COMPANY TOWN

Discount movie-ticket seller Dealflicks expands with Carmike Cinemas alliance

Dealflicks, an online seller of discount movie tickets and concessions, is getting a major boost from cinema chain Carmike Cinemas. 

Carmike, the fourth largest U.S. theater operator, has agreed to let consumers use Dealflicks' website to buy tickets for all 274 of its locations.

It's the biggest agreement for Dealflicks, the Los Angeles-based start-up that launched in 2012, as it tries to expand its reach to more customers.

Carmike first began testing the Dealflicks system at 18 locations in November 2014, and expanded to 44 test locations six months later. With the Carmike deal, Dealflicks is now available for more than 750 locations nationwide. 

"This essentially gets us past the critical mass point," Sean Wycliffe, chief executive and co-founder of Dealflicks, said in an interview. "We have to have the theaters there before the customers can use us."

Dealflicks' app has been described as Priceline for the movie theater industry, offering discounts of up to 60% on tickets. The app lets theater owners pick which movies they want to discount and at what price, and offers are often combined with deals on popcorn, soda and other concessions. 

For now, Carmike plans to use Dealflicks to offer discounted concessions bundled with their ticket purchases. In the future, the chain could experiment with discounts on the tickets themselves.  

Cinema operators, facing long-term stagnation in theater attendance, want to use the technology to fill more seats. While the U.S.-Canada box office topped $11 billion for the first time last year, the number of actual tickets sold was mostly in line with recent years and down significantly from its peak. 

Fred Van Noy, Carmike's chief operating officer, said Dealflicks' offers could help boost attendance for days and times that typically suffer low turnout, and less popular movies. 

"We think we're just scratching the surface," Van Noy said. "The lifts that we're looking for are during the midweek, when things are a little slower, or for movies that don't have the most appeal."  

Some theater owners have experimented with ways to increase attendance, though many have balked at the idea of discounted tickets, even for screenings that fail to fill auditoriums. 

Hollywood studios have supported more flexible ticket pricing. In January, Lionsgate, 20th Century Fox and the Walt Disney Co. invested $50 million in the Santa Monica start-up Atom Tickets. The digital company makes an app that organizes groups of moviegoers and secures discount pricing. 

Dealflicks has grown quickly. It is projected to hit roughly $7 million in revenue this year, more than double its 2015 sales. 

While most theaters are using the technology to entice theater-goers with discounted concessions, a "healthy minority" of locations, including B&B Theatres, has used the dynamic pricing option for tickets themselves, Wycliffe said.  

"It really depends on what the theater wants to do," Wycliffe said. "The way our platform works is it's very flexible for the exhibitor." 

Dealflicks also is trying to expand internationally and has spoken with theater owners in Europe, Latin America and Canada. 

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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