Caribbean Resolve: Robert Carrady triumphs after a tough year

Cinemas Features

Robert Carrady, president of Caribbean Cinemas, will receive a well-deserved “Award of Recognition” at ShowEast on Oct. 22.

“ShowEast is thrilled to be able to honor Robert Carrady for his leadership in making the Caribbean a prosperous region for the moviegoing experience,” says Andrew Sunshine, president of the Film Expo Group, which manages ShowEast. “We would also like to take this opportunity to honor him for his integral role in rebuilding the cinema industry in Puerto Rico after the hurricanes in 2017.”

Caribbean Cinemas, the largest theatre circuit in the Caribbean with 557 screens and 66 locations in 14 territories, has made a remarkable comeback following the devastating blows of Hurricanes Maria and Irma 13 months ago. When we first spoke with Carrady back in March, 16% of Puerto Rico was still without power. “The first weekend after the hurricane,” he noted, “we had 33 theatres closed—all 31 in Puerto Rico, plus our theatres in Saint Thomas and Saint Martin, which had closed two weeks before Maria because of Hurricane Irma.”

By December of last year, all of Carrady’s Puerto Rican locations had reopened; Saint Thomas was back in operation in February, and Saint Martin this past summer. Meanwhile, the circuit forged ahead with plans for new venues: A brand-new 11-plex in the San Juan area with IMAX, a 4DX screen, a CXC premium-large-format auditorium and a full bar debuts on Nov. 1, and the first all-recliner theatre in Puerto Rico will open for Christmas in San Juan. Caribbean also opened a four-plex in the Dominican Republic this past July.

“The bigger news,” Carrady reports, “is that in June we closed on a 61-screen circuit in Bolivia: Cine Center. That was spearheaded in large part by my nephews, Jason and Gregory Quinn. It’s a market that’s not saturated with the big boys, Cinépolis and Cinemark, so we saw it as an opportunity. What’s nice about the circuit is that it has a national presence—it has a location in the three major cities of the country, and it has three more theatres in smaller markets. We like the layout, and they’re big theatres—one’s an 18-plex, another is a 14-plex, and there’s a 10-plex.”

Back on his legacy Caribbean turf, Carrady says every new location he builds will have a CXC premium auditorium. He estimates that the circuit will have 24 new screens in four locations in 2019, including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Aruba. “And we’re looking to upgrade with remodels, but it’s been a really hectic 12 months between rebuilding and reopening and these two new theatres that were already online. As soon as we finish them, we have two theatres in particular in Puerto Rico we are looking to totally remodel.”

Carrady notes, “We’re somewhat fortunate that we’ve dodged any type of repeat of last year in terms of the weather.” Still, “on a picture-by-picture basis, attendance is lower, because there is less population. But we continue to keep our admission prices affordable, for those who want to enjoy the social big-screen experience.”

He’s happy to report that both Crazy Rich Asians and The Meg overperformed this summer, and other summer hits for Caribbean included Incredibles 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. He also notes that his customers often opt for premium formats for the blockbuster releases, “which is a good sign considering that the economy is challenged. Our 4DX location does very well and we’re looking forward to opening a second one in the new theatre.”

Intriguingly, the Caribbean Cinemas circuit includes three Fine Arts art houses totaling 17 screens, two in Puerto Rico (where the first one debuted in 1986) and one in Santo Domingo.

“They continue to have a great following,” Carrady says, but he has no plans to open new Fine Arts venues. “As independent cinema continues to be challenged trying to make it to the theatre platform versus direct to Netflix, one has to be cautious in that area,” he explains.

Still, the Fine Arts locations provide a welcoming and successful home for local independent productions, along with Spanish comedies like Señor, Dame Paciencia that “continue to soar” for the circuit. Carrady names three Puerto Rican films that performed very well at his venues: the comedy Sanky Panky 3; 1950, a drama that ran for 16 weeks, based on the true story of a Puerto Rican who shot up the U.S. Congress; and Héctor the Father, which earned $1.5 for this fact-based tale of a rapper and drug dealer turned evangelist. “These films bring in people who don’t normally go out to the movies,” he observes. In this fraught year, he finds, escapist movies have done especially well. “No one came to see a documentary on the hurricane that we played.”

Carrady is especially grateful to his many employees who’ve proved their mettle in a troubled time for the region. “It’s been an unbelievable year. The enthusiasm, the passion, the dedication to our theatres has been fantastic. Our team loves the business and they love giving it 100 percent week after week, and I think that’s why we were able to do everything we did this year… It’s amazing how the human condition just rises to the occasion when you have to. You just do what you gotta do.”