Regal/Edwards/United Artists Cinemas

Update: Shortly after posting my diatribe on synergy and the lack of Regal "branding" on Edwards theaters, they began running Regal identifiers right before the movies. Coincidence? Probably! But I will continue to think otherwise. Now, Edwards too has these stupid mini trailers that remind people what they already know: it's time for the movie to being. Worse, the Regal ones whore themselves out and advertise random concessions.

Regal Entertainment now owns Regal Cinemas, United Artists Cinemas, and Edwards Theaters, the previous undisputed King of Orange County movie theaters. Due to corporate greed and poor business planning, all three of these companies declared bankruptcy in the late 90s/early 2000, only to be gobbled up by mogul Philip Anschutz. One of Anshutz's goals was to create a national network of movie theaters, and by golly he is off and running. Combined, Regal Entertainment has about a 17% share of all the screens in the United States, more than double that of the nearest competitor. They are closing in on 6,000 screens in more than 550 theaters in 36 states. Billionaire Anschutz has a controlling interest in the Anschutz Corporation, and he has been dabbling in other ventures like radio and recently a possible NFL franchise in Los Angeles.

The old Regal Cinemas was relatively new to Orange County, with two theaters. Because of this, the theaters tended to be larger and cleaner than some of the others. United Artists had a few theaters in the area, most notably a pathetic theater in the old Buena Park Mall, but that was more the fault of the underperformance of the mall than anything else. Currently, they are a non-entity in the area.
Its presence in Orange County is due mainly to the mammoth Edwards Cinemas, family owned since the 1930s until its untimely bankruptcy. At one time, Edwards blanketed Orange County with all sorts of movie theaters of different sizes and demographics, but the boom of the nineties led to a massive consolidation. Construction of huge megaplexes took on too much debt. Even worse, the huge, 20-30 screen multiplexes filled to capacity on weekends, but played to nearly empty seats on weekdays, and cannibalized smaller theaters sometimes only blocks away. Bankruptcy and non-family ownership eventually forced the closing of many smaller, underperforming theaters. What emerged is a leaner company, still with a huge share of the market for the area. It was sad to see Edwards go, but hey, that's business.
Now, what is pissing me off is that they still operate like three (well, two) independent chains. They do all appear in the same section in papers, but all have their old branding. On a business level, it looks like they are doing nothing on a consumer level to consolidate. For all intents and purposes, they are acting like different chains operating in the same area. Granted, most people are morons, and out of those that aren't, most don't care about things like corporate synergy. The only way some people know that they are one is that slides for the Regal homepage play at Edwards'. Worst of all, you currently cannot use passes from one chain at another. And they are still selling separate passes. And how about some frequent rewards program? It instills a superficial sense of loyalty, and perhaps the customer is more likely to come back because of rewards. Heck, AMC does it. If I can go to one theater continuously and get little freebies, I will be more likely to keep going there, rather than another chain. Regal theaters still play weekend matinees relatively early, so you can actually sometimes watch a movie then go out to lunch on the weekend.
For lovers of true cinema, the Edwards Art Houses, which once had probably close to twenty-five screens, has been reduced to around ten, give or take a screen. Art films, now part of Regal Cinema Art, play consistently play in two theaters, with a third theater sometimes stepping up to bat. Variety is good, and the loss of these theaters is bad. The audience for these films is smaller, but now the opportunity to see something different is less, because there are fewer screens. This also means that foreign and independent films are pushed out quicker, either because of contracted opening dates or money-saving strategies to help these already cash-strapped theaters.
Regal has a contract with Coke, so expect to see Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Minute Maid, Hi-C and Mr. Pibb at all concession stands.
Edwards 21 Megaplex
Regal Cinemas Garden Grove 16
South Coast Village

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