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Tuesday, December 18, 2007


With one-quarter of all entertainment being created and shared within peer groups by 2012 a seminal transformation is taking place in the entertainment industry. Termed “Circular Entertainment” – for its transference from one individual to another – this form of entertainment is not passive, but provides the consumer an active role in their entertainment.

The next episode in entertainment will allow consumers to “compare, contrast, create and communicate” their entertainment with each other, states Tom Savigan, Trends Director of The Future Laboratory, which conducted the survey.

The survey’s results indicated that:

- 23% of the respondents buy digital movies
- 39% watch TV on the Internet
- 46% regularly use instant messaging
- 28% regularly visit social networking sites
- 17% played multiplayer on-line games
- 17% upload to the Internet on a mobile device
- 29% regularly blog

The research has identified four key outlying trends that, as they mainstream, will set the stage for the Circular Entertainment phenomenon.

Immersive Living – the rise of lifestyles which blur the reality of being on and offline. Entertainment will no longer be segmented but accessible and created wherever.

Geek Culture – consumers will shift to more sophisticated interactive entertainment which has visible recognition and rewards. Entertainment purchased and that which is created will merge.

G Tech – an immersing social force which effectively feminizes technology so as to make things – particularly entertainment – more collaborative, democratic, emotional and customized.

Localism – there is a locally-minded move in entertainment consumption. Localism and community-centrism will become a key as consumers take pride in seeking out the local and home-grown.


In the U.S. this year, sales of packaged video games will exceed box office revenues and worldwide their sales will be twice that of movie grosses. Total this with on-line gaming subscriptions, gaming consoles (which will outsell PCs by a factor of 10 in 2007), gaming software (which increased by more than 40% in the first half of this year over 2006) and hand-held games – your looking at a $40 billion video gaming industry. Additionally, all aspects of the video gaming industry are expected to soar for at least the next five years.

The big three console makers – Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony – are currently hitting new heights in gaming and scores of software gaming manufacturers are producing hundreds of new games for each console platform. But, that’s not all. The consoles are being developed to accommodate other entertainment functions as well. For example, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console has the capability to use Microsoft’s Live Marketplace which allows 360 owners to download new games, as well as features films, TV shows, movie trailers, etc., some of which are fee based and some of which are free. Oh, and did I mention the 360 can also playback high definition DVDs. Going forward, the console will be used as a set-top receiver for internet TV.

If carried to its logical end, accessing entertainment for the home will be entirely virtual – with consumers never having to leave their homes to experience viewed or interactive entertainment.

All this being said, the gaming phenomenon also has a social aspect. Not unlike going to the movies, the camaraderie component of sharing the entertainment ‘high’ is even more pronounced with gaming. In fact, many video games are constructed for simultaneous play by two or more gamers. This is where the use of a cinema as a gaming destination comes about – as almost the perfect venue for “social gaming.” Designed as a turn key business established within a cinema, it provides the optimum setting for game enthusiasts (the demographic of which is male and female ages of 5-75+ with the average being a 37 year old female) to play their favorite games while experiencing the social aspects of gaming – shared fun and excitement, camaraderie and the emotions of human interaction – taking place in a comfortable, safe and customer friendly setting. The added availability of concessions, gaming accessories and a gamers swap shop make for a trendy, multi-demographic business which addresses a current and future entertainment juggernaut.

To arrange a meeting to discuss a video gaming center in your theatre please contact Entertainment Equipment at 800-448-1656 and ask for Jim Lavorato or Tracy Janis.


Broken into seven categories, television will lead in global advertising expenditures for 2008 with a forecasted 38% or $182 billion of total ad revenues – which are anticipated to reach $478 billion. With expected viewership of over 3 billion for the Beijing Summer Olympics (which will be the most watched television program in history) and the U.S. Presidential elections, TV will get a big boost in 2008 of over $13 billion.

(US$ in millions, current prices Currency conversion at 2006 average rates)
Newspapers - 124.9 / 128.4
Magazines - 56.1 / 58.3
Television - 169.9 / 182.4
Radio - 36.3 / 37.5
Cinema - 1.9 / 2.1
Outdoor - 25.6 / 27.5
Internet - 33.7 / 41.6

TOTAL 448.4 / 477.9

On-line video and local search continue to display the highest growth rate – which has increased 22% each year since 2006. Print media’s, particularly newspapers, share of total revenues will be declining from 28% of total 2007 expenditures to 26% of 2008’s although the aggregate number increases by $1.5 billion.

