ICE Theaters, the immersive premium large format (PLF) concept developed by France’s CGR Cinemas, premiered its first Spanish auditorium on April 7 at Ocine de Granollers, located on the outskirts of Barcelona, with an exclusive advanced screening of Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.
“We received 14,000 customer requests for this inaugural screening in an auditorium with a total of 87 seats,” says Guillaume Thomine Desmazures, vice president of worldwide sales at Ice Theaters.
The public rollout of the PLF auditorium was preceded by a cocktail reception for press, local partners, and 87 audience members drawn at random from the 3,500 guests in attendance.
CGR signed an agreement with Spanish circuit Ocine at last October’s edition of CineEurope marking the first expansion of ICE Theaters in Europe outside of France. ICE Theaters currently has locations through its parent chain in France, a site in United States at Regal’s L.A. Live location in Los Angeles, and in Saudi Arabia through VOX Cinemas.
“We were well into negotiations with Ocine before the emergence of the Covid crisis,” says Desmazures. “After the reopening we signed an agreement with [Ocine] at CineEurope for the installation of two ICE auditoriums in Spain. The second location will be revealed at a later date, but is expected to open later this year—once we can assess the performance of the existing site.”
The ICE Theaters representative is citing strong pre-sales for the premium format’s first Spanish auditorium. “248 seats have already been reserved for Fantastic Beasts in the ICE format, with three daily showtimes available, compared against 40 tickets sold in standard format, with five daily showtimes,” he adds. “We are seeing local audiences willing to pay a premium price of €13 in an ICE auditorium over €8 to see it in standard format. The auditorium hasn’t opened to the public yet but already has a 65% occupancy rate with advance sales online, a figure Ocine hasn’t seen in its other openings.”
Ocine is a multi-generation family-owned circuit, the third-largest in Spain with 209 screens across 22 locations, all of them within the country. Its 11-screen multiplex in Granollers, 20 minutes north of Barcelona, is the only one in the city of 70,000 inhabitants and averages 400,000 admissions a year.
“Ocine, which is also the parent company of the Monciné network in France, is a very innovative circuit. It was the first in Spain to implement Dolby Atmos and install VIP auditoriums,” says Desmazures. “This is their first PLF screen, equipped with ICE Theaters’ laser projection and LED side panels,” says Thomine Desmazure. “In general in Spain, formats such as Dolby Cinema and Imax are not very widespread, although there are a few more Screen X or 4DX rooms in the market.”
“We are delighted to finally give our spectators this unique premium experience,” says Esteve Agusti, CEO of Ocine. “We are convinced the room will leave our public breathless, the same way it left us when we first experienced it.”
Ocine’s first ICE Theaters auditorium benefited from a speedy installation despite the logistical disruptions caused by the pandemic, marked by equipment shortages and transportation strikes across Spain.
“Our original plan was to open the auditorium with Top Gun: Maverick [in May], but the work was so well organized that the entire project was completed a month and a half earlier than expected,” says Thomine Desmazures. “As soon as the cinema industry ramped back up with movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Batman, interest in the ICE format resumed—stronger than what we had seen before Covid.
ICE Theaters is currently in negotiations with additional circuits to expand the PLF concept to more territories across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and the Middle East. Approximately 30 new films are released in the ICE format each year, and the group is approaching the upcoming edition of CinemaCon with optimism.
“Building on our results in France, where 70% of our box office is generated by 20% of our theaters, and today in Spain, we have already locked in several appointments with important industry players,” says Desmazures. “Working with all the major Hollywood studios, which entrust us with their films because our format does not distort their presentation, is a strong vote of confidence as we head into the event.”