TORONTO (CP) _ Hockey and opera are just a start as Cineplex Entertainment looks past movies to fill seats at Canada’s dominant cinema chain.
The 129-theatre operator has rolled out its "digital pre-show network" _ TV ads before the movie _ and the technology enables Cineplex to radically broaden its content.
It recently started high-definition-television presentations from New York’s Metropolitan Opera and a few National Hockey League games on some of its big screens, and CEO Ellis Jacob said Wednesday it is looking at other options ranging from bingo and corporate meetings to concerts.
"In effect, our theatres are becoming true entertainment destinations," said Jacob, head of the Cineplex Galaxy Income Fund (TSX:CGX.UN) which owns 59.7 per cent of Cineplex Entertainment LP, with the rest controlled by Onex Corp. (TSX:OCX).
Other non-movie sources of revenue are expanding as Cineplex takes a widening proportion of its revenue from snacks, game arcades, on-screen advertising and other businesses.
Meanwhile, the Cineplex.com website is adding content and may eventually enable users to buy downloads of movies after their theatrical runs, Jacob said.
In the latest revenue diversification, Cineplex and the Bank of Nova Scotia (TSX:BNS) offered details Wednesday on a deal outlined in November giving the bank naming rights to five big-city theatres and establishing a loyalty-card relationship.
Financial aspects of the arrangement remained undisclosed.
The Paramount Toronto will henceforth be the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, and name changes are in the works for locations in Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
The Scene incentive program starts immediately in Toronto, expanding elsewhere across Canada in the spring, providing Scotiabank cardholders with movies, games and concession merchandise through rewards that "can be accumulated and redeemed quickly and easily," the companies stated.
CEO Jacob told an investor conference that Cineplex considered other possible loyalty-plan partners including the Aeroplan Income Fund (TSX:AER.UN), but the target 17-to-25 demographic has limited interest in accumulating travel points and prefers "instant gratification."
He said moviegoers have shown little concern for the identity of the theatre operator, and Cineplex saw "great value to actually branding a theatre with one of Canada’s top brands."
He added that Cineplex has been "way ahead of the curve" with non-movie presentations on the big screen, having enjoyed previous success with wrestling and working now to expand its hockey offerings.
"The next move is into concerts and other live events that can be simulcast," Jacob said.
"The feedback we are getting from the hockey and for the opera has just been tremendous _ and the great thing about the opera is it’s bringing people from a demographic that don’t normally go to movies. They come back, and now they’re experiencing this 50-foot screen and saying, ‘Hey, maybe we want to come and watch a movie in this environment."’