhouse, A familiar south London landmark, Capital Studios has a new lease of life today

Backyard Cinema: the sort of place that customers like to linger

every square inch of space for the two Christmas Kingdoms.

A “black box” eperience? Not likely

Look closely — you’ll see the screen goes right up to the fence!”

Like many, I’m not a fan of “black box” auditoriums. The

Backyard created ‘L.A. Nights’ – a pop up beach complete with tonnes of sand.

Mission to Mars

Space at Capital Studios also offers the opportunity for

cinemas that capture my heart need to have soul in one form

In March 2018,

Backyard to have a proper set of offices and storage, as well as

or another, and the Capital Studios has that in spades. Having


their own dedicated entrance, meaning they can host private

spent a lot of my working life in television studios, I’m familiar

screened a range

events in a way that was much harder previously.

with the buzz you get walking down the corridors of the venue.

of sci-fi films that

From a technical perspective, both screens currently use

It has a unique atmosphere and the pre-show experience is

took place after

HD projectors run from computers/Blu-ray drives, but there Is

great fun, to boot. There aren’t many cinemas where you have

experiencing a

a backup of every system and a technician monitors the show

to give the password to walk through a secret door to enter the

journey to space

to ensure nothing goes wrong. The equipment is checked and

auditorium. The pre-show I saw even included plenty of old

complete with

rehearsed each day, something I experienced myself on my

familiar adverts many UK cinemagoers will have experienced


tour. Dominic is investigating the practicalities for installing full

growing up. It also included a short film that charted how the


DCI kit into the spaces.

team created the space, which served to heighten anticipation.

The Lost World

Capital Studios, part of Wandsworth’s history: 1968-2014 There are two studios on the site, studio A was 60 x 50ft, while studio B is slightly smaller at 50 x 40ft. Heavily used to make adverts, promos and TV programmes for 40 years, in the 1960s, the cinematographer Keith Ewart worked with a young director named Ridley Scott to make adverts here. A sale to Capital Radio group saw the site renamed Capital Studios before being sold in 1997. In the 1990s Fantasy Football League with Frank Skinner and David Baddiel was made here, as were other quiz shows and cookery programmes. Fifteen to One was on site for years in A, and Ready Steady Cook was a fixture for years. The studio also produced two live shows each week — Saturday Cooks for ITV1 and on Sundays the BBC2 kids’ show Smile in the early 2000s. In common with many parts of London, the land became more valuable than the studio, so the site was sold for redevelopment. The banking crisis of 2008 happened and plans went on hold, with the studios saved from the fixation for high-end apartments that has afflicted so many historic sites. Capital Studios operated until August 2008 when it was boarded up, briefly reopening between 2010-2014. In 2014, they closed for good and were scheduled to be demolished to make way for housing, but with all the attendant project delays, Backyard Cinema has been able to take on a five-year lease.

Backyard Cinema created a ‘Lost World’ in a corner of Mercado Metropolitano. Making your way through an ‘abandoned jungle’ with low-lighting, eerie calls and nature sound effects.

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P O P - U P S

Trailing ivy and colonnades — all part of the overall effect

Unlike other pop-ups, the film itself is sacrosanct and is always allowed to run uninterrupted

While other pop-up experience cinemas, such as Secret

It is also important that people feel relaxed when they attend

Cinema, have things going on during screenings, Backyard

one of the screenings. While the price of a ticket is still nearly

Cinema consciously leaves the audience to focus on watching

£20, for London that is fairly normal — tickets to a screening at

the film. They do claim, however, to be the UK’s only themed cinema and have created settings that have included The Lost

Setting the scene

a standard multiplex on a Friday evening can be £18-£25. Traditionally, pop-up cinemas has always been for summer outdoor events. As the sector has developed, this is no longer

World, Miami Beach and Mission to Mars. The two current settings — the Winter Night Garden and


the case and with some clever thinking several now operate

the Snow Kingdom — don’t simply require you to walk down a

& Juliet

year-round with the Halloween and Christmas seasons now important markers in the calendar. As Dominic explained, a

dark corridor to a titivated auditorium, but instead secrets are imparted, you have to find hidden doors, navigate passages

To mark the 20th

few years back he and the team realised no-one else was

lined throughout with living plants, clamber through

anniversary of Baz

doing anything in winter, so in 2015 Backyard Cinema

Luhrmann’s film,

presented a residency at Victoria Park in East London. From there it has grown to be a part of their annual calendar.

wardrobes and uncover a host of other exciting elements. Within the Studios’ courtyard are various pop-up food and

Backyard hosted

drink vendors who offer a range of refreshments that can be

a screening of the

enjoyed before or after the movies. The companies represented

movie, with a live

Roll up, roll up — it’s showtime!

are all local and offer plenty of choice. In the reception area

choir, in the

“Backyard Cinema is definitely experience lead. Everything

and throughout the building you find little nods both to the

Georgian church

starts from that point,” says Dominic. He admitted to a love of

history of the building and to Backyard Cinema’s own history — there is even a mini ‘museum’ just inside the front doors. The team must be doing something right. They achieve an

