Cineplex CEO Is in No Hurry to Shorten Theatrical Windows

Courtesy of Cineplex Entertainment

Ellis Jacob's comments came as Canada's exhibition giant saw its fourth-quarter earnings hit by falling theater attendance and the mix of Hollywood titles.

Ellis Jacob, CEO of Canadian exhibition giant Cineplex, is in no hurry to see the major studios shorten the theatrical distribution window.

"The bottom line is the studios, or ourselves, are not looking to trade dimes for nickels in a business that's worth $50 billion worldwide," Jacob told analysts after Cineplex on Wednesday confirmed declining North American theater attendance with sharply lower fourth-quarter earnings.

As Netflix transforms how movies are released, getting them directly into consumers' homes without a theatrical release, Jacob also told The Hollywood Reporter Wednesday that the talks between theater owners and the studios were on-going and have yet to reach any resolution.

"Nothing has been finalized and, to me, it's all about negotiating privately with the studios and if we have anything to say, we will come out with a public statement," he said.

Jacob insisted both sides were treading carefully. "No one is looking to wreck it," he added about the global theatrical exhibition market. Cineplex last year was among the first major chains to sign up for Paramount's distribution plan to get Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension into homes far earlier than the traditional three-month theatrical window.

At the same time, Jacob favors any new home digital distribution windowing by the studios not unduly cutting into Cineplex's theatrical business. The continuing early windowing talks come as the Canadian exhibition giant on Wednesday saw its fourth-quarter earnings fall 69.5 percent to $23.3 million as attendance in its theaters slid 12 percent to 17.9 million visitors.

Overall revenues were down only 5 percent as Cineplex consolidated its Player One Amusement Group division, even as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story wasn't as big a draw to Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the year-earlier Christmas 2015 corridor. Cineplex also saw year-end movie releases like Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween and The Birth of a Nation playing not nearly as well in Canada as they did in stateside theaters.

Box-office revenue at Canada's biggest exhibitor was down 9.6 percent to $177.5 million, with a corresponding 7.3 percent fall in food services revenues to $105.5 million.