Cineplex to bring ‘Sunday Night Football,’ Super Bowl to movie theatres

Seven games leading up to the Super Bowl will be hosted in the adults-only VIP cinemas

A man makes his way down an escalator during the Cineplex Entertainment company’s annual general meeting in Toronto on May 17, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Cineplex has scored a deal to bring “Sunday Night Football” and the Super Bowl to its movie theatres.

The company said Friday that a three-year sponsorship agreement with the National Football League will begin Nov. 12 and be known as “NFL Sundays at Cineplex.”

Games will be broadcast live to 15 VIP theatres and then expand to 50 locations for the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, 2018.

“It’s no different than when we started opera and some of the other things that we’ve done to create and bring a different demographic, a different group of people, into our theatres,” said Cineplex president Ellis Jacob, pointing to other sporting events the chain has featured, including NHL and NBA games, the Olympics, and UFC and WWE events.

Seven games leading up to the Super Bowl will be hosted in the adults-only VIP cinemas, which feature wider recliners and in-seat food and beverage service that includes beer, wine and spirits.

Jacob said it’s all part of Cineplex’s efforts to reinvent itself as “an entertainment destination” that is far more than just popcorn and Hollywood films.

Hence, a growing roster of “event-cinema” offerings such as live opera and theatre broadcasts, as well as investments in the esports platform WorldGaming and various entertainment centres including the upcoming Topgolf venues, the eats-and-entertainment spot The Rec Room, and a relaunch of the Playdium arcades.

An especially weak summer in movie profits didn’t help the bottom line, Jacob acknowledged, calling it “a hard year at the box office.”

“I wouldn’t panic because we’ve always had these cyclical events,” said Jacob, predicting a bounce-back in the fourth quarter.

“This is part of our focus to try and balance that out over a period of time. Because as we’ve seen with the Hollywood product, you’ve got good periods and then you can basically run into some slow growth periods. (But) with the NFL, we are committing and getting three years worth of content so it’s not like I’m waiting for the next movie to come out.”

NFL Canada’s managing director David Thomson also saw an opportunity to broaden the league’s audience, stating in a release that the partnership targets the next generation of fans, in part through online tournaments on Cineplex’s WorldGaming platform.

Tickets will be $5 and are available at participating VIP theatres in Abbotsford, Coquitlam and Vancouver.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

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