St Mary’s in

theme parks, and there is a notable flavour of the theme park

Marylebone. It

in the Capital Studios and at other events they have put on.

was a sell-out. A

Dominic acknowledges that they have a big team, but that it is

average 80% occupancy which rose to 98%+ in the run-up to

repeat event is

required as part of creating maximum impact. He wants to

Christmas, and they sell out of tickets six weeks in advance. On

planned in 2020.

surprise and delight and there are still plans to continue to run

the weekend I visited, they were expecting more than 4,000 customers. Sales of tickets and popcorn is further evidence of

roaming pop-ups on which they were founded. Dominic is


the success they have combining experience and cinema. People actively travel to be at this venue — including one

adamant that “Cinema is better together” and still visits his local Cineworld at least twice a week. “There’s something so

Before Backyard

special about the large screen, the dark room…” he says.

group who recently travelled several hours from Manchester

took over Capital

Backyard is different to your local cinema, and this new

for a weekend to try out both different experiences. Because

Studios, it created

Capital Studios venue offers a real opportunity for the team.

Dominic is still hands on with each of the productions and the

Winterville — a

The enthusiasm and passion the Backyard team bring to the

events, he will go down to help out and often finds members

Christmas festival

enterprise are notable. They specialise in creating sets inspired

of the audience come up to him at the end of screenings to

at Victoria Park .

by the films they play, and these time-limited themes harness

thank him for letting them be part of it. Each of the events has

The indoor winter

the excitement of a pop-up event at a permanent location. By

been created from deep within the team’s imagination, and is

cinema was in an

changing its themes seasonally, Backyard Cinema can

delivered with care and attention.

enchanted forest

guarantee a new and exciting interactive backdrop that

accessible only via

transports their customers to another world, better to enjoy all

Dominic says that first and foremost Backyard is a cinema, so sightlines and the quality of the viewing experience is vital.

064_MAR20_BACKYARD.indd 67

a secret tunnel.

their favourite films. It’s a compelling proposition. 0 3 / 2 0


6 7

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20/02/2020 10:52


The people’s palace Community cinema provides a lifeline to film in areas where mainstream theatres don’t reach. CTC’s Paul Wilmott describes the initiative that brings film to the big screen at the Royston Picture Palace.







community-led cinemas in the UK. These range across a broad spectrum, from film societies and clubs, through pop-up cinemas, school and university student cinemas, screenings in village

halls and arts centres, to youth and community centres. One such community initiative is Saffron Screen, set up in 2006 as a community cinema for Saffron Walden, in Essex, where the previous cinemas had closed in the 1960s (The Walden) and 1975 (The Plaza). Saffron Screen is a not-forprofit organisation run by a number of part-time staff and many local volunteers. Our aim from day one was to have a professionally run cinema (with 35mm projection, surround sound, and large fixed screen with masking) whilst accepting that there would be some limitations due to the premises being in the local County High School and thus utilising a shared space. Fast forward 14 years and we are now running mostly digital (we still have a Kinoton FP20 35mm projector which we use occasionally) with Dolby 7.1 sound. Being based in a school limits our daytime screenings and we do not always have access in the evenings during the week. However, we still manage 30-40 screenings per month.

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many live events via satellite, and we welcome over 40,000

backup, we also involved staff from Saffron Screen with the

customers a year — with an average attendance of 75 per

potential to fill in at Royston if we were short on staff.

screening. The model has proved to work, so much so that we

Our marketing team has had to work hard to reach new

have embarked on a new venture to operate a nearby cinema,

audiences in Royston. The cinema had not screened opera,

Royston Picture Palace, along similar lines.

plays and concerts before, so many local residents would be

The Royston auditorium has a Dolby 5.1 sound system.

unaware of the content we were providing. Our arts night at

The front left, centre and right speakers are behind the screen

Saffron Screen has always been popular and we hope to

as you would expect but are movable as the stage is used for

replicate this at Royston soon. And dementia and autism

other events too. This necessitates moving the speakers to

screenings will also be included in the Royston programme.

the sides and raising the screen. Masking for flat or scope is

Both sites incorporate a concessions stand and we are

present making for better presentation. Both sites use a Lansat receiver from Motion Picture Solutions for DCPs and to show live event broadcasts. We are currently having a Unique server and an Éclair server installed at Royston to receive Pearl & Dean advertising and additional films and trailers.

gradually moving to a situation where

“We were adamant that the Picture Palace should be a community cinema — with an improved content offering”

Double the effort?

our stock is sourced from suppliers who can service each of the cinemas. In both locations we have limitations on what we can provide due to not having a dedicated space, the concession stand needing to be set up before the weekend’s first screening, and packed away at the end of the last screening.

We have been able to integrate some elements of the

When one community cinema takes on the running of a

two cinemas. We try to get all DCP hard drives delivered to

second one there are inevitably challenges. Royston Picture

Saffron Screen and are hoping that in future we will be able

Palace was set up and run by the local Business Improvement

to ingest these remotely. Currently our films get delivered

Royston: an adaptable venue that caters to more than just its regular screenings

District (BID) organisation. A BID is a business-led initiative focused on a defined geographical area, usually in a town or city but sometimes a business park or industrial complex. It provides local businesses with the opportunity to be directly

Technical developments

involved in development and improvement of their area, working with the council and other statutory authorities to

The Royston Picture Palace in Royston, Hertfordshire, has a similar background to

bring benefits to their own enterprises and the community.

