It was announced today that Cineplex has purchased four of AMC’s Canadian cinemas, including the location I regularly go to at Yonge and Dundas. They will all be rebranded under the Cineplex name and will effectively all but give Cineplex a monopoly of movie exhibition in Canada (their only remaining major competitor is Empire Theatres, which doesn’t have enough locations to really make a dent).
I can’t really say that I am happy with this news.
When I was growing up, there were two major cinema chains – Famous Players and Cineplex Odeon. I went to theatres of both brands growing up, though I admit that I had a slight favouritism towards Famous Players – even though Cineplex theatres were closer for me.
In 2005 Cineplex outright purchased the Famous Players brand and rebranded themselves into Cineplex Entertainment. An immediate repercussion from the merger was a raise in ticket prices. Before the merger, there were different prices for matinee and evening screenings (with matinees being about $3 cheaper). Now this is no longer the case and ticket prices are just one flat rate (with surcharges added for 3D, AVX, or IMAX).
When the AMC Yonge and Dundas opened in 2008, it was a breath of fresh air. Despite being delayed for a decade or so (I remember a “coming soon” sign back in 1998), it was an enjoyable alternative to the increasingly corporate Cineplex experience. Not only did it offer one of the best showtime selections in the city (with films often playing once every half hour), but it also had nice little touches that differentiated the AMC brand from Cineplex. These included the big comfy seats with retractable armchairs, a much brighter and more pleasant environment, and murals with classic movies. Even though AMC was still a corporate movie theatre, it gave off a more classic vibe than Cineplex theatres.
So what’s going to happen now? Is AMC going to remain relatively unchanged, with only the Cineplex logo added? Or is Cineplex going to completely gut the theatres and rebrand their own image? Are those big comfy red chairs going to be replaced with the dull blue chairs? Are those murals going to be painted over?
I do know that I’m going to miss the Movie Watcher rewards program. While Cineplex’s SCENE program has the easier to redeem rewards (I never liked the expirable coupons for Movie Watcher), I always liked how Movie Watcher included an instant discount on all movie tickets. I’m going to miss that the most.
So, as we sit back and observe the new Cineplex monopoly, I ask you to possibly contemplate giving smaller independent cinemas (like the Humber) a try. You will find that they will be a much more authentic experience.