CinemaCon 2024 Global Achievement in Exhibition Award: CJ CGV

Since its founding in 1998, Korea-based circuit CJ CGV has provided its customers with a first-class moviegoing experience–or, rather, experiences. A global innovator in cinema design and technology, the CJ CGV brand encompasses a variety of premium technologies and auditorium concepts that can accommodate the tastes of any moviegoer.

CJ CGV’s subsidiary CJ 4DPLEX is the force behind the 4D and ScreenX premium formats, which bring the immersive power of motion seating and a 270-degree panoramic screen to moviegoers in 74 countries. In February of this year, CJ 4DPLEX rebranded its 4DX Screen—combining the 4D and ScreenX experiences into a single auditorium—as ULTRA 4DX, re-launching the format on 10 screens in Korea with the release of Dune: Part 2. These cutting-edge endeavors are in addition to CJ CGV’s extensive cinema operations, which, as of February 2024, consist of 562 locations spread across Korea, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey, and the U.S.

CJ CGV CEO Min Heoi Heo will accept the Global Achievement in Exhibition Award at this year’s CinemaCon. He spoke with BOXOFFICE PRO about CJ CGV’s approach to technology, design, and programming.

Congratulations on CJ CGV’s Global Achievement in Exhibition Award. Over the last few years, cinemas have upped their game in developing innovative, nontraditional ways to use their space, whether that’s screening sporting events or (as CJ CGV did in its Jongno Piccadilly location in Seoul) converting auditoriums into a rock climbing wall. What are some of the concepts that you’ve had the most success with?

Some of the most successful concepts include providing audiences with content they want to see in theaters beyond just movies, such as live concert performances or sports broadcasts. Live concert screenings of favorite artists have been hugely popular, particularly because they are accessible in theaters across the country, unlike concert venues typically located [only] in major cities.

In addition, there has been a consistent demand for watching sports games in a communal setting with friends or fellow fans. CGV has responded by broadcasting various sports events like the World Cup, e-sports, and domestic baseball leagues.sweet

Sports games, which usually run for more than two to three hours, can be enjoyed from comfortable theater seats, which has led to near-sellout performances with each broadcast.

In particular, concert screenings viewed on ScreenX provide visitors with an overwhelmingly immersive experience, [leading to] high customer satisfaction.

[In addition,] the cinema has transformed into a diverse experiential space, utilizing its high ceilings for various activities such as climbing gyms and golf short-game practice areas. Audiences with hobbies other than [watching] movies are also drawn to movie theaters to generate additional revenue. Leveraging the characteristics of the cinema, activities like climbing and golf have been launched, enticing sports enthusiasts to enjoy these activities while also subtly exposing them to movies screening in adjacent theaters. Although some screens were demolished to accommodate these spaces, the number of moviegoers did not decrease, and [the updates] actually resulted in attracting new audiences.

In the first half of 2023, CGV achieved operating profits for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. How did the year as a whole shape up for you—and how does the box office in countries where you operate compare to what it was in 2019?

[In 2023,] CGV succeeded in turning its annual operating profit into surplus in all domestic and global regions for the first time since the start of the pandemic. In particular, global markets where CJ CGV has entered, such as China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey, have recovered quickly thanks to the growth of local content.

In Korea, successful [animated titles] like Elemental and Suzume’s Lockdown [released in North America as Suzume] and Korean films like Crime City 3 and Spring in Seoul boosted performance. However, the number of moviegoers remains at 55 percent of 2019 levels, indicating a slow recovery. The previous box office formula has also changed a lot due to the pandemic, and there is still a lack of content. So, as mentioned earlier, we tried to attract customers by screening various content, such as live concerts and sports broadcasts, in theaters.

What is CJ CGV’s philosophy in terms of providing moviegoers with premium experiences, which have proven so essential in enticing moviegoers back to cinemas?

We believe that providing premium formats is essential to offer a differentiated experience from OTT [over-the-top, meaning content delivered via streaming over the Internet].

We are expanding specialized theaters such as 4DX, ScreenX, and Imax to make watching movies at theaters more special.

4DX theaters provide a unique experience with motion chairs and environmental effects that move according to the action on-screen, allowing viewers to feel like they are part of the movie.

ScreenX offers a spectacular view with movie backgrounds expanding to the left, right, and front. It provides an immersive experience to enhance the enjoyment of movies.

In the case of Wonka, which was released in 4DX, we added scent effects so that viewers could enjoy the scent of chocolate along with the content, resulting in enthusiastic responses from audiences.
We strive to provide a highly immersive experience to enhance the enjoyment of movies.

CJ CGV has some really incredible cinema concepts—from your various luxury offerings to private screening rooms to rooms built around specific themes, like your forest-themed theaters. What’s the demand like for those cinemas? Is there room for growth there, in the luxury cinema space?

Recently, customers have been wanting to make their movie-watching experience more special, even if they just watch one movie. To meet the diverse needs of these customers, we operate various premium special theaters, such as the “Private Box,” a box-type premium theater; “Suite Cinema,” a hotel-type premium theater; “Cine de Chef,” a cinema with a chef; “Temper Cinema,” a reclining bed theater; and “Gold Class,” a premium sofa theater. We also operate concept theaters such as “Cine & Foret,” a natural concept healing theater. Customers who want to have a special day or a unique experience continue to visit these movie theaters according to their preferences.

We plan to expand upscale concept theaters according to demand analysis by region.

In terms of admissions, what’s the balance in the countries in which you operate between local films and imported content, including Hollywood films? How do you approach programming, in terms of targeting different audience pockets/demographics?

The balance varies by country, but in South Korea, the audience share between Korean films and foreign films in 2023 was 49:51. (Before Covid-19, Korean films had a higher market share.)

To maximize audience reach, we analyze content characteristics in advance (pre-awareness of movies, similar performance, actors, director preferences, stories, etc.) and consider characteristics of theaters such as location and size when programming.

Especially with the increasing number of customers over 40, we are allocating more movies tailored to their tastes near shopping malls and downtown areas.

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