Saffron Screen albeit a bit more recent. The previous cinema in the town closed in

The Royston BID was instrumental in getting the town

2000 (The Priory Cinema) and the new community cinema was set up in the

hall refurbished to include a cinema and the subsequent

refurbished Town Hall in 2013. In many ways it is similar to Saffron Screen, utilising

running of the cinema. However, it was not envisaged that

a shared space which means the auditorium is not available for cinema use every

the BID would continue to run the cinema in the long-term.

day of the week. In fact, over the past 18 months or so only two films per weekend

Although Royston Town Council was keen that the cinema

have been screened. Having taken over the running of the Picture Palace we are

should provide entertainment for the town, they realised

now running a full programme each weekend and are planning to show occasional

they did not have the resources to operate it themselves. As

midweek screenings. We are currently in the process of installing a satellite dish for

Saffron Screen had been involved in providing help and

receiving live broadcasts primarily from NT Live and the Royal Opera House, and

guidance during the cinema’s setup, we were asked if we’d

hope to screen many more such live events in future.

consider taking on its operation. It took 18 months to agree a contract suiting both parties, starting in December 2019.

Getting buy-in from the volunteers

From a technical point of view, both of the cinemas have a Barco DP2K-15C which is a good choice for the size of screens (9m wide for Saffron Screen and 7m wide for Royston). Saffron Screen has a GDC server which is unusual in the UK whereas

We were adamant that Royston Picture Palace should be a

Royston has a Dolby server. We try to do most of the setup work for Royston

community cinema, and we also wanted to improve the

remotely, but we still get many films delivered on a hard drive, thus requiring a trip

content on offer, so engaging with the existing volunteers

to Royston to ingest the film. However, as we believe in testing all our films prior to

was essential. We wanted duty managers to take on greater

screening, we always have to visit Royston on a weekly basis anyway.

responsibilities (such as opening and locking up, selling alcohol, technical training) and so offered them paid positions rather than the volunteer status they had been used to. As a 7 0


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separately for each cinema but at some point it would be good only to receive a single copy if both are screening the same film! We integrated both sites

Find us here


into our online ticket and box office system (from Veezi) which saves time on putting films on sale and box office

Royston Cinema, Herts

reporting. We also hope to have a single website with easy access for updating

Set up in the

both sites. We have been planning a

refurbished town

new site for Saffron Screen for a while,

hall, the Royston

so this is a perfect opportunity to add

Picture Palace is a

on the Royston venue. We have always relied on Future

key part of the local regeneration

Projections for our regular equipment installation and maintenance at Saffron Screen and we have

FOR 2D & 3D APPLICATIONS Reflecting every detail with clarity and precision

now extended this to cover Royston Picture Palace. Likewise, our film bookings are made by the Independent Cinema Office and they now cover both sites. All of our back office systems have been adapted to cover both cinemas. Programming films for Royston Picture Palace is not too much extra work as many of the films screened are similar to those shown at Saffron Screen, both towns having a similar


demographic. We can also envisage some offers being available at both venues, e.g. our loyalty scheme at Saffron Screen could be extended to Royston. We could also promote each cinema to the other for events that have sold out at one venue, the sites only being just over 10 miles apart. For a small organisation, this has been quite a challenge, but we are looking forward to making Royston Picture Palace as successful as Saffron Screen. offering a wide range of films and events to two deserving communities.

069_MAR20_ROYSTON.indd 71

EFFICIENT WORLDWIDE DELIVERY 1 877 755-3795 0 3 / 2 0


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A focus on the customer

A new course from the CTC encourages cinema managers to think like a customer. Peter Knight reports on CTC training course that premiered at the NBC Universal London offices last November.



marketingm, and an exploration of the distribution activities in

from the CTC (Cinema Technology

movie marketing that included an informative presentation

Community) took place last November.

from Dan Butler in the NBC Universal UK team. He gave a real

Aimed specifically at helping to provide

insight into film distribution from a distributor’s point of view — a


perspective that many in the room were not aware of.




technical support, the course built on the

The afternoon session explored some of the best practices

CTC’s enormously popular projection training course that the

in presentation and the common faults that may be found in a

organisation has been running for more than five years. This

cinema auditorium. This was lead by Paul Willmott, followed by

new managers’ course set out to offer the same quality and

Sandie Caffelle who discussed pre-sales monitoring, analysis

style and, as with all previous such CTC courses, was delivered

and preparation. Sandie’s presentation built neatly on the

by industry experts who aimed to provide experience-driven

customer journey that Sarah had focused on in the morning,

insights on how to improve profitability, gain an increased

and finished with the important message to consider the big

understanding of the customer journey and provide a better

picture as well as just the little individual things.

overall visit for moviegoers.

