Movie houses are getting creative with concession sales and adding T-shirts, bags and caps to the mix as they seek to make up money lost to paying higher revenue share to Walt Disney.
People headed to cinemas to see the new “Star Wars” next month will encounter more than the usual concession-stand popcorn and Raisinets. Theater chains, seeking to capture a bigger share of “The Force Awakens” bonanza, are creating pop-up stores to sell posters and key chains — and pouring “Yoda-rita” cocktails.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which opens Dec. 18, is forecast by BoxOffice.com to be the top-grossing movie of all time. But because of the way Hollywood structures agreements, exhibitors will pay a higher share of ticket revenue to distributor Walt Disney than with most other films. “Well north of 60 percent,” estimates Eric Wold, an analyst with B. Riley & Co.
That means cinema chains are under pressure to extract more money from patrons. In addition to moves like round-the-clock screenings, exhibitors are getting creative with concession sales and adding merchandise to the mix as they seek to enhance profit margins.
The exhibitors “have to find a way to make this work for them,” Wold said. “They can do what they can to boost profitability around it by driving concessions sales.”
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Disney, which licenses the swag, and the movie houses are borrowing from Broadway, working with New York-based Araca Group, which provides merchandise for live theatrical shows.
Araca will be create pop-up “Star Wars” shops and items including T-shirts, bags and caps.
Marcus Corp. will have pop-ups in its 54 theaters, a first for the company. It will screen the picture round-the-clock on opening weekend, and concession stands will feature souvenir-popcorn containers emblazoned with “Star Wars” characters, said Rolando Rodriguez, chief executive of Marcus’s theater unit.
At Carmike Cinemas, the country’s fourth-largest chain, $40 will buy a “Star Wars” fan a T-shirt, unlimited popcorn and refills in collectible drink cups. And dine-in theater chain Studio Movie Grill is introducing a themed brunch — with cinnamon-flavored “Princess Leia Buns” for $6.95 — to cater to early risers catching the film at its 23 locations. There will also be cocktails like the “Tatooine Sunrise Mimosa” for $5 and “Yoda-rita,” an under-$10 twist on the Margarita using Sauza Blue Reposado tequila.
“This is bigger than anything I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot, including ‘Harry Potter,”’ said Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, who helped oversee that franchise at rival Warner Bros.
“The Force Awakens” could generate records with a $215 million opening weekend and a record $762 million in total in North America, according to Boxoffice.com.