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Archive for July, 2010

What’s Happening With IMAX?

Ron Van TimmerenBy Ron VanTimmeren
Vice President, Programming

What’s coming to the IMAX theatre at Celebration! Cinema?  That is one the most FAQ’s I get.  Right now I would like to think no further than Inception as it’s a movie made for the giant IMAX screen… mind-blowing story, spectacular visuals and awesome sound.  BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR (so far)!!

Hubble 3D
There is life after Inception.  But is there life on other planets?  Find out when Hubble 3D opens August 20.  Hubble 3D is what we call a “traditional” IMAX movie.  It’s documentary style, about 45 minutes long and produced by the award-winning IMAX Space Team.  Movie-goers will journey through distant galaxies and discover how we fit into the grandeur and mysteries of our celestial surroundings.

Sharing a Screen
At first, Hubble 3D will share the show schedule with Inception.  At the Grand Rapids Celebration! Cinema IMAX (which is a 70mm film IMAX theatre), I expect we will add more Hubble 3D shows as Inception needs less and less screen time.  At the Lansing Celebration! Cinema IMAX (remember, now a digital IMAX theatre), I expect we will mix Avatar with Hubble 3D on August 27, as the new scenes in the new release of Avatar are only going to be available in digital IMAX locations.

This will be the same issue with Resident Evil: Afterlife on September 10 and Megamind 3D on November 5: Both will only be available in digital IMAX in Lansing.

IMAX This Fall
Both Grand Rapids North and Lansing will also be opening three other great IMAX releases between now and the end of the year.   September 24, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole opens in 3D. On November 19 it’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I in 3D. And TRON: Legacy opens in 3D on December 17.

The Real IMAX Experience!
All of this info comes with the caveat “subject to change”, but one thing’s for sure… there’s no better movie-going experience than the giant IMAX Theatre.  Celebration! Cinema IMAX Grand Rapids and Lansing were both built before the “retro-fit” IMAX (some call them “fake” IMAX) screens came to market in some areas.  That means Celebration! Cinema spent millions of dollars to build the special IMAX auditorium to exact specifications to give you the ultimate immersive movie-going experience.

Nancy’s 20th Anniversary with Loeks Theatres

Nancy Hagan, more recently

Nancy, more recently

By Nancy Hagan
Chief Financial Officer and 20-year employee at Celebration! Cinema

One of my first days on the job at Jack Loeks Theatres, I watched Days of Thunder in theatre #1 at Studio 28, as part of a circuit manager meeting.  The sparks were flying off the race track and between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.  In June, 1990, as Controller of the company, and on the job less than a month, I recall thinking “what a cool and fun accounting job.  I get to see movies all in a day’s work.”

June 18, 2010, 20 years later, working for Loeks Theatres, I watched a 7:30 a.m. “training video” – Toy Story 3 in IMAX 3D at Celebration! Cinema North.  (I outlasted Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman!)  I am still thinking “what a cool & fun job.”  For that thought, I am grateful.

Jeremy Bronson, Loeks Theatres’ E-Marketing Coordinator and a relative rookie here, asked me to reflect on the changes in the company and my job over the last 20 years I’ve been with Loeks.  It was fun to go strolling down memory lane…

Observations & recollections

Loeks Theatres Management, early 1990s

Loeks Theatres Management, early 1990s

I’d like to share some of my observations and recollections of 20 years.  There have been many changes – and, much remains the same.  In 1990, Jack Loeks Theatres operated 54 screens at 11 locations, plus a carwash, a mini storage facility, a flea market, and was landlord for a few retail properties.  The circuit included 3 single screen theatres and 3 twin theatres!  The average screen count at a location was only 5.  The theatre operations commanded a dominant market share in West Michigan.  Jack Loeks was known as an innovator in the industry and clearly his vision put the company in a very strong market position.  John Loeks had joined his dad two months earlier to run the company.  Jack taught me some valuable lessons in key areas of the business where I had little experience – a few that come to mind are:

  • Cash – get it and keep it!  It provides freedom and flexibility.
  • Property taxes – when much of the asset value is real estate – learn the appropriate valuation and use that information wisely with the assessor to keep your property taxes at the lowest level possible.
  • Suppliers and vendors – seek bids periodically to keep the suppliers and vendors competitive and honest.  I also learned it is the owner’s prerogative to choose with whom to do business.

For the first few years Jack challenged his new team, and after listening to our rationale he would often share his approach or perspective.  He brought ideas and perspective to an issue that we had not considered.  After a few years and presumably more confidence Jack made a strong effort to let John run the business without a heavy hand.  It was a delicate balance for a “showman” whose name was synonymous with the business he built.

Now…
In 2010, Loeks Theatres operates 150 screens at 11 locations, plus a flea market, and is landlord for a few retail properties.  The average screen count per location is 14.  The theatres command a dominant market share in West Michigan.  I am thankful for John’s vision and willingness to take risk.  The risks and investment John has made in the company are considerable!  His early adoption of stadium seating, brilliant site selection, vision for Celebration! Cinema North, commitment to quality, and aggressive strategic moves or acquisitions are keys to the stability of the circuit today.

In 2009 John appointed his son JD to President of Loeks Theatres.  From my perspective, there are many similarities today to the view of the company in the early 1990’s: A management transition, a new President with a strong early track record – ready for new challenges and opportunities. JD’s leadership skills are very strong enabling the company to grow in limitless ways.

The path from 1990 to 2010

Nancy receives a gift on a corporate retreat

Nancy receives a gift on a corporate retreat

As an accountant by education and work history, I recall best by transactions!  Indulge my accountant viewpoint of company growth and changes over 20 years.  Certainly this chronology of events also reflects some of the joys and challenges in my role as Controller, VP, CFO and board member of Loeks Theatres.