Walking in the customer’s shoes

The day concluded with a look at the art of showmanship, led by Paul Willmott. This considered the elements that make a great cinema presentation, and was followed by yours truly

Following a welcome and introduction to the day, the attendees

providing a look at some possible future technologies. This

were taken on a customer journey by Sarah Lewthwaite, who

prompted a lively discussion around laser projection and

provided an in-depth look at the overall experience from buying

options around replacement.

a ticket through to the auditorium and beyond and the exhibitor

During the day there were plenty of opportunities for the

opportunities along the way. This session was an interactive

candidates to network and talk to CTC members who were

opportunity to consider the multiple stages of the journey that

available to provide advice and guidance. This new course was

a customer takes from the initial inspiration to go to the cinema,

considered a real success and will be repeated in the second

through to the follow-up afterwards.

half of 2020, details will be announced via the CTC website at

Subsequently, the next topic was based around Distributor 7 2


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14/02/2020 16:19


Faith, Hope AND Chariots A personal review of Widescreen Weekend 2019. Words by Mark Trompeteler

Professor Sir Christopher Frayling’s riff on the bible quote above is the place to start When Sir Christopher introduced the 1959 version of “Ben

reveres the spectacle, technology, legacy and culture of

Hur” at the 2019 Widescreen Weekend at the Science and

large format and widescreen cinema. The projection

Media Museum last October, his comment “Faith, Hope

equipment in the three-screen complex at the UK’s

and Chariots” neatly summed up the challenges and

National Science & Media Museum, in Bradford, allows

opportunities of programming this annual celebration of

delegates to enjoy films in 35mm. and 70mm. analogue

wide format film. For the past 23 years cinema

film, 2K and 4K digital, digital Imax, and three-strip

enthusiasts, cinema exhibition professionals, film critics,

Cinerama. It really is a rare and special cinema exhibition

authors, and academics have travelled from all over,

complex, and delegates travel to view films in all these

including the US and Australia, to attend an event that

formats in the space of three to four days.


he word Chariots indicates how

the flat screen on opening night, with the 1959 epic “Ben Hur”

the programmers continue to include

in a 4K DCP version on the curved screen on the closing night.

epics, the old roadshow movies and the

In between came “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story”



both on 70mm film on the curve, with Kenneth Branagh’s



movies as part of the programme. These

“Murder On The Orient Express,” filmed on modern 70mm

showcase the advantages a plethora of premium large formats

film emulsion and projected in 70mm. Perhaps not my

that cinema culture has given us over the years, as well as

favourite version of the story, but the print looked immaculate

giving the audience’s existing demographic the kind of classic

and pristine on the flat screen. Also screened was a digital

and modern films they like to see. This element of the

presentation of “Ice Station Zebra.” In the smaller Broccoli

programming might also possibly draw in a new audience to

cinema, 35mm film prints featured in screenings of “Barabbas”

see such movies as they were intended to be seen on both a

and “Gladiator.” Imax screenings included the interesting

flat and a curved screen.

pairing of “First Man” and the documentary “Apollo 11” which

Last year, the weekend was bookended by two such films,

features newly discovered immaculate 70mm footage that

the screening of a 70mm film print of “Ready Player One” on

raises the impact and veracity of the well-known footage. It


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does this to the extent that it launches this documentary way above the others that cover the subject. Presented in IMAX, it is a powerful feature.

Preserving the past If ever there was a brilliant demonstration of the immense value of the preservation work that Dave Strohmaier and his team have completed in saving the three-strip Cinerama travelogues from decaying into oblivion, this weekend featured it. As many know, it was the 1952 three-strip Cinerama process that was the catalyst that sparked the widescreen cinema revolution. For the cinema public today it’s a largely forgotten format, but Dave, has made it his mission to save this legacy. A screening of the first half of the museum’s three-strip

link to the programme, where parts of the film were shot,

celluloid archive print of “South Seas Adventure” in its faded

supported also by a walking tour of Bradford filming locations,

condition, followed, after the intermission, by a screening of

which was on offer.

the second half of the digitally restored version, demonstrated

The contribution of Doris Day to cinema was represented

how successful and valuable restoration work can be, and was

by the showing of two of her films — and modern interpretations

a tribute to Strohmaier and his team’s work. A work of faith!

acknowledge the importance of the characters she played in

Programming can also be key to building new audiences

later films which give far more modern representations of

and driving ticket sales. For the past few years, programming

working women than had previously featured in popular

new strands into the weekend indicates a hope to build up a

cinema. One session I attended, “Girls On Film — Live”, was the

new, younger and more diverse audience. Interesting

transmission of a live podcast, hosted by the film critic and

developments include the embedding of the strand “Celluloid

commentator Anna Smith. The analysis and critique of gender

Saturday” — an idea that sits well in the traditional weekend fare. Every film screened across the cinemas on Saturday is an analogue celluloid print. The addition of a day-pass to attend just this day provides an opportunity for cinemagoers who have only heard of film and traditional projectors to dovetail

The National Science and Media Museum, Bradford

Sir Christopher Frayling on site

such films as “Forrest Gump,” “Carmen Jones,” and “Pulp Fiction” which featured with other celluloid prints mentioned. Thematic strands across this year’s weekend criss-crossed the screening schedules in abundance. To two of the above titles a 35mm, print of the film

musical sequences was contemporary, forthright and highly relevant. This was followed by refreshing audience discussion and debate and was well worth attending. It is good to see The Student Widescreen Film of the Year Competition and Award embedded as part of the weekend

into the existing and more commited audience. In this strand, this year, were

representation and related contextual issues in some classic

“Programming new strands into the festival indicates a hope to build up a younger and more diverse audience”

now, too. It was a pleasure to meet with and talk to the student team from the University of Roehampton who won in the category for the best British entry.

