While premium large formats such as Imax, Dolby Cinema and 4DX played a key role in boosting France’s box office in 2018, the Immersive Cinema Experience (ICE) launched by French multiplex chain CGR proved to be the country’s most popular premium format.
With movies such as “Deadpool 2,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Aquaman,” ICE theaters lured 80% more moviegoers than Imax in France and saw a 55% year-on-year increase in ticketing revenues compared to classic screens, as well as 40% more in B.O. gross compared to regular screens in the same location in 2018, according to CGR’s data.
France’s second-biggest multiplex chain, CGR boasts a total of 680 screens, including 27 ICE screening rooms. A ticket for ICE is on average €12 to €13, compared to €6.90 for a classic screen. Last year, 75% of B.O. generated by CGR screens came from ICE-equipped cinemas. The numbers are particularly strong considering that Imax has only 14 theaters but a total of 6,050 seats, significantly more than ICE, which has 4,600.
Launched two-and-a-half years ago by CGR, in partnership with Amsterdam-based tech company Philips, the immersive format works with five LED-panels flanking each side of an auditorium, filling peripheral vision with complementary colors. The panels are being made by CGR at an in-house post-production house in La Rochelle. Each screening room, which has a maximum of 220 reclining seats, features Dolby Atmos sound and a Christie RGB laser projection system.
Jocelyn Bouyssy, CGR’s managing director, said he had the idea of developing a new premium format because he was fed up with paying expensive royalties to Imax and Dolby Vision.
The first movie shown by CGR on ICE was EuropaCorp’s sci-fi film”Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.” Bouyssy said that shortly afterward, U.S. studios, including Sony, Universal and Warner Bros., agreed to show their films in the ICE format. Disney is the only U.S. major which has not yet tested ICE with any of its movies.
Upcoming movies slated for ICE showings in France and the Middle East are 20th Century Fox’s “Dragon Ball Super: Broly” and “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”; Sony Pictures’ “Men in Black International” and “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” Warner Bros.’ “Annabelle 3” and “Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw,” and Sony Pictures’ “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 2.”
Bouyssy, who will be attending CinemaCon, said CGR is now aiming to export the ICE system abroad and has already sold it to Vox cinemas in the Middle East, where three ICE screens will be built.
Aside from exhibition, CGR is also involved in independent distribution. The company joined forces with Francois Clerc, the former boss of distribution at Gaumont and Studiocanal, to launch Apollo Films, a distribution banner whose recent credits include the socially minded comedy “Invisibles,” which opened in France earlier this year and was a B.O. hit.