Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Belgium Movie Theater Expands to Compete for Entertainment Budgets

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Belgium Movie Theater Expands to Compete for Entertainment Budgets

Article excerpt

GHENT, Belgium - Albert Bert wants to make moviegoing fun again in Belgium, so he developed one of the world's largest, most comfortable and technically most advanced cinemas.

At a time of falling movie attendance in many countries, Bert's ``Decascoop'' shows how cinemas can survive growing competition in the entertainment business through innovation.

The Decascoop seats 3,600 people in 12 theaters whose capacity ranges from 70 to 580. They show anything from ``Bambi'' to ``Rambo'' to ``Debbie Does Dallas.''

In the squeaky clean lobby, running the length of a football field, there is a long stand-up bar serving coffee, soft drinks, beer, wine and cocktails. There are also sunken lounges with easy chairs and cozy lighting.

Overhead, banks of silent video screens show the movies playing in each of the 12 cinemas and tell customers at intermission how much time they have left to return to their seats. In a corner, customers can play video games. In another, a 1954 projector shows trailers - short films made up of scenes from coming attractions - on a wall.

As they exit, customers go through a still uncompleted basement mall in the Decascoop featuring shops and pubs.

``We start showing movies at 3 p.m.,'' Bert said. ``But on weekends, the hall is already filled with people an hour before the shows begin. They like to meet here and have a drink before seeing a movie.''

His Decascoop opened in 1981 in this western Belgian city of 200,000. There were 10 cinemas then. Now there are three, in addition to the Decascoop.

Bert has also invested nearly $12 million in another large cinema house consisting of 15 theaters with 5,000 seats in Brussels, due to open in May 1988. It may be expanded to 20 theaters, he said.

The yet unnamed project will copy the formula that works so well for him in Ghent. This year, he expects almost 1.4 million customers, up from 1.1 million in 1985 and almost double the 1981 attendance figure. …

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