The team behind National Amusements’ Showcase Cinemas Argentina, one of Argentina’s three top circuits, will be awarded the “Enrique Ramirez” LatAm Exhibitor of the Year Award at ShowEast this year, celebrating nearly three decades of operating the circuit in one of the region’s most important territories.
Team members Oscar García Ortiz (managing director), Mariela Mosso (director, Argentina film booking), Ana Albertí (director, Argentine marketing and distributor partnerships), and Alejandro Gonzalez Alzaga (director of operations and concessions) will accept the award on behalf of the circuit.
“Our colleagues in Argentina have been leaders in global exhibition for decades. Their dedication and expertise within the industry is unparalleled,” said Mark Walukevich, senior vice president of international film, National Amusements, in a press release announcing the honor. “I am delighted that their many accomplishments will be recognized with this very well-deserved award.”
Boxoffice Pro spoke with managing director Oscar García Ortiz, who has been with the company for nearly three decades, about the team’s achievements.
Congratulations on the award. Can you give us some background on your team at National Amusement’s Showcase Cinemas division in Argentina?
National Amusements first came to Argentina 27 years ago with its first theater in the west suburbs of Buenos Aires. Today, we have seven complexes in the country, making us the third-largest cinema chain in Argentina. We compete with companies with larger screens count than us, Hoyts Cinemark and Cinépolis, so we’ve had to fight hard to acquire and maintain our market share in the country. Our presence in Argentina dates back to 1997, and I’ve been with the company throughout that span. We’re very proud of everything we’ve accomplished together.
I am doing the interview, but it’s important to emphasize that this is a team honor. We have a senior management team, most of whom have been with us for 26 years. Most of us started as cinema managers and moved up within the company to our current roles. It’s a group of people who genuinely love what they do and have a wealth of experience doing it. Thanks to the team, we’ve achieved the market share we currently have in Argentina.
What makes the theatrical market in Argentina unique?
It’s not just the cinema industry; doing business in Argentina is unique. It is a very challenging country to do business in. We’ve had so many disruptions throughout our time here, the worst being the collapse of the economy in 2001. Inflation, for example, might go over 150 percent this year. Budgeting, meeting targets, and setting prices…It’s a massive challenge for us. We must be very proactive and informed about factors that most markets don’t even consider. In stable economies, you have less than 10 percent inflation a year. In Argentina, you can see 10 percent inflation happen in two weeks. Our biggest challenge is to be on top of all our costs—operations, payroll, food, and concessions containers—[and] maintaining our margins while dealing with incredibly high inflation.
How much of an impact did pandemic-era restrictions have on your business?
Operating restrictions on cinemas in Argentina were among the most strict in the world. We had to work closely with colleagues from our competitors to make the government understand the measures we were taking to make our cinemas safe. It took a lot of work to convince the health authorities in Argentina that transmission was lower in cinemas than in other public places because of all the precautionary measures we put in place. It took time, but we eventually returned to operating at our needed capacity.
When did audiences begin to return to cinemas after you reopened?
Top Gun: Maverick was the first real sign of people returning without fear. Teenagers returned for Spider-Man: No Way Home, but it took longer to get older adults back in theaters.
Have domestic films been able to return to the same prominence they enjoyed at the box office before the pandemic?
Domestic films haven’t enjoyed the same recovery as Hollywood imports since the reopening. Maybe in terms of the volume of releases, it isn’t far from a recovery—but we haven’t had the same scale of domestic hits at the box office that we used to enjoy. We had gotten used to having three or four domestic titles per year that we could rely on to complement the Hollywood grosses. We haven’t seen that yet. It may be an issue stemming from the pandemic’s economic crisis. That economic crisis resulted in reduced investment in new domestic films. We are anxious to see the impact of domestic films return to the box office.
What role do premium formats play in your market?
Premium formats haven’t taken off in Argentina like they’ve taken off in other markets. We have very few screens with recliners. We operate the only Imax in Buenos Aires, and it has done phenomenal business this year. Every time we’ve had a blockbuster this year, the Imax has sold out. Oppenheimer gave us four consecutive weeks of sellouts. We never imagined it would do so well, even considering factors outside the [subject of the] film, like its running time.
How is the moviegoer of 2023 in Argentina different from that of 2019?
The one thing we notice about today’s moviegoers is that they are spending more money on concessions. We’re seeing increased sales of bigger popcorn tubs. People are okay with spending more money on their visit. They’re looking to have a better experience. I hope it lasts!