Surprisingly, Central and Eastern Europe (up 18.3%) and the Middle East/Africa (up 17.2%) will experience the fastest growth in advertising. North America the lowest.

The ten fastest growing markets are listed below.

(Growth % 2009 vs. 2006)

Serbia - 308.8
Qatar - 214.7
Kazakhstan - 164.1
Egypt - 117.7
UAE - 108.9
Russia - 108.3
Ukraine - 100.5
Moldova - 97.1
Belarus - 96.8
Romania - 93.0

Monday, December 17, 2007


Santa, I've got enough stuff. This year, surprise me with something a little more difficult to attain:

1. A tree on which good employees grow - I have yet to find that renaissance concessionist who can stay productive, sell snow to an Eskimo AND comes built with common sense.

2. Customers who keep their mouths shut about the prices - "$5.00 for a popcorn?!?" I mean, really, what was the last movie you saw at a theater, Jaws? And do you question the station attendant every time you buy gas?

3. Parents who actually attend movies with their children - when did I start running a babysitting service?

4. Solar powered cell phones that don't work in the dark.

5. And last, world peace...and affordable digital cinema for all.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


I have been dealing one way or another with Digital Cinema for over 10 years and I see no reason to be anymore enthusiastic about it now than I was a decade ago and, in fact – the way things have evolved – I’m coming to the conclusion that D-Cinema could lead to the ultimate demise of the cinema industry. Similar to what has occurred to the music business, once movies vacate their analog format chances are the studios will lose distribution control and the industry (as it now exists) will begin its decline.

At best, I can categorize D-Cinema as a mosh pit – semi-controlled chaos with the potential for inflicting lot of damage. At worst, we’re witnessing what could be a black hole – sucking in the entire cinema industry. What would remain? DVDs and variations of alternative content. My concern would be eminent but D-Cinema continues to fall short of its expectation and is not the transformational acquisition it has been dubbed.


What is the cost of Digital Cinema? I get this question a lot. “About $100,000 to $120,000”, I say, “and then there’s the ongoing operating and maintenance costs, and oh yeah, the 3D option if you want that”. It’s not a very good answer but then again it is in keeping with the nebulousness of the whole D-Cinema saga. However, least I be accused of perpetuating the notion of D-Cinema as the industry’s ‘black hole’ I’ll quantify this mosh pit.

Big-D requires a cadre of basic components; as well as, ancillary items and services. The detail below depicts average pricing from component manufacturers less 20%. All amounts are stated in incredible shrinking U.S. dollars.


- Show Player – for image decoding and data feed to D-projector, also provides digital audio output to sound system

- Show Storer – stores digital movie (received from studios in DCP packages) for playback through Show Player

- Show Manager (System Software) Player, Storer and Manager: $20,000

- Digital Media Adapter – interfaces Show Player to existing cinema sound system: $2,500

- Network Automation Interfacer – interfaces Digital System to existing cinema automation system: $2,500

- Digital Cinema Projector w/Power Supply (2K Version) Lenses, Lamp, Pedestal: $80,000

-Alternative Content Formatter – for playback of alternative content through digital cinema projector: $6,000

- PC/Laptop w/work station: $3,000

- Installation - Equipment setup, interfacing, alignment, testing, & training, including all cabling, wiring, interconnections, etc.: $5,000

TOTAL: $119,000


- 3D Filter Controller & Filter Wheel Assby.: $18,000
- 3D Glasses – Regular Type: $35 each
Calibration Type: $100 each
- Silver Theatre Screen - $3.75/sq. ft. – if required for 3D Option
Screen Installation: $1,000 – 2,500


- Annual Service/Maintenance Fees: $1,500 – 3,000
- Build-out costs for any enhanced electrical power and/or exhaust & cooling requirements in Projection Room: Unknown

So, at the present time, the cost to convert one auditorium is approximately $120,000 – 140,000 with an undetermined useful life. Additionally, although not published, there are indications that the failure rate of the digital cinema components is higher than that of film projection. It is also worth noting that the various digital components making up the ’system’ are manufactured by various companies. In some cases, being “sold through” other manufacturers/vendors under contractual arrangement.


