Marcus Theatres’ Turning Auditorium Into Sports Bar With Big Screen TVs, No Rights Issues, As Industry Experiments

Marcus Theatres is transforming an auditorium at its Gurnee Mills theater outside Chicago into a sports bar with high-def monitors and food and drink starting with March Madness as chains experiment with new ways to attract patrons.

“I can’t think of a better place to watch these games,” said CEO Greg Marcus. Plans call for 12 big screen monitors with one game broadcast over speakers but up to eight events at a time available to select and watch by downloading an app. It’s not theatrical content and avoids the issue of sports rights.  The exhibitor may pull out some theater seats to make room for a few high-tops, but will keep most of them in “because that’s what makes it special,” Marcus said on a call after the company’s latest earnings. Food and beverages will be delivered to seats.

Marcus Theatres earlier said it turned profitable for the three months ended in Dec. for the first time since Covid struck, becoming the latest circuit after AMC Entertainment and Cinemark with much improved numbers and an upbeat outlook in one of the entertainment sectors that’s been hardest hit by the pandemic.

“As vaccination and booster rates have grown and the Omicron variant fades, we expect future studio film releases to meet consumers’ increasing excitement for seeing movies regularly on the big screen,” said Marcus Theatres CEO Rolando Rodriguez.

The nation’s fourth biggest chain swung to an operating profit of $18 million for the December quarter from a loss of $42 million in the 2020 period. Revenue jumped to $116 million from $14 million.

Marcus also owns resorts and hotels, in recovery mode as well. Total company sales were $169 million vs $36.7 million, with net income of $6.4 million vs $39 million of red ink the year before.

“While still below pre-pandemic levels, attendance has continuously improved during the second half of the year, hitting its highest levels since the pandemic in the fourth quarter when a number of high-quality films captured the imaginations of moviegoers,” Rodriquez said. Spider Man: No Way Home is the third highest performing film of all-time. Other top performers: Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Eternals, Ghostbusters: Afterlife and No Time to Die.

There’s been a bit of dry spell in the first few months of 2022. But The Batman opening tonight will kick the year into higher gear, followed by a string of releases including Morbius, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Ambulance, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Downton Abbey, Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Avatar 2 and Aquaman 2.

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