Andrew Myers, CEO of Everyman, leaves the media group with a turnover that has doubled - and recognition at last month’s Screen Awards for achievement in exhibition.
Without being rude to the competition, Andrew Myers recalls a favourite audience Tweet about a trip to an Everyman cinema: “If you’re on a date, go to Cineworld. If you REALLY like her, take her to Everyman.”
That was one small piece of evidence that Myers was succeeding in building a strong brand. He came in as CEO of Everyman Media Group in summer 2009, from the world of corporate finance, as an outsider to the film industry.
And he now steps down as CEO - leaving the company by the end of 2014 - with a string of accomplishments. “I was going to stay for two months and it turned into five years,” he says with a laugh.
When Myers joined Everyman, the company - established in 2000 with entrepreneur Daniel Broch’s purchase of a Hampstead cinema dating back to 1933 - had acquired the Screen Cinemas group a year earlier.
Five years later, it has refurbished its Belsize Park, Baker Street, Walton-on-Thames and Screen On The Green, Islington, sites, and opened new cinemas in Maida Vale, Leeds and inside Oxford Street’s Selfridges. Plans are afoot for sites in Birmingham, Canary Wharf, Bristol and Harrogate.
Box-office grosses have grown from $7.2m (£4.5m) in 2009 to $13.6m (£8.5m) in 2013, while turnover grew from $8.5m (£5.3m) to $18.5m (£11.5m).
“The portfolio was underinvested, in terms of people, of infrastructure and understanding what the brand was. It needed a cultural change and a freshness,” Myers remembers of his early days at the company. “The Screen group had great locations and great potential, and we wanted to take the business beyond just running a small, great cinema in Hampstead,” he says.
“We had to build a brand. We wanted to create this environment of hospitality, of comfort, of a service-oriented business.”
And that they have, with the Everyman name now synonymous with quality programming in bespoke, comfortable surroundings, catering to the types of patrons who don’t rustle bags of popcorn or use their mobile phones during screenings.
‘We had to build a brand. We wanted to create this environment of hospitality, of comfort, of a service-oriented business’
Andrew Myers, Everyman
“The challenge was to make people say, ‘It’s Saturday night, I want to go to the Everyman.’ Not, ‘What movies are out this week?’ The ideal scenario is that even if you see a film that’s not great, it could be a great evening.”
He doesn’t take all the credit, of course. He pays tribute to the “brave, ambitious” board led by chairman Paul Wise and including executive director Adam Kaye, for taking smart risks such as reducing capacity at Screen On The Green. “We renovated it from 300 seats to 125 seats. And we increased admissions and turnover. That wasn’t customer research, that was our gut feeling,” Myers says. Taking the brand north to Leeds was another gamble, as was the cinema at Selfridges. “You have to have a leap of faith; there’s no guarantee of success. With this joint venture with Selfridges, we want to shift people’s perceptions of what cinema can do.”
Coming in as an outsider to the world of film, he says: “The main thing I was surprised about was how people in this industry genuinely love film. I thought it might be thought of more as a product. There is a genuine love for film at the core of the industry.”
He says challenges ahead for the exhibition industry will include engaging the large part of the population that doesn’t go to the cinema.
Myers is adamant the cinema world needs to stand up more often for what it does offer. “The cinema industry has to bang its drum about what a great offering we have. We can’t be apologising that tickets aren’t as cheap as they were in the 1930s, the cinema-going audience is a tenth compared to that time… People complain more about cinema prices than the theatre or music.
“We’re a great place to spend money. It’s better value than going bowling with your family for an hour.”
He says Everyman’s expansion has been timed well, with the digitisation of cinemas and the consumer’s re-embracing of high-street life. Of the VoD threat, he says Everyman’s box offices have done well with films that were launched day-and-date on multiple platforms. “Windows will gradually become more of an issue for exhibitors,” he warns. “The industry has to be proactive… In 50 years people will still be gathering in communal spaces, watching stories.”
Myers will continue to advise Everyman in the future. He has known incoming CEO Crispin Lilly, a veteran at Cineworld, for years and says “it’s nice to hand over to someone who can take the business forward”.
With Myers’ entrepreneurial spirit, he is looking for “new challenges… I like change”. But he adds: “I’ll struggle to find an industry as engaging as this one.”
- Baker Street, London
- Belsize Park, London
- Everyman At Selfridges, London
- Hampstead, London
- Maida Vale, London
- Screen On The Green, Islington, London