Daniel Broch, the man behind the Everyman cinema group, has obviously not read the script.
As many leisure businesses struggle to cope with the impact of the credit crunch, Mr Broch is plotting an ambitious assault on the cinema sector.
Having acquired Screen Cinemas — a chain of seven independent cinemas - earlier this year in a deal worth £7m, he intends to open 50 Everyman cinemas in the UK over the next few years. Today, the company officially opened their rebranded Everyman Belsize Park, formerly Screen on the Hill, in Haverstock Hill, North London, following a £600,000 overhaul.
“It is phenomenal how a story can start developing and continue to grow on its own,” says Mr Broch, 41. “The target is still to open 50 venues over the next few years.”
Is it not a risky time to be doing so?
“Cinema as a sector is known to be pretty resilient in recessions and to do well as a business. It’s still a cheap night out: around £15 compared to £30 a head for a meal. And you are buying something that you can’t readily buy. When you go out for dinner, you are buying food, which you could get elsewhere.
“You can only influence what you can influence. I can’t influence the US trade deficit. All we can do is make sure we do what we do well. The wheels of the world will keep turning.”
He continues: “Before, because there was a lot of heat in the economy, everything was very tight. Employment was tight, costs were tight and opportunities were very tight. Now the heat has been taken out, things have relaxed a bit. So, if you have business you believe in that has a purpose and a place, then the chances of expanding are better than they were before.
“And despite the credit crunch, we are keenly supported by our bank [Royal Bank of Scotland].”
Besides, the group, which owns eight cinemas across the UK — in Hampstead, Baker Street, Belsize Park and Islington in London, as well as venues in Oxted, Reigate, Walton-on-Thames and Winchester — is backed by a selection of heavyweight investors including Lloyd Dorfman, the chief executive of Travelex; the Lewis family, owners of River Island; and the founders of Ask pizza chain, Adam and Sam Kaye. This is all a far cry from 2000, when Mr Broch bought the Hampstead Everyman on what he says was pure impulse. After investing around £350,000, he endured a tough two years, during which the business struggled. Turnover in 2001 was around £280,000.
“I was sitting in a horrible office in Hampstead, with four people around me thinking: ‘What do I do now?’” But, determined to make a success of his first venture, he spent the next few years recruiting investors. In 2006, with a high-profile consortium on board, the company was rebranded as Everyman Media Group. Under Mr Broch’s direction, it has grown to a team of 200 employees and is on target to turn over £6 million this year.
“It’s a bit like having a kid,” says Mr Broch, who had spent the previous 22 years working in property and has no formal business qualifications. “The company starts off very needy — it lives off you. Then, it starts to change and get its own life — a bit like a teenager. Then it goes off to university and you have to learn to let it go. Essentially, that’s where the company is now.” However, the Everyman story has not gone completely as planned. Mr Broch admits that the development of the Hammersmith Grove site in West London has had to be “put on ice” because of the current economic climate.
Unsurprisingly, he describes the opening of Everyman Belsize Park as a monumental step.
Tickets at the new venue range between £12 and £16. “There is only £5 or £7 difference between our tickets and Vue, which are around £9.50. I don’t see us as a luxury brand or elitist. I believe the concept is very middle-of-the-road. We now have a diverse programme, which is aimed at a wider audience.”
Mr Broch is also considering other ventures. “Recessions are a sea of opportunity. Businesses can come out of recessions — Carphone Warehouse was one.” So, what makes a successful venture? “Whatever it is, it has to have a purpose. A lot of businesses that don’t have a purpose — Woolworths, for instance — will go out the window. It has to be sustainable, well-managed and have a good track record.
“There are a few things I’m looking at, from property to corporate training videos and music festivals.” As for the Everyman Group, he says there is scope to develop the cinema’s name into an international leisure and media brand.