A snowstorm took Los Angelenos by surprise the first week of December. Down at the Regal L.A. Live a different kind of ice was taking over. With ice sculptures, an ice bar, and Vanilla Ice playing, the tone was surely set. ICE (Immersive Cinema Experience) Theaters, a new PLF offering developed by French circuit GCR Cinemas, debuted its international expansion with the inauguration of its first auditorium at the Regal L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles on December 3 in partnership with AEG, the sports and entertainment company behind L.A Live.
“It’s the beginning of a very beautiful story,” said Jocelyn Bouyssy, managing director of CGR Cinemas, at the launch event. “It’s an honor for us to be here in Hollywood and it’s a childhood dream come true for me. Our international expansion begins tomorrow with this historic step for ICE.”
Speaking to Boxoffice Pro, David Scantamburlo, marketing director at CGR, explained, “The story of ICE Theaters began with the idea of offering the audience a more exciting experience, the ultimate sensorial experience. CGR always wanted to be a step further. It all began in France and now we’re in the United States. There were a lot of hurdles, but to be able to export our technology here is a dream come true. It’s a French success story.”
Executives from all the major Hollywood studios were in attendance at the launch event. The guests watched a presentation by Bouyssy and Shelby Russel, SVP L.A. Live marketing and L.A. Live cinemas at AEG, as well as multiple trailers and movie clips developed in the ICE format.
The French actor-director Franck Gastambide was on hand at the launch. Gastambide, who collaborated with ICE Theaters for his action-comedy Taxi 5, described his interest in the format: “If I’m here today, it is truly because I believe that making the movie theater more attractive is a mutual task for exhibitors and creators. Filmmakers, be it directors or writers, need to work with exhibitors who are also looking for more innovative technologies. Knowing that my movie could be projected in such an auditorium allows me to be more ambitious in my future projects.”
Created in 2017, the ICE technology offers a unique panoramic experience thanks to non-reflecting LED panels on each side of the auditorium that target the moviegoer’s peripheral vision. This ambient content is created at CGR’s headquarters in the coastal French city of La Rochelle by an in-house post-production team. To provide a premium experience, the auditorium also features recliners, a Dolby Atmos studio configuration, and RGB laser projection.
The concept has had success in its home country. With 35 locations in France, ICE leads the country’s PLF market both in admissions and number of theaters. According to CGR, in 2019 ICE auditoriums had double the occupancy rate of similar standard auditoriums and double the box office revenues compared to the national CGR average. Twenty-nine feature films were released in the format in 2019, up from just 18 in 2018. Jumanji: The Next Level was the first film to be shown at the Regal L.A. Live.
The Regal at L.A. Live is just the first step in the international adventures of ICE Theaters. After Hollywood, the next destination for the French group will be Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates through a partnership with Vox Cinemas to bring ICE to the Middle East and North Africa.