June 25, 2009
 
Cinemark Returns Movies to Huntington Mall
One Auditorium Utilizes 3D Chain Experimenting with Extreme Digital (XD) Auditorium(s)

By Tony Rutherford
Huntingtonnews.net Entertainment Editor
 
Barboursville, WV (HNN) – Citing the strength of a still vibrant mall with department stores (Macys, Penney’s, Sears, Elder Beerman), specialty retail, and an abundance of restaurants, Cinemark, the #2 cinema chain in the United States, saw construction of a modern, stadium seating complex at the Huntington Mall as an overlooked opportunity.
 
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The former six-screen theatre which had been in operation since the mall’s opening closed about three years ago. It had been built in an era that did not envision what 21st Century moviegoers would expect, thus, it could not be converted. Cinemark tore down the old theatre and what had been Morrison’s Cafeteria for the new twelve screen complex.
 
“The Huntington Mall has been without a theatre for several years and the time is right to bring movies and entertainment back to the area,” says James Meredith, Vice President of Marketing for Cinemark USA, Inc. “Cinemark is committed to bringing our customers the best movie-going experience possible.” In the weeks ahead, movie-goers will be able to see some of Hollywood’s hottest new releases, including Transformers 2, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 3-D, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and G.I. Joe.“
 
The theatre’s stadium-seating auditoriums will allow patrons to enjoy unobstructed views from plush, high-backed imitation leather rocking seats with armrests featuring a 16-inch height difference between each row. Spacing of 48 inches between each aisle will give movie-goers more leg room and ample space to enter and exit their row without disturbing other guests and an uninterrupted view of the screen no matter where you sit..
 
“That seems to be the current trend in movie theatres today, we are thrilled to bring it here,” said Bryan Jeffries, marketing manager for Cinemark.
 
 
ONE AUDITORIUM 3D AND DIGITAL FOR NOW
 
The new theatre has 3-D and digital capability, but currently only one projector in the format.
 
“The same projector can play digital or 3-D, depending on the movie. For instance, if you were watching “Transformers”, you’d be watching a digital version of it on that screen. Next week, when “Ice Age” opens in 3D, we’ll bring “Ice Age” in 3D with that projector.
 
Currently, the theatre has one digital and/or 3D projector that shows 3-D films in the Real D format, similar to Marquee and GHTC. “Plans are to add more over the next year,” Jefferies explained. “The biggest problem right now is to get a hold of those projectors because there are so many theatres converting to digital, there are not a lot of them out there right now.”
 
In addition, like their Movies 10 location in Ashland, Ky., the Barboursville mall cinema has the capability of beaming live satellite delivered attractions, such as the Metropolitan Opera and the Glen Beck Show. Jefferies indicated “our plan is to have the one night only performances just like Ashland, but we did not have that ready for the grand opening. It’s part of the long range plan. It’s a real easy thing for us to do, but it was not done initially.” The digital projector plays the performances that are beamed via satellite. “We have the technology [here]. But we don’t have the satellite plugged in.”
 
Jefferies indicated that Cinemark has a strong brand recognition and the amenity of a self-service concession stand has proven popular. “You pick out the size of drink you want, fill it with your own ice, you put the amount in your want, you put as much butter on your popcorn as you want, and the candy is set out for you. You pick it up and go to the cash register.”
 
The complex has a birthday party room that can be rented out and then allow those celebrating to watch a movie as part of the packaged price.
 
 
SELF SERVICE CONCESSIONS
 
“The self service concession stand is most prominent in our chain,” Jefferies continued, adding, “You’ll find that more in Cinemark theatres nationwide. We have over 400 theatres….so [we feel] there is a confidence when you go to a Cinemark theatre, you are dealing with a large corporation that knows how to take care of their customers. Because we are such a large chain, we have the buying power to get films that other theatres may not be able to get.”
 
Asked about the response to independent and sophisticated art pictures (Cinearts) in a middle sized city, such as the Huntington/Barboursville market, the marketing director from Texas explained, “It’s hard to predict where it will succeed. Sometimes you will surprise yourself where it succeeds. All you can do is put it out there and see if you have that audience of independent film follower. Our plan would be to play some independent product, such as “Brothers Bloom,” which is on screen for the next ten days, and , if we see success on a film like “Brothers Bloom” that gives you permission to get the next [independent] film, and the next film, and hope the success continues.”
 
 
PROTOTYPE OF EXTREME DIGITAL, XD FORMAT
 
Cinemark, which has 3,814 screens in 39 states and ranked #1 or #2 by box office revenue in 21 of the top 25 markets, has a prototype for a digital format that rivals the screen size of IMAX, yet does not have the downside of limited films in the pipeline.
 
Called XD, “We have one theatre in our chain that has extreme digital. The entire auditorium is digital overload. The projector is digital, JBL has custom made speakers for the auditorium. The entire fourth wall of the theatre from top to bottom, left to right, is a screen. You watch on a 72 foot wide screen at the one we currently have in Dallas (actually Cinemark West Plano, http://www.cinemark.com/xd.asp) , which is almost twice as wide as a normal movie screen. It is digital and everything that can be converted into 3-D. That Fourth wall concept with custom made sound systems, all of those are Cinemark exclusives that we will eventually roll out through the chain. It’s been an overwhelming success in Dallas and we are trying to fast track it to other auditoriums.”
 
The XD concept has been compared to IMAX, but the large format IMAX has exclusive content, while the XD “can play any digital film, where IMAX is always going to be whatever is released on IMAX. We can play what’s on IMAX in an XD; they can’t always play what’s in an XD on IMAX.
 
“You need to be in a densely populated or tourist location where your audience changes all the time, “ Jefferies said regarding IMAX, which compares with the analysis given by Marquee Cinema president Curtis McCall.
 
 
MOVIES PSYCHOLOGICAL RELIEF FROM STRESS
 
Cinemark’s marketing director agreed that theatrical releases have been “surprisingly strong,” despite the recession, which hit full force on or about January 2009. “Where everybody else is doom and gloom, each week we get a surprise starting all the way back with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” being a $100 million dollar film. Those are the surprises that you would have never thought that film in January during the worst part what seems to be the recession would succeed to that level.
 
He continued, “That’s how we have gone into the summer too. Each new week has been another surprise that the economy in our end of the business is doing well.” Jefferies agreed that going to the movies has the reputation of ‘the cheapest form of entertainment’ and added, “psychologically it’s a relief from everything else happening in the world.”
 
The new 12 plex has special all day Tuesday pricing, where you can see any film (other than 3D with a premium) for $5.75 all day.
 
Editor’s Note: Rutherford is a Former Regional Correspondent for Boxoffice Magazine, a trade publication of the motion picture industry and has conducted one-on-one interviews with such celebrities as Clint Eastwood, the late directors Martin Ritt and Otto Preminger, Bess Armstrong, producer John Fiedler, and director McG.



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