Plenty of choice, or not enough focus? The weekend quite sensibly now frequently offers alternative titles screening in different auditoria, so delegates can have alternatives to films that they may have seen a number of

“The Haunting” was presented making a mini retrospective of

times before or that for some reason they dislike. This coupled

Robert Wise within the weekend. Fitting in with the potential

with the multiple programming strands across the schedule

interests of more contemporary audiences the massive recent

might lead some to think the offer could appear as a little

hit of “Black Panther” was programmed to contrast against an

confusing at times.

earlier superhero fantasy film “Blade.”

As the themes, content and issues raised by the films

Development across the industry to reflect and promote

overtake the interest in the process and the format issues of

women’s contribution to cinema and women’s issues in

the films, some may wonder if there is a danger of any focus of

society also resonated within the programming. Penny

the weekend being lost. With such an abundance of choice

Marshall’s “A League of Their Own” was screened and the film

within the programme, it does allow delegates to tailor their

“Effie Gray” highlighted how women struggled in Victorian

experience, which is a strong advantage. At one point I was

society. Clio Barnard chatted on stage by way of an introduction

able to attend the introductory talk to “Barabbas,” then I

to her film “The Selfish Giant,” this helped cement a Bradford

walked over to hear the extended introduction and talk about

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AV • Live Events • Production • Audio • Video • Broadcast

Upgrade your cinema technology Doris Day, and — as soon as the house lights went down there — I went on to the IMAX for the introductory talk for “Apollo 11” and its screening.The key issue is how does the Widescreen Weekend maintain a core identity and a common experience for the whole audience, whilst giving opportunities for individualisation and alternatives, without seeming a little confused or over- complex. Some felt that the weekend is not the same as it used to be, and it is different from other similar weekend festivals. Surely nothing is ever likely to stay the same for over nearly a quarter of a century. Isn’t it the point that each film festival should be a little different? The challenges for the projection team at places like BFI Southbank and The National Science and Media Museum at events like this are immense — a rapid succession of films in different formats, ratios, and from different periods projected over a concentrated short period of time, and some requiring individualised tweaks in projection. All this in front of a highly knowledgeable audience can result in any technical snags or exhibition faults being quickly noted by some. Inevitably there was such an instance or two during this weekend. However long gone, it seems, are the former technical breakdowns that used to occur that not infrequently pushed the days’ schedule further and further back often resulting in limited breaks. One of the main joys of this weekend is to spend time sharing drinks, meals and conversations with fellow enthusiasts or industry professionals when films are not being screened.

When it’s time to upgrade your cinema to the latest digital technology, Medialease can help. We’ve provided asset finance for cinemas for projectors, bar areas, kiosks and 4D technology – you name it!

Even if at first glance audience numbers might not appear to be rising in a spectacular chariot race manner, then if the audience for this niche event is being maintained at a steady level, with people still travelling from abroad, then in these days of competing entertainment and work schedules, after

To find out more, please call us on 01327 872531 or email

23 years, that is a major achievement The history, the legacy and the developments associated with this event should ensure that it reaches its 25th anniversary and I hope it goes


well beyond that and more.

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A step closer to closed caption shows? An augmented reality solution from the National Theatre looks promising in the delivery of closed caption subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing audiences. The UKCA updates readers on progress.






who need them, but potentially for all cinema screenings.

Technology will hopefully recall an

This would massively widen the range of films available to

earlier update on the Technology

deaf customers, and extend greatly their ability to enjoy the

Challenge Fund, launched by the UK

big screen experience with friends and family.

Cinema Association back in October

At the UKCA, we are now at a stage where, by a process

2018. The purpose was to find an affordable and inclusive

of investigation and consideration, we have reduced the 15

solution for the delivery of ‘closed caption’ subtitles for deaf

initial proposals originally received following the launch of

and hard of hearing people.

the Fund down to two preferred options, each of which has

The background to the Technology Challenge Fund is

been awarded a second (and final) phase of funding. While

the fact that there are an estimated 11million people with

both of these rely on some form of eyewear to reveal the

hearing loss across the UK — around one in six of the

subtitles to individual users, they offer somewhat different

population — a figure which is expected to rise to one in five

solutions to the problem, as outlined below.

— or almost 16 million people — by the year 2035. While over the past decade the UK cinema sector has

A look at the options proposed

worked hard to meet the needs of its deaf and hearing-

The proposal from the research agency ScreenLanguage —

impaired audiences — with there now being more than

based in Scotland — is currently at a more conceptual phase

1,500 subtitled screenings in UK cinemas every week — the

than the second of our proposals, and it utilises the potential

delivery of such ‘open caption’ shows, where the subtitles

offered by polarised light to display subtitles on a secondary

are visible to audience members whether they need them

screen when viewed through glasses such as those currently

or not, remains a challenge, particularly for smaller cinema

utilised for ‘passive’ 3D systems.