Big D’s reason for being – with all of its inherent complexities and costs – is Hollywood’s attempt to retain control of movie distribution while increasing their share of pre-feature advertising revenues. Otherwise, films could be transmitted to theatres via the internet or sent on encrypted HD-DVDs.

Film is the glue that keeps the relationship between the studios and the exhibitors from falling apart and provides the studio’s distribution control. As is happening with other media that has experienced digital conversion once the bits are out it is impossible to get them back. Currently, piracy is a problem but the copies are inferior and it is not an industry killer. Digital piracy could be.

Late last year I forecast the U.S. box office would reach $10 billion in 2007. As it now stands it should come in between $9.8 – 10b, a 6 – 7% increase over ’06, but bolstered by a stellar summer box office (which was anticipated), and a good holiday finale (also in the cards). Internationally, there is higher growth but as compared to other (competing) forms of entertainment particularly internet and video gaming, the cinema’s growth is modest. Toying with the cinema’s fragile business model could prove disastrous – best to leave it alone.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY Read Fast: This Article Expires in 5 Minutes

Technology is moving so fast it’s difficult, if not impossible, to keep up – change is the only constant. Communications technology is one such area and its advancement is having a profound impact (good and bad) on all businesses including cinemas. Several communication technologies, including IM and Texting, along w/portable storage devices (such as flash sticks) clearly represent this good vs. evil clash.


IM (instant messaging) has become ubiquitous in every day work and play environments. Used to communicate with other employees, vendors, and certainly friends & family IM should be viewed as a good and valuable technology but one that is also a potential security risk. As many cinema owners/operators have discovered, IM is very hard to control in the workplace as its convenience and speed make controlling it nearly impossible. Compounding the problem is the fact that telecommunications companies knowing that many businesses are trying to control and/or block IM, frequently (and randomly) change the requisite messaging protocol, as they constantly endeavor to keep user traffic high – effectively increasing monthly billings.

On the other hand, IM has its benefits. For one, it does improve employee productivity. People can work at a faster pace as IM takes less time than emailing while using up much less band width. Additionally, as compared to voice communication, IM saves vast amounts of time in eliminating both unnecessary conversation and phone tagging.

To alleviate control problems while maintaining IM’s benefits, businesses that allow IM should implement control software as, if unmanaged, IM can put any company at risk for potential internal security breaches and/or theft of intellectual property, not to mention, law suits. To illustrate, in the U.S., Britain, and most other developed countries, IM is governed by the same civil laws as emails so, for example, if an employee were to IM a sexually explicit or aggressive message to another employee the company could be held liable for harassment just as if those sentiments were expressed by email or verbally. So the potential for legal ramifications is a very real one. Affordable enterprise-class IM software products to address these control issues is available and inexpensive. For instance, both Lotus and Microsoft offer very refined products to meet this need and every cinema with more than two locations should be using it.


That’s all well and good for IM but there is currently no way to control Texting between cell phones. Cinemas face a dual problem with Texting: internally (employees) and externally (customers). Unlike IM, Texting has not been addressed by any type of regulation and there are no legal mandates surrounding it. For example, if a company provides a mobile phone to an employee and pays the bill there is the risk that if that phone is used in any illicit way the company may be held liable. Additionally, cell phone(s) and PDA(s) present other (perhaps more relevant) security issues. “Cell slurping” – the term used to describe the action of plugging a cell or PDA into a computer and downloading files (not unlike the use of flash stick or memory card) - presents very specific security risks regarding both viruses and corporate data theft.


There is no doubt that IM is fast becoming a critical and useful form of communication within companies – large and small. The key is in having employees use the technology (they probably will anyway) with its obvious advantages over voice or email by implementing good usage policy and practices. Here are several that every cinema should adopt:

* Take the existing email usage policy (if you don’t have one you should) and extend it to include IM and Texting.

* Make it clearly understood to all employees that company supplied technology tools, particularly communication devices, can only be used for business communications.

* Employees should be informed that their IM sessions may be archived on the company network.

* Take an informal survey within the company to see if a lot of IM is occurring, if so, determine the company’s needs for this practice to continue. If there is a corporate benefit then enhance company policy and standards and purchase the required enterprise software to control it.

