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TORONTO – Don’t tell Cineplex president and CEO Ellis Jacob that the novelty of 3D movies is wearing off with cinema-goers.
Jacob, Canada’s biggest movie exhibitor, argues going wide and deep with Hollywood movies has worked better with Canadians than Americans south of the border.
“This is not a fad,” he insisted Thursday after earlier in the day posting his latest financial results.
“We are seeing continued strength in 3D, and our performance compared to the U.S. is much stronger, where on individual movies and particular weekends we can open to 60 percent-plus in 3D, compared to U.S. exhibitors that are in the 45 percent to 50 percent range,” he added.
During the latest financial quarter to June 30, Cineplex saw 3D, UltraAVX and Imax movies make up 26.8 percent of its overall box office revenue, compared 25.9 percent in 2010.
“We have not seen any drop of any significance,” he said of the year-on-year rise after Canadians this year donned the funny glasses to view in his theaters the Johnny Depp-starrer Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Shrek Forever After, How to Train your Dragon, Clash of the Titans and Toy Story 3.
Jacob puts the sustained performance of 3D movies in Canada down to consistent pricing, as against the U.S. where exhibitors have varied their up-charge for 3D movies, and offering Hollywood tent-pole pictures in both 2D and 3D so families that prefer to see movies in 2D can do so.
In addition, Cineplex offers Tuesday discount tickets so price-conscious patrons can take in a 3D movie.
“People know what to expect when they come through our doors,” Jacob said. “We don’t see any pushback from consumers.”
The Canadian exhibitor has pacted with rival Empire Theaters and the major Hollywood studios to install digital and 3D technology across its chain by late 2012 to take advantage of ticket price premiums on 3D movies.
But the push to 3D in Cineplex venues started well ahead of Avatar 3D landing on its screens in late 2009, with impressive results.
Cineplex eventually did 28 percent of the North American 3D business for James Cameron¹s sci-fi epic, compared to a traditional 8 percent to 10 percent North American market share for Hollywood releases by Canadian exhibitors.
That said, Jacob insists Avatar 3D spoiled Canadian theatre-goers for being so unique and impressive, and in effect putting the quality bar for subsequent studio pics in 3D too high.
“The studios after Avatar put everything in 3D and that’s not the way the way it should have been done. Sometimes you ask ‘did I get the value out of 3D?’” he said of customer responses to poorly-performing Hollywood movies that were super-sized.
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