The companies didn’t disclose financial terms. But the goal is to add as many as 200 events each year to Carmike’s venues, beginning in 2015 at 150 theaters in 31 states. They’ll start to roll out the initiative May 13 with free admissions to offerings including the ballet Swan Lake, Broadway’s The Phantom Of The Opera, and a concert: Hall And Oates – Live In Dublin.
The alliance is “a major step forward for Carmike’s alternative programming initiatives,” says Bud Mayo, president of the chain’s Alternative Programming and Distribution Division. The addition of non-Hollywood fare on slow weeknights could “redefine the cinema experience and how theaters connect and engage with moviegoers.”
Carmike is exhibition’s industry’s most active supporter of the strategy: It demonstrated that last year when it bought Digiplex, in part to land Mayo, exhibition’s leading evangelist for alternative content. This week CEO David Passman told analysts that Mayo is “laying the foundation for attendance growth” and to expect to hear “more on this initiative in the future” — possibly meaning today’s announcement.
The CEO told me in October that alternative content has been slower to catch on than he anticipated. His expectations to have it account for as much as 4% of box office revenues by now were “way overly optimistic.” He said that while Fathom Events was “very good at negotiating very specific, finite contracts,” he hoped that it would “transform itself” and “begin to offer more things to more exhibitors.”
Fathom Events — which National CineMedia spun off at the end of 2013 — says it’s thinking big: It plans to offer “live presentations from the Metropolitan Opera and other world class programming from across the performing arts, music, comedy and sports, among other exclusive Fathom offerings.” CEO John Rubey says.