For many Americans, the sight of a small game room in the local movie theater is hardly something new. Oftentimes, these “arcades” consist of some dusty old videos and maybe a few merchandisers. But, a “cinema entertainment center,” as Jeff Benson of Cinergy Entertainment Group (Texas) recently discussed, is a whole different beast. And the concept seems to be growing in popularity, with Cinergy staying at a dead sprint as they open up location after location.
“This is the next version of what the dine-in theater was 10 years ago,” Benson said. “Cinema entertainment centers are just now starting to be built. We want to go build a bunch and I do feel like we’ve got one of the best teams out there.”
‘The Cinergy Model
Benson works alongside 22 others to operate the three locations the company currently has open, with a plan to use this same team to run more Cinergy cinema centers. The company has several irons in the fire and growth on the horizon: a 90,000-sq.-ft. center being built this August in Amarillo, another in El Paso, a 60,000-sq.-ft. center set to open next summer in Oklahoma and more. (Among the “more” was news that the company was set to expand to their first location on the east coast, though that project is in a “wait and hold” pattern while some financial complications not involving Cinergy are resolved.)
The centers offer guests the chance to see a film and then something more. Attractions include bowling, full arcade and redemption, laser tag, dining/drinks inside and outside of the theater and, in an upcoming Cinergy expansion, escape rooms.
“We’ve got the right team in place. We ought to be able to run a dozen of these, no problem,” Benson said. “We’ve got movie people, FEC people, restaurant people…all the disciplines covered in various positions.”
Jeff Benson started in the industry in 2001 with a concept called Movie Tavern. Now, he thinks the time is perfect for amusement industry operators to consider upgrading their local theaters’ offerings.
“A lot of the people who get into cinema entertainment centers are just movie operators. They see the potential and think, ‘I can do that,'” he said. “But when you have 90,000 sq. ft. of chaos, ropes courses, bowling and games, it takes many skills to manage all that. It’s a business of its own on top of the theater. We hired 430 employees at the Odessa location, that was a monumental undertaking in itself. But that location is killing it, and that’s why we’re bullish on this.”
For more information on cinema entertainment centers and what Benson and his company are up to, go to their website here.