Palace Amusement Company, which operates the largest chain of cinemas in the island, is putting in place plans to showcase live sports and pop concerts across its various venues in a bid to diversify its core Hollywood film revenues, according to the company's management.
Concurrently, it plans to continue reformatting its current offerings, in an effort to present only digitised films at its cinemas within two years.
"Alternative content has been on the horizon for some time, but during the year we were not able to make it a reality," the management said in its just released 2011 annual report. "It is still uppermost in our minds as we look forward to showing live events such as concerts - pop, classical and opera, as well as sporting events," it said.
Palace Amusement has spent some $100 million over two years to upgrade its screens to show digital movies, including 3D. Digital cinemas are equipped to deliver live broadcasts from performances or events. For instance, several performances of the United States-based Metropolitan Opera have been showcased live at cinemas in that country.
Palace installed a number of three-dimensional screens during its financial year ending June 30, with Carib5 in Cross Roads, St Andrew outfitted with four such monitors, Multiplex in Montego Bay with two, Palace Cineplex in St Andrew with two, and one at the Odeon in Mandeville, the company said.
"During the year, we exhibited 29 3D pictures, and it is becoming patently obvious that the industry is set to phase out and discontinue its analogue distribution within two years. Locations without digitised screens will by then have no option but to close," the company said.
Jamaicans, lured in recent times by 3D films, spent a new record J$614.5 million at the movies over one year, according to the latest data from Palace Amusement. The total spend included box office receipts of J$431.5 million and J$183 million on confectioneries, including popcorn, candy and sodas.
Increased net profit
The increased activity pushed Palace group's audited net profit up 6.6 per cent to J$10.9 million for the year ending June 30, 2011. The record spend by movie watchers occurred amid the largest capital spend by Palace in at least four years at J$76.6 million, up 233 per cent over year-earlier levels.
Most of the investment went towards upgrading 3D screens. Palace argues that 3D films as an effective defence against piracy, due to the difficulty of replicating the movie experience. Piracy aided in slashing its annual attendance at cinemas to some 840,500 movie watchers based on 2009 figures compared with about 1.2 million in 1994. The decline was accelerated by the proliferation of J$100 bootleg DVDs and streaming web movies since the 2000s.
In the 2010/11 year, Carib5 earned the bulk of box office receipts at J$223 million, followed by Palace Multiplex at J$100.3 million, Palace Cineplex at J$77.9 million, and Odeon Cineplex at J$30.2 million. At the same time, food sales at those cinemas were roughly J$97.7 million, J$38.1 million, J$34.6 million and J$12.5 million, respectively.