Trying to keep up with technological advancements is virtually impossible. Additionally, technologies used by individuals and organizations are blending at a faster and faster pace, giving rise to unforeseen benefits, as well as, drawbacks. Take a look at your cinema operations and determine what technologies are being used (those formally sanctioned and those being used informally) weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each and decide what is best suited for the cinema and its employees, and which is not.

Friday, August 24, 2007



If you don't know what these words mean - you should! These are the buzz words used to describe digital data theft. We're not talking about teen-hacker's downloading worms but very advanced data and identity theft of individuals and companies which fuel an immense underground economy. Defending and protecting data processing equipment and contents from sophisticated high-tech theft is an issue fast becoming a necessity for businesses and individuals.

What warning signs to look for. How to defend against data theft. What protective actions to implement. It's all part of the two day "Managing A Cinema" training workshop being held September 17 & 18 at Cinema Training Central. Don't miss it!


Standard video projection has beome a significant second source revenue generator at cinemas. Used for a variety of activities - from pre-feature ads and entertainment to DVD-based film festivals - a digital projector is a low-cost necessity for optimizing a cinema's entertainment value. And, yes - your heard me - low cost. A high definition digital projector suitable for cinema use can be purchased for under $4,000. And, cinema customers that have purchased digital projectors inform us that the payback on their investment averaged 6 months or less.

Easy to install, operate, and maintain, don't miss the opportunity to enhance your cinema's operations and profitability. And don't let all the tech jargon that surrounds digital projection intimidate you - we're here to help you through the tech-talk minefield. Call us with any questions or concerns, we'll be happy to provide information and expertise on the subject.


What's up with Big-D? Digital projection technology keeps advancing. As we predicted JVC has introduced a prototype 4K D-Cinema projector to rival Sony's SXRD 4Ker and Texas Instrument's won't be far behind. That will leave the current 2K machines resident at cinemas (which jumped the gun) obsolete after only 18 months. Another question is how will the advancing computer server virtualization software - such as VMware's hypervision - impact Big-D? Which it will.

Learn all about the latest technologies regarding Big-D, as well as, the latest advances in conventional digital projection by attending CTC's "Digital Cinema Training Workshop" to be held Wednesday, September 19th, as part of CTC's annual cinema training week. Call us for details.


Osram Sylvania, Kneisley Manufacturing and Yamaha Pro Audio will be several manufacturers along with Speco Systems that will be sponsoring a luncheon or other social event during CTC's training week - September 17 - 21. Manufacturer sponsorships offer a great marketing opportunity at minimal cost and benefit the manufacturer, as well as, the CTC participants.


Coming off a very good summer the box office lineup for the fall looks impressive. From September to years end Hollywood releases will total over 125 and, like the summer films, will concentrate on fantasy and comedy - the two main audience drawing genres. We are sticking with our prediction of a record $10 billion U.S. box office for 2007 and solid revenue numbers for exhibitors which will partially make up for 2006's lackluster performance.


The large U.S. publicly traded cinema exhibitors' stocks look grim. Although Carmike (symbol: CKEC) touted their conversion to Big-D as the next coming, the stock market has taken a much less heavenly view. Even with a stellar summer B.O. Carmike's stock is currently $1 above its 52 week low at $17+ change and the company is projected to lose $4.50/share this year.

Regal (symbol: RGC) at $22+/share is doing better but is still under-performing as it is projected to earn only 80 cents/share on revenues of $2.9 billion. As for AMC, well, their initial public offering (IPO) was cancelled on the eve of its scheduled May "coming out" party - due to a lack of market acceptance.

EXHIBITORS: Get back to basics. Exhibit (I couldn't resist) some showmanship. You're getting sidetracked with Big-D. FLASH - Big-D isn't a revenue generator and the box office isn't going to get any better than it was this summer.

Thursday, July 12, 2007



Effective managers today need to be constantly expanding on their expertise. For example, those in the cinema industry should be absorbing information on the digital domain, advertising trends, telecommunication and data processing advancements, the entertainment and leisure industries, food and commodities markets, etc. However, good managers should possess a filter which forces them to discard input that is opinion or point-of-view, and instead search for events which spark trends. This allows one to obtain clues with which you may make inferences on events and trends that may impact your business and also give you the right view of the landscape you’re working in.

Listed below are some current trends:

· In developed countries, populations are getting older, but also more diverse.
· Consumer businesses, no matter how large, are community-centric.
· Today all businesses must specialize in marketing and development.
· Companies must be organized for maximum advantage with flatter structures. Pyramid structures increase frictional loss and are energy consuming.
· Staff is the value added for any business and staff development a key success factor in today’s talent driven economies.


