Cinemax Takes Outdoor Film Fest on Tour

Premium-movie network Cinemax has kicked off a traveling outdoor film festival.

The 10-city "Cinemax Summer-Screen" tour-which runs through Aug. 10-premiered June 3 in Bridgehampton, N.Y., stopped last week in Philadelphia and heads to Phoenix June 21 through June 23.

Each three-day event will feature screenings of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Top Gun.

"It's a great opportunity to involve our affiliates, to take our brand and run with it," Home Box Office senior vice president of marketing and business development Olivia Smashum said.

The pay-TV service hopes the film festival will evolve into an annual event. "We're trying to create a franchise event for Cinemax," Smashum added.

Cinemax's consumer research ranks it right behind sister network HBO among premium-movie networks, Smashum said. Though both are owned by Time Warner Entertainment-and are sometimes bundled by operators-Cinemax wants its brand to stand apart from that of HBO.

The film festival is meant to reinforce Cinemax's image as a channel with a wide variety of hit movies. The strategic focus is more about brand building than subscriber acquisition, she said.

"It's also a great way for operators to do something for their employees," she said, adding that Cinemax would provide VIP facilities at each local event.

Audio-technology vendors Dolby Laboratories Inc. and JBL are sponsoring the tour. "We wanted to make sure we had the best technical support possible," Smashum said.

Other markets involved are Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, Minneapolis, San Antonio, St. Louis, New Orleans and Miami Beach, Fla. In each location, Cinemax will partner with a cable affiliate-typically the region's largest-to help promote the free screenings. The events will also boast live entertainment and giveaways for attendees.

Separately, Cinemax plans to launch a national subscriber-acquisition campaign for its operators next month. It will incorporate direct mail, cross-channel ads and bill stuffers, as well as incentives and training materials for customer-service representatives.

The acquisition and upgrade campaign is set to coincide with Cinemax's plan to premiere first-run movies on Sunday nights starting in July.

"We know that's a winding down time for people" as they prepare to go back to work on Monday, Smashum said.

The Sunday-night premieres are designed to set Cinemax apart from other networks, including HBO, which premieres its first-run movies on Saturday nights.

Cinemax plans to debut several movies this summer, including Eyes Wide Shut, Boys Don't Cry and The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.