Open Road gamble pays off for Regal Entertainment

2bda3aac6a142802050f6a706700d2af.jpgIt has to be fun when a gamble pays off. Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment Group is enjoying just such a payoff this week with the success of the action movie “The Grey.”

The Liam Neeson film opened No. 1 at the box office, bringing in nearly $20 million in its first weekend. Reviews have been good and “The Grey” is likely to make a whole lotof money for its distributor Open Road Films.

Open Road was created in March a year ago by Regal, operator of the largest chain of movie theaters in North America, and AMC, the second largest. Regal and AMC gambled on Open Road in response to a decline in major studio releases and the threat of movies being released direct into the home with video-on-demand technology.

Open Road’s first movie – “Killer Elite” – had mediocre box office results when released last year. In contrast, “The Grey” shows Hollywood that Open Road can pick a winner.

Jeff Bock, a box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations Co. told Bloomberg: “Regal and AMC can go back to Hollywood and say, ‘See, these are the kinds of movies people want to see.’ It’s a real coup for them that they got Neeson for this role.”

Regal CEO Amy Miles told the Knoxville News Sentinel that having its own distribution company will help keep Regal’s theaters filled “particularly in off-peak months.”

Read more of Carly Harrington’s News Sentinel interview with Miles here.

Bloomberg: Neeson’s ‘The Grey’ Tops Box Office Sales with $20 Million

Photo: In this film image released by Open Road Films, Liam Neeson is shown in a scene from “The Grey.” (AP Photo/Open Road Films, Kimberley French)