Targeted screenings

The better-developed solution, and therefore the more promising at this stage, is that offered by a team at the National Theatre (NT), who have developed a set of specially

The general reluctance of the wider audience to attend

adapted ‘smart caption’ glasses. These were launched by

subtitled screenings means that attendance at these open

the NT in 2018 following a year of testing with audiences

caption shows tend to be significantly lower than for a

who are deaf or hard of hearing. These smart caption

comparable non-subtitled screening, with a consequent

glasses are now in use for 80% of the NT productions at the

financial impact for the operator. It’s a somewhat negative

South Bank theatres in London.

spiral for those cinemas trying to do the right thing.

In technological terms, the NT’s glasses display a

The Technology Fund was established to explore new

synchronised transcript of dialogue and sound directly onto

ways of delivering ‘closed caption” screenings only to those

the lenses of the glasses, giving service users the freedom

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15/02/2020 09:47

Savoy Systems Cinema Box Office Software Specialists for Independents 100+ Independent venues in the UK are using our software, Oscar We’re based in the UK, and so is our 24/7 telephone support We’ve been supporting independent cinemas for over 10 years to experience captions how and when they want to. NT developed the service in conjunction with Accenture’s Extended Reality Group using an existing ‘off-the-shelf’ glasses model designed and manufactured by Epson with arts and culture applications specifically in mind. With successful testing and configuration of the system to the cinema environment now well underway, in January, the BFI London Short Film Festival hosted the first UK pilot of the glasses for deaf and hard of hearing audiences. Thirty devices

Mobile-responsive online booking ensures you don’t miss out on customers Choose between Cloud-based or Server on-site, with access from anywhere 20 million tickets sold, and counting

were made available for audiences to book and use across a significant number of the festival’s performances. It was a hugely exciting milestone in the progress of Fund and will provide us with a much better understanding of the operational practicalities of the devices for cinemas, as well as valuable feedback from users. All being well, our next step will then be a wider ‘real-life’ trial of the technology across a range of mainstream cinemas, something on which we will of course keep readers of Cinema Technology updated.

Call us on +44 (0)115 714 1486

076_MAR20_UKCA_ACCESSIBILITY.indd 77 0 9 / 1 8 9 > 7 7 15/02/2020 09:47



Busy, busy, busy on the behalf of Europe’s exhibition community The past year saw many European territories put in a stellar box office perfomance. UNIC CEO Laura Houlgatte reflects on a year of successes and looks forward to more of the same in 2020!








Celebrating cinema’s diversity

represented another year of success for

More broadly in terms of trends within the sector, industry

cinemas across Europe, with admissions

consolidation in both distribution and exhibition all over the

for the region expected to reach above

world is continuing, (with Fox/Disney combined amassing an

1.25bn visits for the fifth consecutive year.

astonishing $11.1bn at the global box office in 2019) and the

At time of writing in early 2020 final admissions and box office

expansion of European operators into new regions.

figures remain to be seen, but it’s apparent that a number of

Europe can be proud of its tier of successful independent

countries across the region put in stellar performances.

cinemas, highlighting how operators cater for a multitude of

Bolstered by US productions and popular local content, part of

audience preferences. The expansion of several independents

this success is undoubtedly down to the broad slate of films

is a clear response to a continual demand for diversity, Be sure

that reached European audiences throughout the year.

to keep an eye on the Europa Cinemas Innovation Award,

France, consistently one of UNIC’s top-performing member

which highlights such sites, with operators from Slovenia,

territories, welcomed an incredible 213m cinema-goers to

France and Bulgaria recognised in 2019 for creativity in film

theatres in 2019 — the second highest level of admissions since

programming, young audience schemes and entrepreneurship.

1966 and a 6% increase on 2018. Spanish exhibitors attracted

It’s crucial we celebrate such initiatives in order to secure future

over 105m cinema-goers in 2019, a record-breaking figure — an

prosperity, along with the wider value of cinema-going for

increase of 37% compared to 2013, the first full-year during

audiences across Europe and beyond. After all, cinemas are

which VAT on tickets was increased from 8 to 21%. Celebrations

the ultimate space to showcase quality films.

are in order for Italy too, which, partly thanks to a strategic shift

One of UNIC’s main priorities is to spread the word about

when it came to summer releases, reached close to 100m

the economic, social and cultural contribution of cinemas. We

admissions, representing double-digit growth from 2018.

issued a number of statements last year on the importance of

Positive admissions could be seen in other European territories such as the Netherlands (+6.5%), the Czech Republic

full theatrical release and exclusive windows — which benefit everyone throughout the film value-chain.

