Inured to the steep ticket prices of modern-day cinema, most of us can only vaguely remember a time when going to the movies cost as little as a couple of bucks. But Centennial, Colorado-based Regal Entertainment Group is trying out a new price-sensitive morning matinee initiative to get more families out to the show. And the key to this new formula is direct-to-video product.
The model is very appealing. Regal plans to debut DTVs that are gearing up to launch at retail, thus building some buzz for titles that might otherwise get lost in the crowd on shelves. ‘Whether we’re paid directly for the marketing or we get some back-end rights on the video, there are lots of ways we can make a deal,’ says Cliff Marks, Regal’s president of marketing and sales. ‘We can be a very strategic partner in the launch of a DVD.’
Working with Hasbro and Woodland Hills, California-based kidvid distributor Kidtoon Films, Regal piloted the strategy in September with a 10 a.m. showing of Tonka Tough Truck Adventures in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver and L.A. theaters. Tickets were priced at US$5 for kids and US$0.25 for adults, and after the show, kids could play with Tonka trucks from the movie in the cinema lobby.
Marks says the event did very well for a first-time experiment. ‘Attendance met our expectations, and everything was incremental revenue given the fact that our theaters aren’t usually operational in the mornings.’
The DTV screenings are made possible by Regal CineMedia’s Digital Content (DCN) system, which allows equipped theaters to show DVDs on the big screen without transferring the content onto film first. It also hooks into live satellite events such as concerts and sports, which will come in handy on November 10. Regal is inviting kids to come on down and interact via satellite with author Chris Van Allsburg, whose movie Polar Express opens that day.
Regal is working out a plan to run more sponsored family events towards the end of the year and heading into early 2005. Starting on November 20 and wrapping up just before Christmas on December 18, Regal will repeat its successful free family film festival summer event on Saturday mornings. With Boomerang on-board as a sponsor, the cinema chain plans to show classics such as Rugrats, Miracle on 34th Street and Home Alone free of charge.