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SM expands to community theaters

/ 12:20 AM February 14, 2016

The SM group is set to roll out a chain of stand-alone community theaters, as part of efforts to bring the cinema experience to areas where it’s not possible to build a full-service shopping mall.

The new chain of community theaters will be launched under a new brand called “Blink Cinemas” and offered to potential business partners using the franchising route.  The SM has identified 44 locations where these cinemas could be built in the next three to five years, picking areas where demographics could support these new amenities, SM Lifestyle Entertainment Inc. (SMLEI) president Edgar Tejerero said in a briefing on Thursday.

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The stand-alone theaters powered by Blink will release current films simultaneously airing with Metro Manila branches at an estimated price of P120 a head.

The theaters can also be used as a venue for neighborhood, school or corporate events.

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Each location will have two to four cinemas, with a seating capacity of 100 each, Tejerero said. Each location is estimated to require a 600 to 800-square meter lot.

On why franchising was chosen as the way to grow this business, Tejerero explained: “Since it’s very hard for us to operate them, when we had the deliberation, we thought of the franchising model— pass on whatever standards we have.” On the part of the potential franchisees, he said they would be offered a “nice payback.”

Tejerero said there were 12 interested franchisees under evaluation. The first three to five of such Blink cinemas may be opened this year, although the SM group had not yet identified which locations to develop first.

To develop this business, Tejerero said the first thing that SMLEI did was to write the local government units (LGUs) or city governments to get them to “buy in” since most of the desired locations are near the plazas and provincial capitols, which were mostly owned by LGUs.

While piracy is quite high in the provinces, Tejerero said that if the people would be given access to content at the same time as those in urban centers and would not have to travel for four hours to reach the nearest mall, then having community theaters could help bridge the gap and address such piracy.

Apart from building community theaters, SMLEI is also set to offer cinemas inside a hotel—beginning with the upcoming Conrad Hotel in the Mall of Asia complex.

SMLEI also plans to build more cinemas this year.

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Flagship brand SM Cinemas will have four new branches which are expected to add 5,600 seats, bringing the group’s total seating capacity to over 150,000.

In 2015, SM Cinema ended with a total of 307 screens and seating capacity of 141,753, expanding its footprint by 12 percent.

The group held a nationwide cinema market share of 60 percent.

Tejerero said that with various expansion programs, the group would like to grow its market share to 65 percent.

Meanwhile, through service Blink Online Cinema, the group offers never-before-seen movies straight to the user’s mobile gadget. It also offers unique services such as pay-per-view and rental or a per title basis.

“We are not looking only to building new businesses but also improving our current brands. That is why our objective in 2016 is to strengthen our structure, renovate our facilities, upgrade our service and maintain our relevance,” Tejerero said.

“SMLEI’s goal this year is growth—not only for the expansion of the company but for the economy. We want the world to take notice of the Philippines as a diverse and rapidly emergent country,” he added.

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TAGS: Blink, cinema, community cinema, movies, SM, SM Group, SM Lifestyle & Entertainment Inc., SMLEI
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