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Friday, August 26, 2005

Copey comments on digital cinema, 3-D, and the business of movies


Earlier this month, I wrote about the nutty world of movie financing in my Boston Globe column.

One of the people I spoke with for that piece was Roy Coppedge (everyone calls him "Copey"), who co-founded the private equity firm Boston Ventures in 1983. (Rupert Murdoch put some of his money into the firm to get it off the ground.) Boston Ventures owns a big chunk of two theater chains: Rave Reviews, based in Dallas, and Vue Cinemas in the UK.

In my column, I asked why Copey hadn't put any money into producing movies. ''Look at this summer," he said. ''The box office has been a disaster. Nobody knows what's going to be successful, and yet they spend all this money upfront to make a film. That's not our equation."

Copey and I had two phone conversations, and there were a few tidbits that didn't make it into the story... so I wanted to post them here:

- "The risky part of the business is film production and distribution. The economics are goofy -- the actors, artists, lawyers make [the most] money. The road is littered with unsuccessful independent production companies. It's very hard to find one that has made money. There are a few. New Line did that, and then they merged with Warner."

- Most adults go to the movies about five times a year. People between the ages of 10 and 25 go 12.2 times a year, on average. "Right now, you've got an enormous [demographic] bulge of people between ten and 25. That bodes well for the next five or ten years," Copey said. "Not that it falls off a cliff after that..."

- "People want a safe environment outside of the home. Kids want to get out. And I don't think that dyanmic's going to change."

- "Stadium theaters are a new technology that really haven't penetrated [very far into the market.] Of 36,000 screens in America, 40 percent are stadium. That will be 80 percent by 2010."

- On digital projectors: "That will really differentiate the experience for consumers. It's like once you go to a stadium theater, you never go back to a flat, non-sloped theater. Why go coach when you can go first class for the same price?" (I beg to differ on this point. Lots of people still see movies in non-stadium theaters, if they're conveniently located, the showtime is right, or they're showing something the stadium theaters aren't.)

- "Net net, it's a plus to use theaters for more than just showing movies" -- broadcasting sporting events, concerts, or TV shows, even. "It gives them more flexibility."

- "3-D will differentiate the movie theater experience" from the home experience.

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