(+12%), Latvia (+8%) and Russia (+10%), which for the second

With the launch of Disney+ and Apple TV+ last year, many

time in three years is the number one European territory in

will be watching to see how the various players in the streaming

terms of admissions with over 219m visitors. Special mention

landscape, interact with each other and the theatrical sector.

must also go to German colleagues for their efforts building

This remains a key interest for UNIC but we firmly believe

admissions and box office growth after a difficult 2018, which

streamers and cinemas can complement each other.

are expected to result in double-digit increases. And, on the

Closer to home, a key event in the past 12 months came in

back of a record year, the UK put in a stellar performance too.

the form of the launch of the third UNIC Women’s Cinema

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Leadership Programme, a flagship initiative aimed at achieving

of cinema exhibition. It was a year of change, with European

gender balance in exhibition. Thanks in no small part to the

Parliament elections in May and a new European Commission

dedication of our inspiring mentors and mentees during the

executive coming into office in December. Some 60% of the

three editions so far, the scheme is thriving and we’re delighted

European Parliament’s members (MEPs) were elected for the

to see the launch of initiatives such as Women in Exhibition.

first time and the new Commission leadership has unveiled a

A focus on retail, marketing and tech

broad range of fresh priorities. These changes will bring both opportunities and challenges, as we continue to reach out to

Our expert working groups went from strength to strength in

our established contacts and new potential allies at EU and

2019 and we welcomed a new addition, the UNIC Circular

national level to ensure the future of European cinema-going.

Economy Retail Group. Created with partners from Coca-Cola,

UNIC is also looking forward to a productive year as a

it gathers professionals across the industry committed to

founding member of the Global Cinema Federation (GCF),

creating a sustainability roadmap for exhibition in Europe. The

which groups the world’s leading cinema operators and the

UNIC Marketing Group was re-launched in 2019 and we are

two key multi-national trade bodies (UNIC and NATO) to

planning more meetings in 2020. In addition, the UNIC

represent the sector’s global interests. In 2019, the GCF was

Technology Group continued to bring together respected

present at many industry events, with a keynote address and

professionals to explore developments in the ever-changing

panel at ShowEast and the Federation’s annual meetings at

field of technology. Towards the end of the year, we teamed up

CinemaCon and CineEurope. We expect the GCF to continue

with UNIC member Rolv Gjestland for his fascinating take on

to grow, both in terms of size and influence.

“How to design a cinema auditorium”, launched at our Cinema Days and available for free on the UNIC website.

Without giving too much away, at CineEurope this year, you can look forward to an enticing mix of previews, launches

Speaking of which, the 2019 UNIC Cinema Days was the

and discussions on trends, developments and other topics for

most successful to date, with discussions ranging from the

exhibitors and professionals worldwide. Don’t miss the chance

relationship between cinemas and tech giants, to what

to discover everything that’s set to make the big screen

constitutes “premium”, accessibility, untapped audiences and

experience irresistible — put CineEurope 2020 in your diary!

much more. We look forward to building on this success in 2020 with a dynamic programme of seminars and workshops covering the full spectrum of cinema-going in Europe today. But 2019 wasn’t just a big year on the industry side. The lion’s share of UNIC’s work and purpose is focused on advocacy within the EU institutions to promote and defend the interests

078_MAR20_UNIC.indd 79

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14/02/2020 21:54



Another recordbreaking year! There were some notable successes over the past 12 months — Grainne Peat reflects on some of the highlights of 2019


AST YEAR SAW unprecedented levels

Activity Dates

of success for event cinema at the UK

Knowing how important it is for members to plan their year,

and Ireland box office, comfortably

the ECA have made the following commitments to have a

eclipsing the previous record, £41.3m, set

presence at the below events over the course of the year.

in 2018, taking over £53m from no fewer

UKCA Conference (London)

3-4 March 2020

than 188 separate titles. The figures make for strong reading:

CinemaCon 2020 (Las Vegas)

eleven titles exceeded £1m (compared to four in 2018).

CineEurope 2020 (Barcelona)

30 March – 2 April 2020

September took £7m+ in BO making it the biggest month ever.

UNIC Cinema Days (Brussels)

NT Live’s “Fleabag” took over £4m+ making it the biggest event

ShowEast (Miami)

19-22 October 2020

cinema show of all time. Close behind was “Les Misérables: the

MENA convention (Dubai)

27/29 October 2020

staged concert” in December that took £2.3m for one night

Norwegian Cinema Conference (tbc)

only, making it the highest grossing one-night performance

ECA Networking Event (TBC)

22-25June2020 October 2020

9-12 November 2020 November 2020

ever. Excitement and interest around event cinema continues

There will be opportunities to support the Association at

to flourish and there is no doubt it is a growing area of cinema

each of the main events. To express interest in participation or

programming. Those working in event cinema content have

sponsorship, email

successfully packaged a fruitful model that attracts new audiences; audiences that want a shared experience — whether

Agenda 2020

it be theatre, opera, ballet, music concerts or sporting events.

