“It’s crucial for our industry to invest” in premium movie experiences, Regal CEO Amy Miles told investors today as she kicked off the Gabelli & Co Movie and Entertainment Conference. It’s a subtle shift in message in an industry that has spent the last few years focusing on paring down debt, consolidation, and keeping shareholders happy with dividends and share repurchases. But Miles says that Regal leads the exhibition industry in generating cash, and wants to seize the opportunity to boost revenues with venues that can charge higher prices for tickets and concessions. “We’re all going about this strategic objective of improving the premium experience,” she says. Regal plans to roll out as many as 25 of its large-screen RPX venues in each of the next four years. Regal also expects to have recliner seats at 25 sites with just under 300 screens by the end of 2014. The chain has been helped by the struggles that many mall owners are having maintaining traffic as shoppers buy goods online. “Our landlords are becoming very good partners” for example with co-financing. “That’s been a positive.”
More broadly she echoed the widely held view that 2015 could set sales records with its abundant number of tentpoles including franchises Superman, The Avengers, Fast & Furious, Jurrasic Park, James Bond, Mission: Impossible and Hunger Games as well as Star Wars and Fifty Shades Of Grey. “It’s hard, when you look at the film slate, not to be real excited about the box office.” CFO David Ownby adds that sales for 3D films has leveled off at about 20% of box office. “We don’t think it’s necessarily going to grow significantly but it isn’t going to fall significantly,” he says.