Chin tells Govt: Do more to diversify
By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, July 26 2012
GOVERNMENT needs to be a facilitator rather than a player of business development and expansion if it really wants its economic diversification efforts to succeed.
“Let the private sector drive the economy. A government’s role should be to stimulate, instead of trying to get involved in business or saying they know how to do a better job than actual business people.” This was the response of Chairman of Multicinemas Limited and Managing Director of MovieTowne, Derek Chin, when asked what Government needed to do to get measurable results from its efforts to diversify this country’s energy-based economy.
“We, the business or private sector, are hearing about all the good things the Government wants to do but implementation, and actually getting things done is important to us. Right now there’s still too much ‘red tape’ involved in getting government approvals. They’ve been trying to do too much and ended up instead creating more bureaucracy more business people to deal with,” Chin stated. He was speaking with Business Day during last Friday’s Conference on Developing a National Diversification Strategy for Trinidad and Tobago. Held last Friday at Hyatt Regency, Port-of- Spain, the conference was hosted by the Ministry of Planning and the Economy and featured several presentations on the work being done by this and several other ministries.
Cinema industry doing well
In the midst of a sluggish economy and continued excess liquidity in the local market, there’s at least one thing people are still spending money on — going to the cinema.
Chin noted that in 2002, when the first MovieTowne cineplex opened in Port-of-Spain, along the Audrey Jeffers Highway in the area known as Invader’s Bay, the cinema-going public was around 300,000.
Ten years and two cineplex competitors later — Caribbean Cinemas Eight in Trincity and Empire in San Fernando, MovieTowne has a cineplex in Lowlands, Tobago and another in Chaguanas.
Also in serious development are plans underway to fourth cineplex in San Fernando and a fifth in Guyana.
Why? The answer is simple, more people want the “cinema experience, watching a movie on the big screen,” Chin explained, “and with the advent of 3D movies, the movie theatre is the best place to have a true 3D experience.”
In the ten years since MovieTowne first opened, Chin said there has been a steady, even upward, growth in the average yearly ticket sales at cineplexes in Trinidad and Tobago.
“In a population of 1.3 million, our sales have grown from 300,000 to about two million each year. That means people are going to the movies more than once a month.”
There have been two price increases on regular or 2D movies by MovieTowne during that time — in 2006 the cost of a ticket went up by $10 to $45, then last month a further $5 increase came into effect, pushing the price to $50. However 3D movie prices remained unchanged at $60.
Questioned about this, Chin said the increases were reflective of increased operating costs, chief among them maintenance costs, security costs and acquiring the right from local distributors to show movies on MovieTowne’s screens.
“On average 50 percent of our ticket revenue goes to the distributors and we have to cover all of our expenses with the remaining 50 percent. There are a lot of negotiations involved in getting the best rates for movies and sometimes what we show is depends on what the distributor chooses to pay for.”
“Take Magic Mike for example, there was a big issue when we didn’t bring it but that had nothing to do with us,” Chin pointed out. “Apparently the owners of the film saw an opportunity and they upped the price, putting it a little beyond the budget of the local distributor. He might normally pay US $50,000 for a run and let’s say he was asked to pay $75,000 for the run. The distributor wasn’t sure if the market place (demand) was big enough to cover that cost.”
While there were many disappointed Magic Mike fans in TT, MovieTowne’s managing director told Business Day there was some good news in terms of the country’s improved access to popular films.
“While the politics of film will see one movie being released in North America but not in the Caribbean and so on, Trinidad and Tobago is growing to be a nice market. In the old days it took 30 days to get a movie, now we are right up to date with the release dates of most movies and I think in time, every movie that is released must come to the Caribbean,” Chin said.