Entertainment Industry

Category: exhibition

Crest theater to close for renovations, Bigfoot executive says

Majestic A year after buying the former Majestic Crest theater in Westwood, Bigfoot Entertainment plans to close the movie house for an unspecified period of time to undergo renovations.

Ashley Jordan, chief executive of Big Foot Entertainment, based in Venice, said the theater would temporarily close in early October after it finishes hosting the Singafest Asian Film Festival.

Jordan said the Bigfoot Crest Theater -- a Los Angeles landmark founded in 1941 by Frances Seymour Fonda, wife of actor Henry Fonda -- needed renovations. The newly appointed executive said it was not clear how extensive the upgrades would be, or when the theater would reopen.

"We're going to assess the future and how much we want to put into it,'' Jordan said. "We have to figure out what we are going to do with it."

Jordan declined to say whether the 460-seat theater, which Bigfoot acquired last year for about $4 million, was up for sale.

The company, whose owner is German investor and filmmaker Michael Gleissner, produces action and horror movies as well as TV programs and reality shows. Bigfoot had planned to use the theater to showcase films it produced or acquired.

Carmike Cinemas, which Bigfoot tapped to manage the theater, will not continue its relationship with the Crest, Jordan said, declining to specify the reasons. Carmike representatives were not immediately available for comment.

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Photo credit: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times

 

California theater chain plans to expand, teach classes in China

Ultrastar cinemas Xiamen

A California-based theater chain is trying to tap into the growing movie market in China –- not just by building theaters there equipped with the latest digital technology, but also teaching young people how to run them.

The privately held UltraStar Cinemas chain, headquartered in Vista, Calif., has joined forces with the Xiamen Culture and Art Center and Xiamen University of Technology to establish the XMUT UltraStar Academy of Digital Cinema Management. Classes will be held on the public technology university’s campus and begin next year.

The school is part of UltraStar’s developing three-pronged strategy in China. In addition to building theaters, the company also is preparing to build digital cinemas and to create a digital network that will screen live events in the theaters, such as the soccer World Cup or rock concerts. UltraStar plans to build 10 theaters in China in the next five years that will serve as a training ground for students at XMUT.

“The advent of digital cinema … requires individuals trained in digital cinema management and operations,” Xu Xiang Ming, vice director of the Xiamen Culture and Arts Center, said in a statement.

Students will be able to major in digital cinema management and will study such subjects as digital equipment usage, cinema marketing techniques, booking and buying of content and customer service.

The idea for the school originated when Tony Gaston, manager of UltraStar’s Asia operations, spoke at a conference in China in late 2006.

“I became aware of the fact that China had really virtually no cinemas. The ones that existed were very old and the equipment kind of patched together and nothing -– at least in the cities that I was in during that trip -– that would compare with what we think of as a modern cinema,” Gaston said in an interview.

Gaston and John Ellison, chief operating officer and co-founder of UltraStar, visited several cities in China in 2007, eventually choosing Xiamen in Fujian province as a starting base of the company’s China operations. The city, which has a population of 3.53 million, is on the southeast coast of China, about 600 miles south of Shanghai.

Gaston said he was in part influenced to select Xiamen for its geographical similarities to San Diego. The view from his San Diego office is similar to ones that overlook the water of Xiamen. Ellison said it is a “dynamic area. A tremendous amount of growth has happened there and [will continue] in the near future.”

“The reception that we received from the city was wonderful,” Gaston said.

One of the cinemas will be built in Xiamen’s Jimei District, where the university is located, an area populated by more than 580,000 people and that currently has no movie theaters.

In addition to the hands-on studies the cinemas in China will provide, students will also intern with UltraStar in Los Angeles during a study abroad program. The company, which has 13 theaters in California and Arizona, is developing the program with Demos Vardiabasis, a Pepperdine University professor of economics and international business.

Gaston emphasized that the academy will be “developed in line with the [Chinese] culture, rather than bringing in a foreign concept and forcing it upon them –- ‘this is the way to see movies.’” Instruction will be provided by both Chinese educators and UltraStar representatives.

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Photo: Tony Gaston, left, John Ellison, Xu Xiang Ming and Xiamen University of Technology President Terry Guo at a signing ceremony in Xiamen in June. Credit: Nickole Xian

MoviePass revives all-you-can-watch plan despite theater friction

Movie theater ticket line

MoviePass Inc., the New York company that angered theater chains in June over its planned roll-out of an  all-you-can-watch movie plan for $50, isn't going away.

The company, backed by AOL Ventures, on Tuesday announced plans to roll out its service across the country on a limited, invitation-only basis. Only this time, instead of partnering with MovieTickets.com, MoviePass has formed a partnership with Hollywood Movie Money, which provides promotional movie tickets to theaters across the country.

The announcement is likely to create more friction with exhibitors, many of whom have grown increasingly uneasy  about the heavy marketing of low price-tickets through discount services like Groupon, LivingSocial and MoviePass. The concern is that such promotions could hurt their business by encouraging moviegoers to wait for a bargain before trekking to the multiplex.

AMC and other theater chains blasted MoviePass when it was first announced in June, saying they had been blindsided by the program and wouldn't honor it.  But Ron Randolph-Wall, chief executive of Quantum Rewards, which operates MoviePass, anticipated a better reaction this time. "Because MoviePass will be paying theaters the full price of admission using the Hollywood Movie Money system, the theater industry benefits as well as the fans," Wall said in a statement.

No word yet from AMC and other exhibitors on MoviePass' latest incarnation.

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Photo: Ticket clerk Eric Michaels sells tickets to patrons at the booth at AMC Universal Citywalk Stadium 19 theaters in Universal City on Wednesday. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times.

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