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Cinemax Branches Out with Four Plexes

Trying to serve all its audience segments, Cinemax will launch four new multiplexes-WMax, @Max, OuterMax and 5StarMax-May 17, officials said last week.

The four new multiplexes will be added to Cinemax's current four, and will be packaged with seven Home Box Office plexes. That will create a 15-channel, all-digital multiplex package that will be called the HBO/Max Pak.

Showtime is also about to debut, on March 1, three new multiplexes that also target nearly the same demographic groups-women and younger adults-as the new channels being rolled out by Cinemax.

WMax, the first of the new Cinemax multiplexes, will air theatricals aimed at women 18 to 49. The channel was "designed especially for women," and will feature titles such as Boys Don't Cry, The Deep End of the Ocean, Hannah and Her Sisters
and Norma Rae.
The second new plex, @Max, will be a source of "movies with attitude" for adults 18 to 30. The "20-something" channel will offer films such as American Psycho, Fight Club, Girl, Interrupted
and Three Kings.
The third new plex, 5StarMax, will air "the best movies with the broadest appeal," according to Cinemax. That includes such films as American Beauty, The Big Chill, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
and Witness.
Lastly, OuterMax will offer a roster of science fiction, horror, fantasy and action-adventure movies. That includes a schedule with movies such as Event Horizon, The Matrix, The Omen, Strange Days
and Big Trouble in Little China.
Showtime already has a multiplex, Showtime Beyond, similar to OuterMax in that it also runs science fiction, horror and fantasy films. In addition, Showtime in March launches its Showtime Next, which is aimed at the Generation Y, ages 18 to 24, much like Cinemax's @Max. Showtime at that same time will also be rolling out Showtime Women, which is shooting for the same audience as WMax, and Showtime FamilyZone, with all these additions bringing its roster of services to 13. HBO already has an HBO Family multiplex, similar to Showtime Family Zone.

Dave Baldwin, senior vice president of program planning for HBO and Cinemax, said the new Cinemax plexes have been in development for a year and half. But he said it's not surprising both Cinemax and Showtime are launching new multiplexes that target similar audiences, groups that are under served by premium TV services, such as women and younger adults.

"If you look at the film inventory that's available to premiums, and cross it with the market segments we need to reach, it's a natural outgrowth of those two forces," Baldwin said. "We need to reach women and younger people."

He added that all the premium services-HBO, Showtime and Starz!-typically have been male-oriented, since the Hollywood theatricals they air are usually aimed at men. HBO Signature currently is the only multiplex the programmer now has that is skewed toward women, according to Baldwin.

The new HBO/Max Pak will include HBO, HBO Plus, HBO Signature, HBO Comedy, HBO Family, HBO Zone, HBO Latino, Cinemax, MoreMax, ActionMax, ThrillerMax, WMax, @Max, OuterMax and 5StarMax.

John Sie, chairman of the Starz! Encore Group, last week claimed HBO decided to package its Cinemax services with its HBO plexes in the new HBO/Max Pak in response to competition from his Starz! Super Pak. It will grow from 12 to 14 channels with the launch of two new ones, Starz! Comedy and Starz! Kidz, in the first quarter 2002. HBO has been offering a five-channel package HBO The Works, and then its Cinemax offerings.

"Now, they feel the pressure," Sie said.

He pointed also out that monthly, per-subscriber license fees for his Starz! Super Pak are already $1 less than HBO The Works. So Sie said if HBO really wants to help cable affiliates, it won't increase the license fees for the HBO/Max Pak just because it's added in the Cineplex services, making the package comparable to his already cheaper Starz! Super Pak.

"We hope the price of the HBO/Max Pak to operators is no more than HBO the Works," Sie said.

HBO had a brief response to Sie's comments.

"Cinemax is a true premium channel delivering the largest exclusive movie inventory," Baldwin said. "Anyone familiar with pay television knows the difference between HBO Cinemax and Starz! Encore."