Village Roadshow has a go at branching out

The next phase of cinema entertainment is already being planned by Village Roadshow, the cinema multiplex company that is turning into a general entertainment firm. Its future includes three-dimensional movies, a theme park, concerts, promotion of Greek artists and films abroad as well as penetration into the DVD market. «Multiplexes in the form we have got to know them to date are a thing of the past,» says Haris Antonopoulos, the CEO of Village Roadshow that was the first to bring multiplexes to the Greek market. «Cinema theaters with just a supermarket and a few stores cannot stop the charge of the DVD, so we are participating in projects which constitute integrated entertainment and commerce proposals, and I am not referring to shopping centers,» he says adding that «in these centers we not only develop cinema screens but also bowling, cafeterias and our new product, which is the all-day bar, serving snacks and fresh juices.» Recognizing that apart from DVDs, cinema has two more rivals, «coffee and soccer,» Antonopoulos says that many people live in small flats and need to go out and entertain themselves: «Financial hardship means that cheaper and more frequent entertainment is the objective; we at Village seek to fill this void,» he argues, conceding that Greeks spend less money on entertainment than they used to. The company therefore is now targeting other forms of entertainment which do not entail spending too much money, or time, another commodity that is shrinking, turning people ever more toward shopping centers. Village is the biggest lessor (at least in terms of space) at The Mall Athens and Antonopoulos is more than excited about it. «The result and its number of visitors have overcome our expectations. I have seen hundreds of shopping centers around the world and this is one of the best,» he comments. «The first signs are excellent, showing that Greeks want new, modern developments; it just needs to pass the test of time.» Antonopoulos admits the company’s investment at The Mall is not complete yet, having expected more shoppers and fewer cinema-goers at first. «Yet people crave screens so much that we may to drop the advertising campaign we have prepared,» he says. Also surprising was that traffic at the neighboring Village Center multiplex at Maroussi was not affected at all, changing the company’s plans to shut it down; it will now only be revamped. The next big step for Village is the introduction of 3-D movies. Antonopoulos says the company is now closer to securing the technology required «and in the next six months I believe we will be able to present the first 3-D movie in a Greek theater,» he promises. Such films can be screened at certain new theaters being developed at the Babis Vovos center in Palaio Faliron, expected to open by end-2006, which is also when a new multiplex with seven or eight screens will open at Vouliagmenis Avenue. The 3-D movies can also be screened at the shopping centers at Maroussi and Thessaloniki, where the company’s combined 12-month turnover is expected to top 40 million euros. Tourist project Village Roadshow places great importance in developing theme parks as well, which is why it is taking part in the bidding for the canoe/kayak installation at Hellenikon. «Our aim is to develop a park with water and the sea as its main themes, for both the people of Athens and the tourists,» says Antonopoulos. «Every year Athens attracts some 3 million tourists. Besides visiting the Acropolis they hardly have anything else to see and we must change that, render the city a tourism destination because it has a terrific potential,» he adds. The theme park will also have an educational character, through aquariums and other activities. «Although we are inexperienced in this, the tender is a serious one and we want to succeed, but we also have alternative solutions, mainly along Attiki Odos,» he said, stressing that the creation of a theme park in Greece is a definitive decision for the parent company, one it considers an important investment that will exceed 120 million euros. Village has an eye on concert organization as well. «We wish to expand there with big names of the international music scene,» Antonopoulos admits. «After the Olympic Games we have the appropriate venues for such events and it would be a shame not to use them,» he notes. Still another plan is for the production of Greek films, provided they can sell abroad: «At the moment we are negotiating two scripts. In Greece there are many films being made, but hardly any good ones. Like it or not, movies have to be commercially successful.»