Cinemark Execs Hail Amazon-MGM, Warner-Discovery Mergers, Say Streaming’s Effect On Box Office Remains “Slight”


Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi and CFO/COO Sean Gamble both praised the pending mergers of MGM and Amazon and Discovery and WarnerMedia, saying they would help strengthen film production.

“We’re positive about this combination,” Zoradi said in response to a question about Warner Bros. Discovery. “We think this could be very good for the industry. It could be very good for the Warners product.”

The execs spoke during a virtual appearance at the 23rd annual Credit Suisse Communications Conference.

Gamble noted that Cinemark had already been in discussions with Amazon about booking its films and is “optimistic” about its $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM.

“These larger, more established streaming platforms, whether it’s Netflix or Amazon Prime, are developing more and more film production capability and they’re investing money in making bigger and more diverse film content,” Gamble said. “They’re looking to theatrical as a way to elevate and differentiate their content. So, we look at it as a positive that we have a company like Amazon coming in that’s clearly looking to invest more in content.” The result of that and other mergers, then, is “an overall positive.”

On a related note, Gamble also said Cinemark execs were pleased with the company’s recent one-week nationwide engagement for Netflix’s Army of the Dead. The Zack Snyder zombie action movie played exclusively in theaters starting May 14 before hitting streaming on May 21. It opened to about $780,000 from about 600 theaters (Cinemark plus a few other smaller circuits), a gross that was well below industry forecasts.

‘We’re obviously still in somewhat of a test-and-learn mode, but the results were really encouraging about the prospects of future releases,” Gamble said.

Zoradi acknowledged that release windows have narrowed significantly from the longtime 74-day standard before the coronavirus pandemic. Still, he expressed confidence in exhibition’s ability to adapt to the new normal.

“Clearly the windows situation is reduced,” Zoradi said, with a likely settling point in the 30-45-day range. “How that’s going to affect consumer moviegoing, I think we’re just going to have to wait and see. I don’t think it’s going to be dramatic, it may be slight.”

Gamble added that before the pandemic, a number of major new streaming platforms were already getting close to launch. (He didn’t name them, but the crop of new challengers to Netflix includes Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock). “We knew there were all these decisions being made in the near term, as all these companies were focused on consumer acquisition,” he said. “They may not be the ultimate best decisions in the long term as things start to mature and you get more into a customer retention mode.”

Those dynamics were “exacerbated” by the pandemic, which shuttered theaters for months and eliminated a key revenue source, Gamble added. “We’re going to have to see how things continue to play out when theatrical is firing on all cylinders again.”

About 70% of Cinemark’s U.S. footprint, the third-largest of any U.S. circuit, has no capacity limits, Zoradi said. New York and California today lifted all Covid-19 restrictions, which will allow theaters to be completely full.

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