Whether your field is cinema management or any other consumer industry, today’s environment requires a specific skill set. Managers must:

· Possess a high tolerance for ambiguity. They must have a capacity for understanding uncertainty and know that things are capable of being understood in more ways than one.
· Have a generic curiosity. They should be constantly wondering about how business works, what impacts it and how to improve it.
· Assess their own nature and biases and be able to discount its effect on their decision-making.
· Be strategic thinkers not strategic planners.
· Place coaching skills as a top personal strength.
· Be talent driven. They must strive to hire dynamos and pay and train them well. When hiring, think in terms of roles or functions rather than specific job placement.


After assessing the landscape, keeping abreast of trends and establishing a set of core skills, now you need to hone prioritization, empower staff while providing guidance, and emphasize in-house and outside training which focuses on areas that need development. If the organization is structured correctly, the cinema manager is the key person who will move the cinema forward.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Two decades, perhaps less, how long before China becomes a force in worldwide entertainment? Competition with the U.S. is inevitable. The Dragon will expand into global entertainment with the cinema – the King of Mass Media – as its ultimate target.

China is currently spending billions on a massive branding mission to make its companies and products as well known as Apple, Coke and Sony. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has a derived national development agenda termed “Advanced Product Force” which is intended to promote communistic social harmony while employing capitalist business practices.

To accomplish this act, the CCP must be forward thinking economically while maintaining control over China’s 1.3 billion inhabitants who are diverse in terms of language, customs, social development and prosperity.

An example of the implementation of the Advanced Products Force is the Haier Group, a large Chinese durable goods manufacturer who has spent two years and tens of millions of dollars developing a line of flat panel LCD products. Haier finalized an agreement with the National Basketball Association to runway their HDTVs at basketball games and NBA promotions across the U.S. Haier is focused on consumer electronics, a difficult global market to penetrate and one where branding is essential, especially now that prices for LCD TVs have dropped so much that consumers choose brands (Sony, Panasonic) over price.

The Chinese realize that producing a quality product and marketing it require very different skills. Along with electronics, they are zeroing in on industrial and consumer durable goods markets and the entertainment industry, which has significant national import. Entertainment products have high margins, long life cycles and tremendous export value. For example, the U.S.’s arts and entertainment export revenues run neck-and-neck with its aerospace industry. Entertainment (particularly the cinema) is at the cutting edge and pushes the envelope with regard to digital imaging, microchip and computer processing advancements, connectivity development and other high-end technologies. With over one-fifth of the world’s population, China is also aware that a vibrant entertainment industry connotes a country’s prosperity, influence and social sophistication, which will prompt the nation to develop a homegrown cinema industry over importing Hollywood films.

Piracy is rampant in China with first-run Hollywood movies available from street vendors in DVD format in every city and town. Although cinema attendance has been shrinking, an agreement between Warner Bros. and Dalien Wanda (a Chinese developer) may lead to the opening thirty new multiplexes over the next two years. As the Chinese population prospers, people will opt to view a movie at a cinema over a low quality DVD.

Leaving behind the Hong Kong chop-socky films of the 70’s and 80’s, modern-era Chinese cinema began developing in the 90’s into the well financed, sophisticated, fantasy laden morality plays of today. Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Hero (2002) have had wide international distribution and earned critical acclaim, but the U.S. studios maintain control over global movie distribution. The Chinese know they need to open up to more Hollywood-produced film imports, but they want to develop and control the production side and internal distribution while slowly exporting Chinese made films and cultures to the rest of the world.

As a new member of the World Trade Organization, China has had joint ventures with Hollywood, producing films shot entirely in China that are scheduled for release in both countries. Films made exclusively for distribution in China are also scheduled for production, which should nurture the Chinese film industry and provide the CCP a reason to clamp down on piracy.

For the last decade China’s economy has been growing at an unprecedented rate, but to continue growing, it will have to develop new products in addition to taking market share away from well established and well financed global competitors.

Their strategy is to move up the economic food chain into high yielding, high tech products and services. The entertainment industry is high yielding, but also high risk. Evidence of this is China’s development of its island Macau into a world-class gaming and resort destination. Almost all of the Las Vegas casino/resort developers have or are constructing mega-casinos in Macau, which exceeded Las Vegas in terms of monthly casino gaming revenues in January 2007.

