Jeff Benson is the co-founder, along with his wife, Jamie, and CEO of Cinergy Entertainment Group. They founded Cinergy in 2009 after selling Movie Tavern, a 15-location, nationwide dine-in cinema chain that they started in 2001. Benson has been an entrepreneur in the movie theatre and family entertainment center businesses now for 25 years now. He originally started out as a CPA with Deloitte back in the early ‘90s. Said Benson, “It’s been a wild and crazy ride over the years, but we have always tried to be a leader utilizing new business models and technologies within established entertainment industries.” For me, something that sets Cinergy apart from its competitors is the fact that in 2019, the Cinergy Entertainment Group was named the Top Family Entertainment Center of the World by the International Association of Parks and Attractions. I recently spoke with Benson via email and our conversation started there.
The Big Picture
Brian Schultz is the founder and CEO of Look Cinemas. Schultz established Studio Movie Grill in Dallas in 1993, and the company quickly became one of the nation’s most successful dine-in entertainment venues. What seemed an obscure novelty in the ‘90s quickly became one of the industry’s most popular concepts, but that did not save Studio Movie Grill from the pandemic. In a now all-too-familiar story, the pandemic led to many changes for the company, one of which is that Schultz left in 2020 and decided to start a new venture called Look Cinemas. Using a business model similar to, but more ambitious than Studio Movie Grill, Look Cinemas has opened twelve theatres in under two years, most recently on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the Brutalist VIA building near the Hudson River that was previously occupied by Landmark Theatres. Schultz says, “Ultimately, our purpose is to bring people together. When guests choose Look, we want them to feel like they can escape for a while and share an incredible entertainment experience with the ones they love.” Opening any movie theatre is a serious undertaking but doing it in Manhattan poses challenges that are unlike any place else. I recently spoke with Schultz to learn what obstacles he faced in opening New York City’s newest movie theatre and his vision for the future of not just Look Cinemas but of the exhibition business itself. Here is that conversation.
These have been challenging times for National CineMedia. In January, Cineworld, hurt financially by the pandemic, filed for bankruptcy, and threatened to leave NCM’s advertising network. Then, NCM itself began a comprehensive restructuring effort with the support of its secured lenders, through which all the company’s debt would be converted into equity of the reorganized company. Under that agreement, NCM will assume all its critical contracts upon emergence, ensuring that the company will maintain the largest national cinema advertising network. But there have also been some positive developments for the company. In March, NCM released the first U.S. cinema attention measurement study conducted by the attendance measurement company Lumen in collaboration with Dentsu, the agency leader in attention metrics. The major finding proves that ads played in movie theatres rank number one for consumers’ attention when measured against all other video platforms. Other key findings include a greater attention score, significantly more consumers watching for a longer duration, and a correlation with recall and choice. To get a better picture of the survey’s and NCM’s prospects moving forward, I recently spoke via email with Mike Rosen, the company’s chief revenue officer, who makes clear that he believes NCM has weathered the storm. Here is our conversation.
The Shenzhen-based technology company, Timewaying and its global strategic partners Arts Alliance Media held a technology tour event this month at the Krikorian Theater in California, and unveiled its latest LED cinema screen, the LA2K-10. This is the company’s first 10-meter 2K DCI LED cinema screen in the United States. The event signaled that the HeyLED cinema screen is officially approved for the global market. Industry professionals from around the world, including exhibitors, integrators, technology associations, and media representatives attended the event. “Our first Tech Tour was really to provide an opportunity for the industry to experience these technologies for themselves and understand how progressive PLF solutions, such as HeyLED, are shaping the future of cinema,” said AAM’s chief commercial officer David Ong.
Cinema ticket sales in the first quarter of 2023 saw the highest grossing quarter of the current decade, achieving eight billion dollars, according to the latest report from the London-based analytics firm Gower Street. That is +6 percent above the prior peak in Q4 2021, fueled by No Time to Die and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Q1 2023 was a massive +27 percent ahead of Q1 2022 and double the first quarter of 2021.
As has been widely reported, shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings jumped more than 18 percent this week, set for the company’s biggest gain in a month, after sources said Amazon was looking to buy the theatre chain.
National CineMedia has released the first U.S. cinema attention measurement study conducted by the attendance measurement company Lumen in collaboration with Dentsu, the agency leader in attention metrics. The major finding proves that ads played in movie theatres rank number one for consumers’ attention when measured against all other video platforms, the study says. Other key findings include:
Buffalo and Western New York are rapidly becoming a destination of choice for film and television producers. In the past two years alone, more than 110 productions have been completed, are in-progress or have been announced, including Nightmare Alley, Marshall, and A Quiet Place 2. Tax incentives tell just a part of the story. Over the years the area has developed a sizable film production infrastructure and is still growing. Buffalo FilmWorks claims to be the largest major motion picture film studio in the entire state of New York. The $50 million facility is equipped with over 120,000-square-feet of stage space and 60,000-square-feet of flex space for production support. More studios are under construction. And with a long list of diverse locations – including Niagra Falls – Buffalo can offer urban and suburban settings and farmland, all available within a short distance from one another. Managing all of this is Tim Clark, regional film commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. I recently spoke with Clark, via email, about the current film boom underway in Western New York. Here is that conversation:
One of the major challenges of the digital cinema era is its inherent vulnerability to content theft. While piracy was possible in the film era, it’s much more pervasive and much less cumbersome today. That the incidents of global theft increased dramatically during the pandemic should come as no surprise. People worldwide were trapped in their homes and searched everywhere online for entertainment. And they found stolen content in numbers that are astonishing. In 2018 the Motion Picture Association launched the Trusted Partner Network to establish security benchmarks and a site security assessment to prevent content leaks and piracy.
In June 2011, when co-founders Stacy Spikes and Hamet Watt launched MoviePass, they surely had no idea what the next decade would have in store for them. The new company initially faced hostility from many of the biggest exhibitors, notably AMC. That never changed but MoviePass made progress and by 2016 Mitch Lowe, a former Netflix executive, was named CEO. Throughout that period, MoviePass experimented with different pricing models and slowly, but steadily, grew. In 2017 the analytics firm Helios and Matheson's acquired a majority stake in the company, Spikes was fired, and Helios and Matheson CEO Ted Farnsworth began to exert more control.