By David Friend, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – Cineplex Entertainment (TSX:CGX) is looking beyond Hollywood with a new concept that combines arcade games and live performances.
The country’s biggest movie theatre chain said Monday it plans to launch The Rec Room later this year in Edmonton as part of a pilot project that will ramp up to a bigger expansion.
Each location will have space for a restaurant and bar, as well as an array of entertainment options, like an arcade and an auditorium for live music and comedians.
The company is also considering other games like bowling, billiards and ping pong.
The idea is in the vein of restaurant and arcade chains in the United States like Latitude 360 and Dave and Buster’s.
“When you look at Canada we really don’t have a location-based social environment where people can game, have a meal, watch (sports), all of those kinds of things that create a destination,” chief executive Ellis Jacob said in an interview.
“It allows us to capitalize on our strength, from our infrastructure to the assets we’ve built up.”
The first Rec Room will open late this year adjacent to an existing Cineplex theatre at the South Edmonton Common shopping centre.
Another 10 to 15 locations will follow in major cities across the country over the next several years, though they won’t necessarily be next to a movie theatre, Jacob said.
Cineplex already operates 18 Xscape Entertainment Centres with popular arcade games and billiards. Some of the locations also have lounges with liquor licences.
What makes the Rec Room different is the broader game and food selection, and the large digital screens, Jacob said.
He hopes Cineplex can tap into the rising popularity of video game tournaments on the big screen, where audiences gather to battle each other playing Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4 games.
Cineplex also owns an advertising business and premium-priced movie theatres. The company has been focused on diversifying its business to lessen the impact of the volatile movie industry, which thrives on blockbuster hits but falters when a big movie tanks.
Last month, Cineplex backed out of screening the controversial Seth Rogen movie “The Interview” when hackers threatened terrorist attacks at theatres showing the comedy.
While Cineplex said it only planned to postpone screenings, the company decided against showing it at all when Sony Pictures made “The Interview” available to rent and buy online.
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