The CCP is using the “leap frog” effect, leaping over old technology in order to develop China’s economy, which is most clearly seen in mobile communications. In 2003, there were 269 million cell phones in China, 498 million are expected by 2008. The Chinese will “leap frog” in all products and markets they enter, certainly in the entertainment industry. Modern cinema sound technology will aid the Chinese in this endeavor. Any movie can now be screened in native language if the soundtrack is mastered with a DTS timecode. This timecode is synced to a formatted DVD soundtrack which is then played back during film’s presentation, meaning a film in Mandarin can be exhibited at a U.S. cinema in English, eliminating the cost and nuisance of subtitling.

Reshaping a feudal, agrarian society into a high tech manufacturing and services economy over several decades is unprecedented, but the trick to it is developing, instituting and managing a new and youthful socio-economic phenomenon before it matures and the pace of growth slows dramatically. If the CCP imposes on individual expression or human rights, it could lead to the stifling of economic growth and civil unrest. Contentious policies have yet to foster widespread discontent. For example, Chinese citizens are allowed to protest against government policies, but only as individuals, not organized groups.
A society’s maturity and influence is measured in large part by its arts and entertainment, and in the 21st century this means electronic arts and entertainment; cinema, music, gaming, sports and literature at the core and supported by high-end audio/visual components and the Internet. China’s formal debut in global entertainment will be its hosting of the 2008 Summer Olympics. That’s when the world will get a preview of how the Chinese will try to influence global entertainment.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


This summer the cinema industry will witness its biggest box office in history. Driven by the fantasy and comedy genre films - which are voraciously consumed by audiences worldwide - Cinema Mucho Gusto is predicting that the 2007 box office will top $25 billiin globally and hit $10 billion in the U.S. And better still, that the $2+ billion increase over last year will be due principally to increased attendance vs. higher admission pricing.

We are also predicting that cinema's activities including: pre-feature entertainment, digital film festivals, video gaming activities, auditorium rentals, etc. will continue to enjoy strong growth and we anticpate revenue from these activities growing by 15-20% in 2007 and annually through 2010.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Beginning June 1, EEC will launch "The Splice Is Right," a web blog devoted to facilitating transactions between buyers and sellers of cinema equipment and services. If you are in need of cinema projection or sound equipment, concession equipment, lobby accessories, as well as spare parts or want to sell any of these items, you will be able to log on to accomplish transactions. We will keep you posted on its impending premiere.


According to the June 2007 issue of The Atlantic, all it takes is one culprit in New Jersey to share a newly released film with 30,000 people globally. The culprit directly recorded the film reels onto eDonkey, a person-to-person file sharing network.

While file sharing has steadily grown over the past decade, downloading movies is at a minimum level due to the amount of time it requi

Friday, April 27, 2007

Customer Service: The Inexpensive Upgrade

When preparing notes for my last employee meeting, I wanted less of reviewing policy, and more of a theme that my staff could reflect upon. Then it struck me: I was so accustomed to working in a movie theater, that I almost forgot what it was like to go to one.

In an attempt to regain customer consciousness, I visited a competing theater. There was a long line at the box office and after finally making it to the front, there was no smile or warm greeting to convey an unsaid thank you for my patience. The attendant at the concession stand had no line, but possessed an attitude of annoyance, like I was pestering him by placing an order. My pretzel bites were hard and the focus on the film was soft.

All of my complaints were results of poor customer service. Not just the manor of how you interact with patrons, customer service encompasses every aspect of your daily operations. From the accuracy and articulation of your recording, to the temperature of your auditoriums, customer service is the unseen entity that gives your theater its image. The bad experience I had at the competing theater was good for my meeting.

"Sure, you get to eat popcorn every time you work," I said to my staff. "You make it, sling it and sweep it." I wanted my staff to remember what made the movie going experience so fun, and to keep in mind that the popcorn to our customers is a treat, something to look forward to. The meeting then became a pep talk, "Let's neatly fill the bags with as much popcorn as you can, and always scoop from the top, so no one gets any crumbs. Let's give people the best popcorn in town!"

