“Not If, However When” – .

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According to Tom Lesinski, CEO of National CineMedia, the motion picture business will rebound over the five-day Thanksgiving weekend by the $ 14 million cash register for The Croods.

Speaking at the Bank of America Securities Leveraged Finance virtual conference on Tuesday, the executive noted the sequel’s ability to outperform Warner Bros’ tenet even though only 45% of US theaters were available. “It’s a good indication of whether this industry will recover, but when,” he said. “Consumers will come back.”

He made no predictions about the exact gross numbers or the length of the recovery. He glanced in the rearview mirror and said the steady attendance between 2009 and 2019 was “remarkable” given the fierce competition in the movie business. Like many partisans in the industry, he expects that considerable “pent-up demand” will be expressed in the coming months and years.

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National CineMedia controls approximately 70% of the in-theater advertising business and works with a number of top exhibitors, media buyers and brands.

Lesinski, a former Paramount and Warner Bros executive who took over at NCM last year, anticipates a “gradual” return of moviegoers in the first quarter of 2021. The James Bond film No Time to Die is scheduled to be released in April doing it can be an important benchmark that leads to a “solid” summer plan. “I don’t think the pandemic will have a significant impact on people’s behavior,” he said, referring to the people who will be absent in the coming months, or even permanently, some analysts and industry watchers predict. He issued the caveat that there are many variables related to the Covid-19 environment and the decisions made by security officials and authorities where cinemas will reopen and the introduction of vaccines.

“Different studios will test different windows and different availability,” he said. But he remains “confident that once there is a real release plan, consumers will return to theaters,” starting with Bond.

Regarding windows, Lesinski said the most recent deals between Universal and Cinemark and AMC. “This is all very, very new and there is nothing on the market to suggest anyone can predict the impact,” he said. According to Lesinski, Cinemark’s deal, which enables five weekends at the box office, is a particularly “great thing” for the exhibition. “It will ensure that the greatest films stay in theaters for a long time.”

The other benefit for cinemas is that they can ask subscription streaming players like Netflix, Amazon and Apple to “look at a movie theater window they may not have seen before”.

It will take a while to expect consistent patterns as consumers, retailers and exhibitors face a new landscape even after the pandemic ends, Lesinski predicted. For the studios, the financial model of the film business cannot support high-end films that cost $ 300 million. High-end titles require three to five weeks of exclusive play. “And then all we have to do is look at the SVOD side.”

In terms of upfront advertising, NCM is currently pre-negotiating over $ 145 million for business with returning advertisers, Lesinski said. Typically, about 60% of ads are pre-purchased, from the fourth quarter through the third quarter of the next September. In 2019, the company finished the advance cycle with sales of approximately $ 200 million. The results for 2020-21 may be a little lower, but “Advertisers support our platform”.

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