The number of visitors to cinemas is progressively dropping, but Kinepolis continues to grow. Through acquisitions, but also through innovative and bold concepts. ‘Our greatest asset? We fully invest in experience’, says CEO Eddy Duquenne.
Since 1 January 2008 Eddy Duquenne is CEO of Kinepolis, a leading company on the European market with 94 complexes in Belgium, France, Spain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Switzerland – and since the acquisition of Landmark Cinema also in Canada.
When Eddy Duquenne started as CEO, after a carrier at ASLK-CGER and Sunparks, everyone called him insane. ‘You do not know what you are getting yourself into,’ was their reaction. For some time now, cinema is not a growth market anymore, but it survived color television and video stores. ‘Then came the iPad, streaming video and Netflix, in other words, heaps of competitors. ‘Actually, our greatest competitor is the sunny weather’ says an experienced Duquenne. ‘Fortunately, you cannot delocalize a movie theater and we are still the cheapest night out. ‘
From cinema to multimedia room
Kinepolis was one of the first in the sector to ask the customer: what did you think of the movie? Today it programs actively, based on databases with customer information. Eddy Duquenne: “Our customers’ surveys tell us that experience always ranks high on the preference lists. Today, qualitative content is instantly available, that is why, now more than ever, we must add the experience.’
Today, qualitative content is instantly available, that is why, now more than ever, we must add the experienceEddy Duquenne, CEO of Kinepolis
Duquenne and his team have lots of ideas. Kinepolis launched an internal innovation lab, a mailbox of ideas, from which projects groups can elaborate multiple ideas. Daring is rewarded, because employees with an idea that is selected by the Innovation Lab jury, get an entrepreneurs bonus.
‘One: We have to sell series or episodes, especially during the week. A 2.5 hour Saturday night movie does not fit anymore in our youth’s agenda. But if they like that first episode of a series, you will have sold them the next nine episodes!’
‘Two: we are no longer a cinema, but a multimedia room. We want to show series of music concerts for specific generations. In Madrid we are now building a flat cinema room where we will give concerts, let people dance and organize events, such as the projection of a football match. It is all about experiencing emotion together. A feature film is a transfer of emotions. We sell collective happiness, goose bumps.’
‘All our ideas come from our own organization. In Madrid and Valencia, we have tried sushi bars– not everyone wants popcorn – but we did not sell enough to make it profitable. Still, we might try it here as well, because sometimes a detail in the setting can make it a hit or a flop.’
Immersive sound and moving seats
Ten years ago, the top three movies had more than 1 million visitors, now just 700,000. Duquenne: ‘We need to work even harder. We invest in sound and image technology, via immersive sound and laser projection. The occasional blockbuster visitor wants the best quality. And the laser added quality is great, thanks to Barco.’
‘We may not be married to Barco, but we surely are engaged for quite some years now. We are early adopters of their devices, such as their first laser projectors. Barco is the Mercedes of the projectors, their engineers are passionate about technology. Our new cinemas are purely based on laser technology and we want to implement the laser only strategy in all our other branches. Everyone wins. The customer gets a more uniform light distribution and more intensive colors. We do not have to replace lamps anymore and we consume less energy.’
Kinepolis also strongly believes in innovative seating concepts, like the cosy seats and the family chairs, or chairs that move in 4DX-rooms, including water, wind, light and fog effects. Is that the ultimate cinema experience? ‘Yes, provided that you apply it to the right movies. For a Flemish or an arthouse film, this kind of cinematic technology is not suitable’, concludes Duquenne.