As corny as that sounds, motivating your staff is critical to customer service. You can have ear bleeding digital surround sound and seats modeled after those on Air Force One, but if you have cold cheese for your nachos and the ladies' room has no toilet paper, you're lacking good customer service. Especially with all the other entertainment options available to consumers. Superb customer service gains repeat business.

To ensure your customer service machine operates smoothly, keep yourself in the center of it.

A staff is only as motivated, friendly and competent as the manager who leads it. You are the model that your employees follow. You set the standard of service for your theater. I always tell my assistants that they should be able to do everything ten times better and faster than a floor staff member. A higher state of service exists when managers act as both coach and teammate, taking part in the work that the whole team needs to accomplish.

Working as a team is but one way to keep your staff happy. Remind your staff that you value their work by giving verbal pats on the back. "You did a great job of moving that line quickly." Make "thank you" a part of your daily repertoire and acknowledge your employees' efforts. While these ideas are not revelatory, you will notice results if your continually implement them. Happy employees are friendlier and care more about the needs of your patrons, which creates an ideal customer service environment. Happy customers means less complaints and that equals less stress for your staff.

Theater managers have the dual burden of operating both an entertainment venue and a food service enterprise, the former showcasing a product that is out of your hands. While you have no control over a film's quality, you have total control over the quality of customer service. "The movie was awful," a customer recently said to me, "but the popcorn was terrific!"

Tracy Janis
District Manager, Dipson Theatres

Friday, March 30, 2007


A recent Dolby Labs newsletter headlines D-Cinema. And states, "a milestone year for the digital cinema industry". I'm not sure what the digital cinema industry is. What I am sure about is the fact that Dolby, a publicly traded company( with a share price in the $33 - 38 dollar range, and a high current price/earnings ratio of 38) is put into the box of every other public company. To improve sales and profit margins on a regular and in most cases, quarterly basis, so as to endear themselves to the Wall Street analysts who follow and rate their performance. What drives a stock's price is earnings and/or its earnings potential. In Dolby's case it is currently the marketing and sales of its D-Cinema based products to the movie exhibition side of its business that will contribute to its overall growth and profitability- as the sales of sound processors and peripheral products to theatre exhibitors is not growing as it once did.

I'm not faulting Dolby. There Digital Cinema products are stellar and perform extremely well. Additionally, Dolby has one of the greatest brands and certainly an insiders place in Hollywood - one which is well earned and deserved.

It is only natural that Dolby push its D-Cinema products. The recent JPEG2000 upgrade tweeked its share price up but with P/E in the high 30's Wall Street will be looking for higher sales and earnings.

Jim Lavorato


The price of corn has skyrocketed on the futures markets and farmers are increasing their acreage of corn to an all time record. Why, because of the promise of ethanol as a replacement for gasoline. To make matters worse, this summer, gas is expected to rise to the $3/gallon price as crude oil hits the $70/barrel mark.

So cinema exhibitors get hit with a double whammy. Higher popcorn prices and higher gas prices, both of which impact theatres negitively. What's the answer, if any.

Watch your popcorn suppliers pricing, and if possible purchase corn now for stock through the summer or better still contract with the supplier for set pricing now with delivery later.

Look closely at your popcorn pricing. If possible nudge up your pricing or recast your pricing to force more moviegoers to purchase middle or large sized popcorn portions. Make these sizes the value buy, force customers to the middle price popcorn size.

Think up promotions: Gas discounts on concession purchases. For example $1 off on all concession purchases over $10. Offering Pic n' Play concession giveaways. Colaborating with local gas stations for fillups and a movie. Be creative.

The price increases for gas and corn will impact every movie exhibitors bottom line. So take action now. The roster of summer films looks very good but you need to be proactive and begin to impliment tactics to offset the gas/corn issue.

Good luck!
Jim Lavorato

Friday, February 23, 2007


The 2006 numbers are in and the Boxoffice improved over 2005 - a dreadful year. Domestic B.O. was up 3% over '05 at $9.1b, while overseas did even better, increasing over 11% to $14.6b.
However, the numbers are still quite skewed, as the Top 10 films of the year generated 24.5% of total Domestic B.O. The Top 25 films alone accounting for 42.7% of total domestic B.O. for the year. And the genre of films pretty much was in line with the prior 5 year trend. With audience preference toward Fantasy/Drama and Comedy/Drama movies. Of the Top ten films in 2006, 7 were Fantasy, 1 Comedy, and 2 Dramas. Of the Top 25 there were 7 Fantasy, 11 Comedy, 6 Drama, and 1 Horror.