The ECA ensures that excitement about event cinema-going is

This content entertains audiences outside of the norms, too.

represented effectively both inside and outside of the film

This wealth of content makes the role of the ECA ever-more

industry. The ECA remains committed to helping to promote

prominent. The ECA has already mapped out its ambitions and

content and we will continue to develop and create a suite of

plans for 2020. Back by popular demand, we once again ran

marketing assets — including quarterly showreels of upcoming

the ECA Slate Day in February at Vue West End, in London. The

content — that are exclusively available to ECA members.

event featured presentations of upcoming titles from a wide

A firm focus in 2020 will be providing greater transparency

range of providers including More2Screen, CinemaLive, Piece of

by collating global box office data, insights, and market

Magic, Spotlight Cinema Network, Fathom, Nexo Digital,

research to communicate international trends and strategies.

Fathom Events and CinEvents. Comscore’s Luke Williams

The ECA will build on the results of the event cinema survey to

investigated the box office trends and insights from 2019 and

develop training and standards around content delivery. 2020

the day concluded with the ECA Box Office Awards 2019.

is set to be a buoyant year for event cinema and the ECA!

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080_MAR20_ECA.indd 80

For more information on ECA events and membership, visit www.eventcinema Annual ECA membership is £500 or £200 for individuals and cinemas with five sites or fewerß.

14/02/2020 16:36


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Editorial disclaimer The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of Cinema Technology magazine or its Editors. Information contained in our published works has been obtained by Cinema Technology from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither Cinema Technology magazine nor its authors guarantees the accuracy or completeness of any information published herein and neither Cinema Technology nor its authors shall be responsible for any errors, omissions, or claims for damages, including exemplary damages, arising out of use, inability to use, or with regard to the accuracy or sufficiency of the information contained in our publications. All rights reserved. No part of any Cinema Technology published work may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the publisher. Cinema Technology is published by Motion Picture Solutions Ltd, 9-11 North End Rd, London W14 8ST, United Kingdom.

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081_MAR20.indd 1

Index to Advertisers Airscreen




Arts Alliance Media


Harkness Screens


Big Cine Expo


The Jack Roe Companies




Camstage 83 Christie






Motion Picture Solutions








Projected Picture Trust




QSC Cinema




Savoy Systems


Future Projections


Strong MDI


Galalite Screens





09, 41, 57

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20/02/2020 10:17

o p i n i o n 8K resolution? It’s all in the detail Peter Knight considers the impact of the 8K resolution revolution — will it affect the way that we project digital cinema any time soon?


alking around IBC last September

The resolution revolution?

you couldn’t fail to notice the vast array

In the non-cinema entertainment space, 8K projectors are

of televisions on display all capable of

already available, with Digital Projection unveiling one in 2019.

showing 8K resolution, some at 120fps. I

Museums, attractions, event and projection mapping are all

could walk out of a Curry’s electrical store

making use of the higher resolution. So with all of this 8K

today with a brand new 55in Samsung 8K television for less

activity happening in other professional environments, let

than £2,500, For a few more thousands, a selection of 80in+

alone in the home, where does this leave cinema? Should the

models is available. All come with HDR or HDR10+ options on

projectors in cinemas ramp up to 8K or even 16K to compete?

top, and several feature Dolby Atmos too. That may not be super-cheap, but the technology is readily available.

Whenever I raise the topic at different technology firms in our sector, the response has been unequivocal — there isn’t the

The Consumer Technology Association forecast that US

content. Despite having 4K projectors, not many movies are

sales of 8K UHD TVs would reach 175,000 units in 2019. Though

released with a 4K DCP. That said, I certainly have heard some

IHS Markit downwardly adjusted its own estimates for 2019 8K

suggesting that 8K is not an impossibility in cinema’s future.

television sales from 430,000 to 167,000 units, it still represents

In the realms of on-demand and streaming services, there

a growth in sales. The variety of 8K models available and being

4K content is being widely consumed, much of which now

reviewed is fast-approaching the number of 4K ones. Some

also has HDR available with it. But even higher resolution with

contend 8K will be a mainstream consumer product by 2023.

higher dynamic ranges and faster frame rates all means larger

Content is king — and this has been part of the challenge

file sizes. Larger file sizes mean a greater requirement for

of 4K, with relatively few cinema features released in 4K,

storage space, more processing and more network capacity,

despite the availability of 4K projectors for over a decade.

much like squeezing an eight lane-highway into a small

YouTube has supported the upload of 8K videos since 2015,

country road. The jump to 8K is 16 times that of standard HD.

with Vimeo adding 8K support in November 2017. As we went

So in a world of hard-pressed bandwidth, cinema may well

to press, it had 8,000 videos tagged with 8K.

have a role to play as venues capable of handling robustly the

While content is still scarce, it is appearing gradually. At the

demands of 8K technology. One final thought — the optimal

end of 2019 the rugby world cup was broadcast in Japan in 8K,

viewing distance for that 55in 8K TV set at Currys? Just under

and this year’s Olympics Games will be available in 8K. And

2ft. I don’t know about you, but I sit a bit further back. As a rule,

just recently we also saw an announcement of a new 8K

bigger screens deliver better resolution more comfortably.

certification scheme for televisions from the 8K Association designed to create a standardised feature set for 8K displays. 8 2


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MAR20_OPINION.indd 82

What is the conclusion? 8K is reaching our world — it may be worth considering where and why it sits in our cinemas.

17/02/2020 10:40

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