Cineplex: please fix site, simplify branding, axe walled gardens

Cineplex VIP mini logoThis article is under construction! Accounting for two-thirds of the site’s 27 listings, Cineplex is inevitably discussed a lot on Dance Dance North. The company considers itself to be the “Largest Amusement Gaming Company in Canada” with brands such as Playdium, WorldGaming and Xscape. However, Cineplex also makes it increasingly difficult to obtain clear information about the happenings of its arcade gaming operations.

Yes, I’ve reached out to Pat Marshall (VP of Communications and Investor Relations) and Sarah Van Lange (Director of Communications) from Cineplex by email. No, I have not received any response. It’s frustrating because as new events unfold (rebranding two former SilverCity to Scotiabank Theatre this year, the anticipated opening of The Rec Room in Edmonton, etc.), little to no info is offered to news publications wishing to report beyond Cineplex’s pre-packaged press kits. For example, when Cineplex Lansdowne opened its doors in March 2015, I spoke to Cineplex spokesperson Michael Langdon about its Xscape arcade and the other Cineplex arcades in Ottawa. I stated that Lansdowne was the only location with no dance game and that DDR SuperNOVA at the infamous Scotiabank Theatre Ottawa (formerly SilverCity) location was neglected. The response was a standard “Cineplex gets the games guests want” and a promise to fix the severely broken SuperNOVA. However, the machine returned in worse condition and since then, few minor fixes were implemented.

Marshall and Langdon seem to mainly focus on giving short PR answers with the minimal amount of details. Whether it’s comparing Prime Seats to business class to attempt justifying a $2 fee similar to ticket scalpers, or whether it’s blaming health laws to hike soft drink prices, the answers provided by Cineplex so far are very discouraging for those wishing that the company would provide a nationally pleasant gaming experience. The recent decision to close Playscape and rebrand it as FUNTime did not fare well with dedicated gamers, yet Cineplex did not budge. With that in mind, here are two issues that Cineplex should address immediately: the dated website that lacks crucial info and the walled gardens that punish gamers.

Xscape website: four locations and French info missing

Does Cineplex Cinemas Markham and VIP have an Xscape arcade? How about Cineplex Odeon Sunridge Spectrum Cinemas? The Markham page does mention Xscape, but neither the Sunridge page nor the Xscape participating theatres page inform guests that these locations have Xscape. (Sunridge also has a walled garden problem; more on that later.) The company’s Q1 2016 investor presentation claims to have ended march with two dozen Xscape locations, but the Xscape website only lists 20 locations. Markham was listed but is now removed; Cineplex informed me in May that this is a mistake they would fix, but this has yet to happen. Sunridge and another two locations, which remain a mystery, as also not listed. This, along with other blunders such as launching a dated Cinescape arcade at the new Cineplex Cinemas Marine Gateway and VIP (with no dance game) this year, hampers Xscape’s growth.

Furthermore, despite launching locations in francophone markets such as Laval and Ottawa, the Xscape website is unavailable in French. Clicking on “Français” while visiting Xscape in English results in an abrupt redirect to the home page. Dance Dance North does have most content, but not all, translated to French. Cineplex has zero when it comes to its gaming arcades, which is unacceptable, especially for a billion-dollar company with a significant gaming branch.

Branding: keep it super simple!

In the name of simplification, Cineplex Entertainment rebranded most of its movie theatres that fell under older brands. The company now has three main theatre brands: Cineplex Cinemas, Cineplex VIP Cinemas and Scotiabank Theatre. For gaming, however, Cineplex appears to have an unclear focus and objective as it juggles over a dozen of brands:

  • Playdium (flagship family fun centre; also an arcade gaming distributor)
  • Cineplex Starburst (the legal name for Playdium)
  • Brady Starburst
  • Premier Amusements
  • Cinescape and Cinévasion (older brand; uses coin-based tokens)
  • Techtown (name still used at current and former Famous Players locations; essentially identical to Cinescape)
  • Zero Gravity (name still used at current and former Galaxy locations; essentially identical to Cinescape)
  • NewPlay (Cineplex’s two non-Xscape arcades at West Edmonton Mall)
  • Xscape (now uses digital cards; takes cues from Chuck E. Cheese’s and Dave & Buster’s;accepts Scene)
  • Xbox Parties (movie theatre rentals for playing Xbox; not affiliated with Microsoft; accepts Scene)
  • WorldGaming (formerly Virgin Gaming; video game tournaments; ironically sponsored by PlayStation 4)
  • FUNtime (Cineplex’s answer to Chuck E. Cheese’s)
  • The Rec Room (Cineplex’s answer to Dave & Buster’s; accepts Scene)

This opens up the door for a lot of customer confusion. “Can I use my Cinescape tokens at Xscape or my Playdium game card at The Rec Room?” “Can I play my PS4 games at Cineplex or join Xbox One tournaments at WorldGaming?” “Is the distributor Playdium or Cineplex Starburst?” “Is Starburst about gaming or candy?” (Cineplex sells both.) Cineplex has at least six family fun centre brands, three token-based and four card-based. Tokens are normally interchangeable between brands, but play cards are not. For example, Xscape game cards are invalid at FUNtime.

A much welcome change would be to stick to one family fun centre brand (Xscape) and name spin-offs of it accordingly. This can include, for example: Xscape Mini, Xscape at The Rec Room, Xscape Playdium, etc. This would help create brand identity, customer loyalty and convenience of having one card valid at hundreds of arcades.

Walled gardens: the grass isn’t always greener on the other side

Coming soon!