Titled "Strategies onIncreasing Admissions in Today's Marketplace," the kickoff seminar at theShoWest exhibition convention provided plenty of data to chew on but a paucityof answers to fears that the current international audience might decline as otherforms of entertainment assert themselves in the developing digital universe.Presenters included Nick King, president Neilsen Entertainment International;Tomas Jegeus, exec vp marketing, Twentieth Century Fox Intl and SuwatThongrompo, president of Bangkok-based SF Cinema City.

King's presentation wasparticularly info-laden with reference made to such facts as annual movie goingfrequency in major territories, the density of theater locations to populationbase and key drivers that spur audiences. In the last area, movie selectiontopped the incentives followed by quality of presentation, seating and showtimes.The poll was taken in the UK, France and Germany.

The panelists were often atcross-purposes that underlined the impossible dream of crossing culturalbarriers and finding universal solutions. CEO of London-based Vue EntertainmentTim Richards praised mid-week reduced priced tickets in the UK and Germanywhile Thongrompo was definitive in stating, "discounting is bad business." Shemaintained that exhibitors should be improving service not cutting prices. Noneof the participants appeared particularly anxious to discuss the quality offilms in the marketplace.

Jegeus promoted the idea ofbig events and lateral promotion through non-entertainment-related media.However his examples were film specific and his hands on approach was hardlynovel. He also created a stir in the audience when he stated that, "it's easierto keep the consumer you have than develop new ones."

The session appeared miredin Disraeli's quote: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics" when BarryJones, director of Coca-Cola's International Cinema Channel took the stage.Jones began with the thought one size fits all and approached the subject witha revivalist's zeal and more sophisticated research than his fellow presenters.

Coke set out to profile theEuropean movie-goer and discovered he/she goes to the movies with friends,decides what to see no earlier than the day before, prefers an early eveningshow and arrives within 15 minutes of show time. He characterized the typicalpatron as an "impulse buyer" under a lot of stress. He accented that theability to buy advance tickets and reserved seating were beneficial and thattrailers were one of the best means to get people to buy a seat at the end of ascreening. Additional research indicated that roughly 15% of the populationaccount for 85% of ticket sales.

Jones said one of the mostpositive points in the study was the fact that the experience received an 80%plus satisfaction level. However, respondents cited the types of films playingat multiplexes and limited leisure time as key factors limiting the frequencyof their trips to the cinema. He repeatedly went back to the "experience" ofgoing to the movies and presented data that showed roughly two-thirds of ticketbuyers are "directed" by what's playing.

"A third of the audience isbuying the experience," said Jones. "That's who you want to cultivate becausethat will increase your business." He underlined his point by noting that 50%of Western Europeans go to a bar after a movie. Theater complexes with loungeareas and bars were definite beneficiaries for the majority of people that tendto want to do something before or after the movie.