Expanding Cineworld: Mooky Greidinger earns CinemaCon global honor

Cinemas Features

With roughly 500 new screens in the pipeline over the next three years, it’s an ideal time for CinemaCon to honor Moshe “Mooky” Greidinger, CEO of Cineworld Group, with the Global Achievement Award in Exhibition. Greidinger will be honored at the convention’s International Day festivities on Monday, April 11.

“As an outstanding leader and visionary, Greidinger has shown that he is a believer in the film industry and is committed to bringing the best moviegoing experience to audiences throughout Europe,” stated Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon "Now, as CEO of Cineworld Group, Greidinger continues to strive to ensure that audiences will continue to experience the best possible way to see movies and he could not be more deserving of this year's CinemaCon Global Achievement in Exhibition Award."

Born in Haifa, Israel, Greidinger is part of a family cinema business that was founded by his grandfather in 1930. In 1982, soon after he joined the team, he opened the first multiplex in Israel; before long, his circuit was the market leader in that country. In 1997, the company founded Cinema City International, which within a few years became one of the largest circuits in Europe, operating in Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Israel.

In 2014, Cinema City International combined forces with Cineworld Group, the leading circuit in the U.K., becoming the second-largest chain in Europe. Mooky and his brother Israel Greidinger lead the newly united business. In the last two years, Cineworld has continued to grow, with over 2,000 screens in more than 200 cinemas in nine territories.

Greidinger says those 500 future screens will be built in Cineworld’s existing territories. But, he notes, “this business is very flexible… We are on the alert and analyzing offers here and there. For sure, we will not rule out going into new territories. To the contrary. Part of our expertise is going into new territories.”

He adds, “I think we have a strong team at all levels, not only top management but down to the field. It is clear that Cineworld is a circuit that loves the cinema industry and is concentrating on how to develop it and make it better. With the strong pipeline of movies we’ve been enjoying in the last years and the years to come, I believe we’re in a very good position. We want to grow—we are not doing it any price, but we have a lot of organic growth and a strong financial potential to grow also by acquisitions.”

The Cineworld portfolio is extremely varied, as Greidinger explains: “Our markets are moving between very mature markets like the U.K. and Israel, semi-mature markets like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, and very developing markets, which are Romania and Bulgaria. I think our biggest gross potential lies in Romania. It’s a big country, 20 million people that love to go to the cinema. But when you look at a mature market like the U.K., there are very big opportunities there as well to continue to grow the cinemagoing experience which we believe in so much.”

Those developing markets require special attention to create a success. Greidinger notes, “There are two major steps you need to take when you are going into a country that has no cinemas or very, very old cinemas. This is the experience we had in Central Europe. First of all, there is a need for a modern infrastructure that will give the people the proper cinema experience: big screen, great stadium seating, excellent projection quality, the best sound systems and more. But the infrastructure is not all of it. In places where there are no cinemas, people have lost the habit of going to the cinema. We need to remember that in Central Europe these are territories of great cinema lovers—many big movie directors came from these countries and there is a tradition of local moviemaking there. But a lot of people lost the habit of going to the cinemas, and this is something we emphasize with a lot of promotions, a lot of events, in order to bring people back. It’s not going only once or twice a year, but going more often.”

Cineworld doubled its screen count when it acquired Cinema City International, in a deal which put Greidinger at the combined company’s helm, replacing Stephen Wiener. “Easy it was not, for sure,” says Greidinger of the blending process. “But it was not easy for good reasons. We had on both sides of the deal very good teams and good leaders, and two businesses with a good reputation. We first of all achieved good savings in the synergy process, and then the integration process of taking best ideas and best practices from both sides was very good and successful. Today if you look at the group, you see one group with a clear strategy and a great belief in and love of the theatrical business. I think that today you almost do not feel anymore that these two big circuits of 1,000 screens each have not been together for many, many years.”