Although holding its own in the cut-throat world of entertainment, the cinema will remain a static performer. The 2007 crop of films appears to have promise but the fact remains that audiences are completely content driven and - as the stats support - genre driven as well.

The 2007 B.O. should show marginal improvement over '06 - which at $23.7b was certainly not stellar; however, the foreign markets will continue to outpace the domestic B.O. in terms of both organic and incremental growth. With 62% of total 2006 B.O. the overseas markets are where its at for the studios, as these markets continue to have strong growth. It's also where future potential is greatest, and where predicting audience film perference is much less challenging.

Jim Lavorato

Sunday, February 11, 2007


We have updated Cinema Mucho Gusto and have a new look. Which we hope will serve you better and make our Blog more interesting visually.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


A visit to the CES never fails to stimulate the senses. You get caught up in with the energy and buzz which is always present. And every year you marvel at the immensity of this Convention. Seeing and experiencing everything at the CES is no longer an option. You have to pick and choose what interests or excites and plot out a travel route.


Sony's Blu-ray vs. Toshiba's HD DVD High Definition DVD warring formats. Not to worry LG (the large Korean electronics firm) introduced the Super Multi Blue, a DVD player designed to play both Blue-ray and HD-DVD discs. Peace at last?

Sling Media showcased the SlingCatcher, a device that transmits multimedia images from the Web to TV set. Cost: Under $200 by mid-2007.

Texas Instruments announced that many of its OEM partners, including: Samsung, RCA, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, NuVision, Toshiba, etc. will be offering "slim DLP HDTVs" and that LED-based DLP and HDTVs are coming to market, which are touted to have a contrast ratio of 100,000 to 1! DLP is proven to be a great technology for both projection and HDTV use.

Similar to Sling, Dell introduced a digital home entertainment suite that sends HD video to Dell TV monitors. Dell also unveiled a new PC specifically designed for Game Players, with a liquid and ceramic cooling system. Cost: $5,499,

Sharp Electronics showcased the world's largest LCD display. At 108 inches.

Not to be outdone, Optoma BigVizion demonstrated a 100 inch DLP based display and has plans to introduce a 120 inch model later this year. Designed for the professional home theatre market the 120 incher will carry a price of $49,999.

Apple, as every one knows, introduced the iPhone. Although Apple may not be able to use the name iPhone (which has been copywrite owned by Cisco Systems for many years) Apple did get a lot of buzz but the Apple iPhone is not unlike other smart phones, such as Motorola's Q phone, which are already on the market.

TidBit: Samsung was the number one seller of digital TVs in the U.S. last year.

TidBit: DLP has 43% of display market. LCD and Plasma 57%.

As displays get larger and less expensive, video projectors are getting better and smaller. Projectors are being used for not only TV and movies, but for gaming, showing photos, presentations, sales and marketing calls & demos, etc., etc.

A number of point of purchase displays using portable digital projectors were showcased at the CES. Additionally, palm-sized DLP projectors were shown by Samsung,
Toshiba, and LG. These are low cost, extremely compact projectors which can be linked to cell phones, PDAs, PCs, etc. Samsung's Pocket Imager can fit in the hand.
Can link to a DVD player or DVD in laptop, Smart Phone, and provide up to a 54" image. Cost: $799 w/carry case.

Not to be outdone, Toshiba introduced the palm-sized TDPFF1AU that can provide an image up to 68 inches diagonal and comes complete with a foldable 23 inch screen, and a rechargeable 2-3 hour battery. It is compatible with phones, DVD players, digital cameras, laptops, game consoles, and USB memory sticks. Cost: $699. Let the games begin.

CES launched mygreenelectronics.org to assist companies and individuals in recycling tech devices and equipment.

TidBit: Within the next several years, Web-to-TV interfacing will be widespread. You can see it coming.

Tidbit: Funniest product at the show: Combo iPod dock station and toilet paper holder. Cost: I didn't get a price. As I don't own an iPod. Now what about a mini flat panel and toilet paper.....Hmmmm. Let's not go there.

By the way all the products mentioned and lots of others currently on the market can be purchased through Entertainment Equipment, just call 800-448-1656 or email.

Best - Jim Lavorato