Lebanon Businessnews News

Empire launches new premium movie theater
Operator will expand in Iraq by April
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Empire, local movie distributors and operators, will be opening 'Empire Premiere', their first VIP-dedicated theaters, by end-February. Gino Haddad, CFO and business development director at Empire, said the venue will be dedicated to clients seeking luxurious services. The new movie theaters will be located in Sodeco Square center, Ashrafieh, which is already managed by Empire.

Haddad said that all six theaters and screens have been refurbished. The number of seats per theater was cut down to 30 down from 180 seats. “Theaters are now equipped with fancy and comfortable chairs and tables, and offer enough space for each viewer to feel at home.” Each viewer will have his own butler, cushions, and blanket. Catering services will be offered by Sushi Bar. The refurbishing process cost up to $1.5 million.

Haddad said that Empire Premiere will be only for viewers aged above 18. “The ticket price will be $20, which is very competitive compared to $30 in the ABC-Dbayeh VIP theater.” Both online and box-office booking options are available.

Total ticket sales in the cinema sector during 2012 dropped slightly compared to the previous year. In 2012, around 3.25 million tickets were sold, compared to 3.45 million in 2011. According to Haddad, CinemaCity is still the number one theater, with up to 25 percent of the market share, followed by ABC Ashrafieh, which holds 20 percent.

Haddad said newly-opened theaters have affected the movie market. “New theaters which do not offer a new concept are taking market share away from each other, rather than creating a new clientele and attracting new viewers,” said Haddad. Movie theaters are ‘mushrooming’ everywhere, with a theater opening in each new mall. Haddad said this is due to the growing need for entertainment.

Four operators are currently active in the local market: Empire, Planète, Grand Cinemas, and Cinemall. With Beirut City Center opening, VOX theaters will be an additional competitor.

Empire is planning other expansions. A new 14-screen movie theater will be opening in Erbil, Iraq, by April 2013, with an investment up to $9 million. “People in Erbil are hungry for soft entertainment and the market has great potential. Erbil will be the KSA of our generation.”

Reported by Rana Freifer
Date Posted: Jan 11, 2013
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