Magazine article Screen International

Millard Ochs, Warner Bros

Magazine article Screen International

Millard Ochs, Warner Bros

Article excerpt

Millard Ochs steps down on June 30 after 19 years as president of Warner Bros International Cinemas (WBIC) and 50 years in the industry.

Ochs, a third-generation theatre business executive from New York who as a boy did his homework in the projection room of his father's theatre, joined WBIC in 1994 and was appointed president six months later.

WBIC introduced the first purpose-built multiplexes in Japan, China, Italy, Holland, Portugal and Taiwan. The company was the first exhibitor to introduce D- BOX Motion Chairs outside North America (in Japan), first to introduce digital sound in the UK and the first to introduce 3D in Japan.

After following his father into the exhibition business the executive began his career at RKO Stanley Warner Theatres, where he worked as city manager and district manager and served from 1966-77. He moved to AMC Theatres and rose through the ranks from 1977-88.

His last post prior to WBIC was with UCI from 1988-1994. During his tenures at AMC and UCI, he spent almost a decade in Europe and in 1985 he opened the UK's first purpose-built multiplex theatre at Milton Keynes.

Ochs' accolades include the 1996 Exhibitor Of The Year Award at Cinema Expo, the 1998 co-recipient of the ShoWest Exhibitor Of The Year Award and the 2007 Industry Achievement Award In Exhibition at the RAAM Conference. He was the keynote speaker on International Day at the inaugural CinemaCon in March 2011.

The popular veteran talks to Jeremy Kay about ticket pricing in Japan, 3D tests, early forays into China and a certain wager in the UK.

Take us back to the launch of the multiplex in Milton Keynes, UK.

It was 1984 and I was given the job [by AMC Theatres] to open The Point in Milton Keynes. I will take this with me to the grave. It was opening day and we'd spent one to one-and-a-half years doing the construction and one of the contractors came up and bet me £5 that we would never fill the place. I said I would take the bet. In those days people didn't follow movies so much and didn't know what multiplexes were all about. Our marketing plan was based on 'try something different.' People would go to the theatre not knowing what they wanted to see and at the box office they made a decision based on seat availability. On the first Saturday we filled 2,000 seats. I still have the £5 note.

So the idea of a multiplex was brand new to the UK. What other cultural differences did you notice?

As an American visiting London back then one of the things we could not eat was sugar-coated popcorn in the cinemas, so we introduced the salted butter-flavoured popcorn and things like Twizzlers. We told ourselves we'd see what would happen because I was told you don't assume anything in England. The first weekend a guy bought a box of salted popcorn and covered it with Ketchup and I asked him why did he do that and he said he didn't want to share it with anybody. Over the next few months my salted popcorn sales weren't going so well so we designed a warmer and sales got back to where they were expected to be.

What are your memories of your first trips to Japan?

My first time in Japan I could not understand why nobody was going to the movies after 9pm. It was quite busy in the afternoon but by 9pm nothing happened [Train schedules prevented Japanese audiences from going to the cinema after 9pm because the men worked late.] We had 2pc of our box office sales [from shows after 9pm. …

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