ECONOMY

The multiplex market

Since 1997, when Village Roadshow opened its first cinema multiplex in Maroussi with 10 screens, Athens has acquired six such multiplexes totaling 65 screens, while traditional cinemas have also developed and modernized with better seats, more screens and new sound systems. Thankfully, the forecasts that traditional cinemas would close down due to the assault of the multiplexes did not prove correct, at least in the Athens market, so movie-goers now enjoy a multitude of options. A typical example is the traditional Aello cinema at Patission Avenue, which has been transformed into a modern six-screen cinema complex. Despite rapid growth in recent years, screen numbers keep rising, following the US pattern, where cinemas are considered the perfect crowd-puller next to shops, cafes and restaurants at shopping centers that have both commercial and entertainment purposes. Village Roadshow came first in this, too, with the creation of Village Park at Rendi, combining cinema with food and commercial stores. Nowadays, such multiple centers with food, coffee, commercial outlets and a fair number of cinema screens are mushrooming – unexpectedly, given their complex nature and the town planning, bureaucratic and other difficulties plaguing the Greek market. Ster cinemas are part of the Escape Center in Ilion. Odeon screens are at newly built Kosmopolis at Kifissias Avenue and more is to come with 10 new Odeon screens on Syngrou Avenue and 12 new Village screens at the shopping center by Babis Vovos at Palaio Faliron. This Friday The Mall Athens by Lamda Development opens its gates, hosting 15 new screens by Village Roadshow. Given that in the next couple of years Athens will have more than 90 screens in multiplexes, it is an open question whether there is any room for more new entries. «To a great extent the market seems covered. The margins for new developments seem very limited; they would need careful study of how the city is expanding,» says Odeon Cineplex’s general director Makis Diamantopoulos. «In this sense the remote western and southeastern suburbs as well as eastern Attica show some scope and interest for future developments,» he predicts. Beyond population and town-planning changes, sector professionals agree that the creation of new screens has brought about a rise in tickets sold in the domestic market, although compared with the rest of Europe the average number of visits remains low. Whether there is scope for new screens can be seen by the number of visits. The Greek market today has about 13 million tickets per year, or about 1.2 visits per person per year; I believe this figure can rise to 2 or to 2.2,» argues Andreas Marabos, CEO at Ster Cinemas. «Athens is expanding, the improved road network brings areas closer together and consumers’ demands are changing. A 40-minute distance from a cinema used to seem normal to us, but now this has been cut to 20 minutes,» notes Marabos, concluding that «there is scope for new screens at remote northern suburbs (from Aghios Stephanos northward) while we cannot say the southern suburbs are fully covered either.» For his part, Village Roadshow head Haris Antonopoulos examines any scope for expansion with development being his main criterion. «The development of more multicinemas in the way we have known it until today is a thing of the past. We believe the future lies in creating destinations and integrated entertainment proposals for the whole family with a variety of uses,» he says, stating clearly that «for us the development of the simple multiplex is over, which is why we are transforming into an entertainment company.» He also confirms that cinema’s main competitors are coffee and football. Local solutions The trend that appears dominant, as seen in the latest series of developments with cinema multiplexes, seems to confirm what Antonopoulos says. On the other hand, the cinema and commercial center development companies are tied to town-planning restrictions, to the unclear legal framework and to the limited supply of appropriate plots of land in their effort to place themselves in the best possible spots in Attica. «In this context,» says City Plaza general director Efthymios Gatos, «the expansion of cinema multiplexes will head to smaller, local solutions, able to cover areas that are densely populated. As a result, great interest is found in areas of Piraeus (which have not been developed at all), Peristeri, Petralona, Aghia Paraskevi and Holargos. There is great scope in Eastern Attica as well, where such social infrastructure is missing and could serve local communities.» Gatos, however, makes it clear that such local solutions cannot rely on the Attiki Odos, a transport option that does not favor cinema multiplexes. «Do not forget that in terms of age, a large part of multiplexes’ clientele does not have its own means of transport, nor can it afford the added road toll cost,» he argues.