Magazine article Variety

Lean Screen Machine Sets Sights on Global Growth

Magazine article Variety

Lean Screen Machine Sets Sights on Global Growth

Article excerpt

GLOBAL ACHIEVEMENT IN EXHIBITION AWARD

Cinepolis topper Ramirez sees innovation as key to global growth

There's a good reason that Cinemacon tapped Alejandro Ramirez, CEO of Mexico's Cinepolis, as its honorée for the Global Achievement in Exhibition Award - Cinepolis was the first circuit in Mexico to introduce multiplexes, stadium seating, Imax screens and 3D projection. It's also the world's fourth-biggest exhibition chain and its largest luxury cinema operator.

"We've always tried to focus a lot on innovation," says Ramirez, who has overseen the exhib's most dramatic growth since 2004.

Latin America lags behind North America, Europe and Asia in digital cinema rollout, with just 40% of its total screens having been converted to digital. Barring a few Brazilian sites, Cinepolis completed d-einema deployment April 15, when all of its screens worldwide were to become digital.

Cinepolis was one of the world's pioneers of luxury cinemas, opening its first Cinepolis VIP theater in a Mexico City Interlomas mall in 1999.

Its 344 cinemas and 3,106 screens range from Mexico to the U.S., India, Brazil, Central America, Peru and Colombia.

The growth of Cinepolis, and precursor Operación Ramirez, which Ramirez's grandfather Enrique Ramirez Miguel founded in 1972, is the story of a company shrewdly exploiting new market opportunities in Mexico and consistently innovating. It has seized its market chances with calculated aggression, beginning with Mexico itself.

In 1992, the Mexican government privatized the state-run movie theaters and abolished its practice of fixed ticket prices, which consequently gave Operación Ramirez incentive to rapidly ramp up a nationwide network of multiplexes.

Operating several five-screen multiplexes beginning in the 1970s, the Ramirezes already knew the value of modern theaters, and realized Mexico's market potential, says Corazón Films' CEO Eckehardt von Damm.

"The Ramirez family reacted rapidly and radically to change, investing heavily in cinemas and infrastructure," he adds.

Operación Ramirez opened its first Cinepolis-labeled multiplex in 1994, and quickly became the country's biggest circuit. The company's subsequent moves to expand overseas - unusual for a nonU.S. exhibitor - were fueled by its scale and success at home.

"All countries have grown their cinema markets in the past 20 years, thanks to more screens, more films and richer populations," says David Hancock at I HS Screen Digest. …

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