Since reopening its doors at its Broadhead Road location in December, ShowBiz Cinemas in Waxahachie is seeing a steady return of patrons who are coming not only for the movies, but for a whole spectrum of new entertainment options.
Jeremy Devine, ShowBiz’s vice president of marketing and content, said the family entertainment center model gives guests more choices of how to spend an evening, while providing new ways for the theater to grow in an ever-changing market.
“As a family entertainment center, the whole idea was that if people wanted to go bowling and the film business was not that strong, we could still do business,” Devine said. “So now between the bar, the ice cream parlor, the coffee shop, the full meals, concession type snacks, bowling, arcade and films we have like six revenue streams. We are not being just dependent on selling a popcorn, a soda and a movie. It’s a really smart thing to offer a family entertainment center.”
Along with the new entertainment options, ShowBiz’s 13 auditoriums were extensively remodeled with new seating, sound, and projection systems to enhance its guests’ experience.
Since reopening, ShowBiz has been a part of the CinemaSafe program, which promotes COVID-19 protocols and guidelines developed and supported by a leading epidemiologist to support the public’s safe return to the movie theater.
One unexpected source of revenue for ShowBiz has been the renting out of auditoriums to individuals and the screening of live events such as Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts and independent films. Private auditorium rentals start at $149 for first-run movies and $99 for older films.
“There have been films from the studios, but we have had to ferret out a lot of independent films,” he said. “When I say independent films, I don’t mean art films, but films from independent distributors that run the gambit from horror to faith-based. We are almost playing weekly some type of live or niche content all because there is not a steady flow from the studios.
“We have also had the situation where people wanted to rent their own private auditorium because they either they liked the idea or the safety and privacy of it,” he said. “So that has grown into a business, which was small before. We actually have a dedicated salesperson just to do that.”
In March, Bloomberg reported domestic movie ticket sales may reach $4.5 to $6 billion in 2021, which is roughly triple the volume of 2020, but far below the level of 2019, pre-pandemic. Adjusted for inflation, a $6 billion year would be less than what the film industry generated in 1982; however, Devine sees the industry rebounding as it adjusts to a changing landscape.
While film studios are opening up with more big releases each month, the industry has changed and is moving toward a hybrid model that incorporates live satellite events, Devine said, noting that the use of streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO Max is more common now than a year ago. Movie theaters are still relative though, he said.
“What we are finding more and more that if something is streaming, sure it is taking away business from us, but generally speaking, if someone is a movie fan, they are going to find ways to consume it.
“An example would be ‘Godzilla,’ ” he said of the movie, which released simultaneously to theaters and HBO Max in March. “Godzilla is turning into a huge movie in theaters. It has done great in China and the U.S., where people are returning to the theaters more. Yes, there are threats, but we still realize that we can still do business.”
Devine said studios have started the process to evaluate how long a new release will be exclusive to theaters.
An example of this shift is Paramount Pictures’ announcement in February that some of its new, most anticipated films will go exclusively to its streaming service, Paramount+, 30-45 days after their theatrical release. Other new films will go on the streaming service 90 days after their appearance in theaters.
“It had been difficult for a while, but Waxahachie has been one of the exceptions in our eight theaters,” Devine said. “Our theaters in Houston have been slower to build their clientele back up. Waxahachie has nicely embraced it from the day it reopened.”
ShowBiz Cinemas is located at 108 Broadhead Road in Waxahachie. For more information, visit www.showbizcinemas.com.