Greidinger immediately set to work making Cineworld’s U.K. presence even stronger. “Cineworld’s strategy is to create the best place to watch a movie. As the CEO of the group, I find no less potential for growing and improving and developing the market in the U.K. than we do in other countries. It is true that the U.K. is a very mature market, with a higher rate of visits per capita. But on the other hand, we believe that not only opening new sites in the U.K. but also refurbishing some of our great cinemas here is very fruitful and gives great results. People appreciate having all the comforts and great technologies and, even more, service with a smile. Our challenge is to have them come to the cinemas again and again.”

Cinema City had already established a number of VIP cinemas in Central Europe and Israel, with luxury power recliner seats, light gourmet food and a private bar serving alcoholic drinks. Cineworld now offers the VIP experience in the U.K. city of Sheffield and plans to open the next one in Glasgow, Scotland, with more to come.

Cineworld also launched its own “Superscreen” premium-large-format venues about 18 months ago. “It is very, very successful,” Greidinger reports. “But we demand of ourselves high standards to give the Superscreen signature. We invest a lot of time and go only where we can employ a very large screen and the right facilities from the sound and seating point of view. We need also to remember that we are the biggest partner of IMAX in Europe—we have 28 IMAX theatres across the estate, and many more to come. So we have two large-screen formats. We believe in this format, and the public is sharing this feeling with us.” Currently, Cineworld has four Superscreens, with ten more in the works.

Greidinger notes, “One of our strategies in the big projects is that the public doesn’t only choose which movie they want to see, but how they want to see it. So in our big projects today, you will find IMAX, 4DX, the Korean  technology which is amazingly successful, VIP formats, and of course our great regular screens. So when you go to a movie, you can say, ‘Am I in the mood today for a very intense ride on 4DX? Or am I in the mood for the huge screen of IMAX, or a quiet evening in the VIP?’ But with all of these formats you will have the same movie.”

The Cineworld CEO is especially keen on the 4DX motion and effects offering. “4DX is a huge success story—we have it in all of our territories. It is a very professional system. People are really enjoying it. At first people said to me, ‘Ahh, it’s only a gimmick, this is a short run, etc.’ We installed our first 4DX four years ago in July and it’s still having a great performance year-round. Now we have 14, with many, many more to come. This year we’re going to install another ten.”

Greidinger is more measured in his evaluation of alternative content, aka event cinema. “Alternative content has great potential. It will never be a major contributor, but it gives another angle to the use of the cinemas, which is important. And there is some great product, and we’re very happy to be involved and active with it. Our subsidiary in the U.K., the art-house circuit Picturehouse, is also very active in distributing alternative content and we’ve had huge successes like Monty Python and The Wall and many others. I believe there’s great potential with alternative content. Is it going to be a game-changer? I don’t think so.”

Greidinger believes the Internet is an important promotional tool for exhibition and says his company’s various websites “give a lot of information to our customers” and attract many visitors. But he’s also a strong believer in the power of good old-fashioned trailers, both onscreen and in the lobby. “The best place to learn about the coming movies is in the cinemas. Trailers are amazing tools, but we’re also going into digital presentation throughout the cinema. In our modern cinemas we don’t have any more paper—all the poster boxes are digital. And we have a lot of facilities showing trailers in the lobby while people are waiting or eating.”

Speaking of coming attractions, Greidinger likes the lineup for 2016. “We don’t have a new Bond or a new Star Wars, but this year is going to be a very good year. There is great, promising product. We just, for example, experienced the huge success and surprise of Deadpool. We have Captain America, movies like Warcraft and Angry Birds that might be new franchises, great family product like Finding Dory, Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, Ice Age, The BFG, and ending the year with Fantastic Beasts and of course the spinoff of Star Wars, which for sure will be huge. Every lineup there are a few surprises, some of them not so good, and this year we already had the first [good] surprise, which is Deadpool.

“Everyone involved in the theatre business will admit that for 60 years, almost every ten years people talk about the cinema going down. TV came, then video came, then DVDs came, then the Internet came. But I think it is clear today that the first priority of people who love movies is to see them in the cinemas. They might be seeing them again and again in other formats later on, but the first priority for people who really love movies, if we give them the right facilities—which Cineworld does its best to do—is to see the movies in the cinemas.”