My job certainly has not been dull!  Much has been accomplished by Loeks Theatres and related companies, as I reflect on the past 20 years.

  • 1990 to 2002 – sale of theatres: Cinema 4, Broadway, Ward, Grand, Alpine, Eastowne 5, Plaza 2.
  • 1992 – Acquisition of Plaza Theatre in Muskegon from United Artists
  • 1997 1st Celebration! Cinema opens in Benton Harbor & Celebration! brand is launched
  • 1997 Cinema Carousel expanded to 16 screens from 12
  • 1998 Conversion of Studio 28 to stadium seating from sloped floor seating
  • 1998 Celebration! Cinema opens in Lansing
  • 2000 Celebration! Cinema opens in Mt. Pleasant
  • 2001 Celebration! Cinema North and IMAX opens in Grand Rapids
  • 2003 2nd IMAX theatre added to Celebration! Cinema in Lansing
  • 2003 Company redeems Jack Loeks stock and John’s sisters Lannie and Meria become shareholders
  • 2004 Jack Loeks, founder, passes on
  • 2005 Company redeems Lannie & Meria’s stock
  • 2004 & 2005  Portage, MI 10 screen theatre acquired from United Artist and opened as 15 screen Celebration! Cinema
  • 2005 Celebration! Cinema South opens in Grand Rapids
  • 2006 Jackson Entertainment merges operations into Loeks Theatres
  • 2007 Two GR theatres acquired from Cinemark and reopened as Celebration! Cinema Rivertown and Celebration! Cinema Woodland
  • 2007 Conversion to digital projection from 35 millimeter projection
  • 2008 Studio 28 closes, a bittersweet, memorable day
  • 2009  JD Loeks named President
  • 2010 and beyond – the best is yet to come!

What’s changed?

Nancy at a company dinner in 2000

Nancy at a company dinner in 2000

Technology has changed most dramatically.  The digital sound and projection presentation technology is beautiful!  It also enables the theatre to show a greater variety of content.  Toy Story 3 in IMAX 3D is a good example of great technology.

Computers, cell phone, multi-function printers, and information technology have provided the most positive & significant change in job productivity.  Imagine this – in 1990, just 20 years ago, – the theatre manager called the office at the end of every day and left a message on an answering machine with the box office admissions of each movie, and other business transaction totals.  The next morning, an accounting team member hand recorded all the information!  Today, information is transferred electronically, and before the weekend is over, the media can pretty accurately report the current box office admissions for the weekend.

One thing remains unchanged in 20 years. The best part of my job, for all 20 years, is the people with whom I work, both inside and outside the company.  I have had the good fortune of working with wonderful people that I respect, trust and admire.

I look forward to what is ahead!  With Toy Story 3 on my mind, to infinity and beyond!

Eclipsing MD: Raising New Hope for Kids

Emily LoeksBy Emily Loeks
Director of Education & Community Partnerships

When most of us think of the word ‘eclipse’, our minds fix on an image of a lunar or solar eclipse, in which light from the sun or moon is blocked out.  With the recent phenomenon of the Twilight films, it’s also possible that some of us think of vampires or werewolves (preferably, with their shirts off…)! The Fehsenfeld Family is hoping for a whole other kind of eclipse, though: the blocking out or cure of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the number one fatal genetic disorder diagnosed during childhood (one in every 3,500 boys), and a disease that affects their son Tyler. Tyler, now 10, was diagnosed with Duchenne MD at age five, and has begun to experience the progressive loss of muscle strength that ultimately begins to impact the function of the heart and lungs.

The Fehsenfeld family has found hope and encouragement from an organization called ‘Parent Project for Muscular Dystrophy’ (PPMD), whose primary focus is research dedicated towards treatment and cure for individuals with Duchenne. Trials are currently being conducted on drugs that show early evidences of being able to trigger the body to create dystrophin, which protects and helps grow new muscle!  With the plan to launch a new local chapter of PPMD called F.A.C.E.S. (Families Advocating, Connecting, Educating and Supporting), Fehsenfelds hatched the idea of a fundraising premiere making use of the vastly popular ‘Twilight:  Eclipse’ movie!

Setting Up
This is just the kind of vision that Celebration! Cinema loves to engage with!  We were able to get permission from Summit Entertainment for an early “group show,” and then we all went to work on the creation of an event that would both serve to raise funds and public awareness for this extremely important need.  Months of work (including that of a student committee) went into the preparations:  a simulation of the ‘Cullen House’ was donated and created by Artisan Craft Homes; the GR Public Museum crafted some giant ‘trees’ in the Beacon lobby at Celebration! Cinema; a literal forest of other trees (some potted, and some cut) were donated by local tree nurseries; restaurants (D&W, Coldstone Creamery, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Sweet Cakes by Design, Mad Dog, and others) contributed all varieties of edible delicacies… and the party was off the ground!

A Successful Fundraiser
June 29th was a really special night.  Over $130,000 was raised for the launch of F.A.C.E.S.!  Several families of boys with Duchenne MD, including some of the boys (who managed to sit through – and even confess to enjoying ‘Twilight: Eclipse’) were able to be present and share their stories and their hopes.  550 Twilight fans spent an evening being educated and inspired by families and boys who are living lives to the fullest that they can, given the constraints & challenges that they’ve been dealt.  We were all ‘moved’ to hope for a new kind of eclipse:  one in which Duchenne MD doesn’t stand in the way of life, play, work and pursuit of all variety of passions for the children with this disease.

See below for a photo gallery from this event!

Emily Loeks is the Director of Community Affairs at Celebration! Cinema