Special Event: Interview with Fathom Events CEO John Rubey

How was 2016 for Fathom, and what is your current presence across screens in North America?

Fathom Events remains the worldwide leader in event cinema, and 2016 was a record year for us in many ways. We brought an unprecedented number of our events into cinemas in a variety of genres. We had 45 events fall in the box office top 10 throughout the year, and we grew our cinema network by four times. Fathom now has a presence in every single one of the top 100 DMAs in the United States.

What were some of your best performing titles of the year?

We’ve seen many successes in 2016, both big and small. Some of our top box office hits from this year include Batman: The Killing Joke, Rob Zombie’s 31, and faith-based events like To Joey with Love and Kirk Cameron’s Revive US.

Let’s talk about the different genres you carry: Which ones are growing? Any new sectors turning the corner? And which, if any, sectors have audiences taken a longer time to adapt to?

The Metropolitan Opera is always a strong performer for Fathom. We’ve also seen a lot of success with our inspirational and faith-based titles, as well as nerd-core and music events that bring in a large and loyal fan base of their own. In the next year, we’ll be pushing the boundaries of what a live, in-cinema event can entail with some exciting new projects, as well as bringing in more from the anime, Broadway, and classic-film categories.

How can e-sports and gaming revolutionize the event cinema industry? And what is Fathom’s positioning in that sector?

Fathom brought several e-sports and gaming events to cinemas this year, with both public and private event models. This audience enjoys these events because they’re in the movie theater with like-minded individuals, cheering along together as they watch their favorite players on the big screen. It creates a new way to experience their favorite games and events, since it is otherwise only available on personal devices, not offering the same communal experience as watching it in a movie theater. We were particularly impressed with Let’s Play Live, which sold out the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City during New York Comic Con and sold very well in cinemas across the U.S. This exclusive production was created specifically for cinemas and was a huge hit with fans.

Sports rights are often difficult to navigate. Does Fathom act as a rights owner in the sporting events you offer?

As a distributor, Fathom doesn’t own the rights to any of the content we present. However, the many content providers that we partner with do. In the sports realm, we have partnered with Mayweather Boxing, Golden Boy Promotions, The LA Kings, Showtime, UFC, Fox Sports One, NBC Sports, and the NHL to bring their sporting events to movie theaters nationwide.

What is the biggest challenge facing event cinema?

The goal of event cinema is always to fill seats during the “off-peak” times for movie theaters, so our challenge is to find the right type of niche content that has an established and passionate fan base in order to draw a large audience any time of the week.

How big a challenge is marketing for event cinema? I’ve seen a lot of events looking to engage content with active fan bases–Doctor Who comes to mind, for example–but how much is there left to do to get the word out to consumers? 

While we love to program events that have a built-in fan base, our marketing team is always a part of the equation, getting placement in various mainstream and niche outlets, driving social media and digital outreach, securing brand partnerships, and more. We also look to the client and talent to help drive our promotion initiatives to ensure that our messaging is getting to everyone and anyone who would enjoy the event.

How can Fathom help exhibitors in these marketing efforts?

Fathom works closely with exhibitors as we have established relationships with our owners, AMC, Cinemark, and Regal, as well as many of the other affiliates that show our content. We have a team dedicated to providing the exhibitors with promotional materials that help them cater to their dedicated and new Fathom fans through their physical locations, online presence, and social channels.

What’s your forecast for 2017?

In the New Year, we are slated to have even more events in cinemas than previous years, including several new partnerships that will diversify our offerings. We are looking to bring some international titles to the U.S. for the first time and work with some fan-favorite TV shows to bring premiere events, exclusive content, and more to the big screen. It’s an exciting time for event cinema, and there is always more to come.

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