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$42m Imax Developer Eyes 800k Client Base

THE 100,000 square foot complex is currently being built at the junction of Gladstone Road and JFK Drive. Photo/Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

THE 100,000 square foot complex is currently being built at the junction of Gladstone Road and JFK Drive. Photo/Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The all-Bahamian investor group behind a $42 million, IMAX-centred entertainment destination yesterday said it expects to attract "north of 800,000" persons annually to "a facility the world can admire".

Carlos Foulkes, the Atavus Group's chief executive, told Tribune Business that the IMAX theatre would serve as "the anchor attraction" for the 100,000 square foot complex currently being built at the junction of Gladstone Road and JFK Drive.

Revealing that the family entertainment centre, to be called Fusion Superplex, had been in development for some 12 years, Mr Foulkes and his fellow Bahamian investors pledged to create an "iconic" experience that could match the world's best through the "largest IMAX screen in the Caribbean".

He added that the project would "initially" create jobs for 125-150 Bahamians, with the Fusion Superplex's opening targeted for the 2018 first quarter. Some 200 persons are currently working on the complex's construction under lead contractor, Wooslee Construction.

Mr Foulkes explained that himself and his three partners were creating a destination product, akin more to a resort or a shopping mall-type complex, rather than just a pure movie theatre.

Apart from the nine theatres, including the five-storey IMAX and 4DX (four dimensional experience), Bahamians will also be able to enjoy a glass-encased rooftop restaurant with views over Lake Cunningham towards Baha Mar.

Targeted at all age ranges and tastes, the Fusion Superplex will also include an indoor playground and Children's Daycare Centre, plus an arcade area and the normal movie theatre drinks and food concessions - including a Starbucks coffee lounge and Sub-Zero ice cream that is made from liquid nitrogen.

"We decided to design a facility that the world can admire," Mr Foulkes told Tribune Business. "The vision for the company was to advance the entertainment experience.

"We had a desire to improve the entertainment experience in the country, not only for ourselves but we thought the Bahamian people deserved a better experience."

Mr Foulkes explained that he and his Atavus Group partners were all former school friends who, after going away to college, had returned and reconnected to pursue their dreams of investing in a business in their homeland.

Together with colleagues Dominic Richards, chief operating officer; Tecoyo Bridgewater, director and in-house legal counsel; and Demarco Gibson, chief of security, facilities and maintenance Mr Foulkes has been working to bring the Fusion Superplex concept to reality since 2005.

Besides investing their own monies, Atavus Group was able to raise the necessary financing from other investors via a private placement offering (PPM) and commercial bank financing.

Mr Richards told Tribune Business that obtaining the necessary financing became much easier once Atavus Group obtained a 22-year license for the IMAX product, exclusive to the company, in 2013.

Explaining that this gave Atavus Group instant credibility, Mr Richards said it would offer "the most advanced display system in the world" and "the most advanced sound system".

"What we have is in less than 1 per cent of theatres in the entire world. That's the level we think Bahamians need to be at, " he told Tribune Business.

"It's more than just the movies," Mr Bridgewater added, emphasising that Atavus Group's financing did not include contributions from any politician or web shop gaming sources.

"Even though we were being turned down by bank after bank, we refused to entertain offers that compromised the integrity or scope of what we set out to achieve," he added.

"We are very focused on Bahamian ownership, but not at the risk of accepting backing from anyone or any organisation that would tarnish what we are offering; quality family entertainment and wholesome experiences."

Mr Foulkes said the complex, which aims to attract an annual customer base that is around three times' New Providence's population, would generate multiple revenue streams besides the movies.

"On an annual basis, we expect to be north of 800,000," he told Tribune Business. "The total seating capacity is 1,520 seats, and we have an additional 100 seats in the restaurant, 125 on the terrace, 250 in the Kids Daycare Centre, and 150 in the Arcade.

"At full capacity, with all the seats occupied and people hanging around the lobby, this facility can hold 3,000 people at once."

Mr Foulkes said the Fusion Superplex's grounds could accommodate a further 500 persons, and they - along with the facility - could be used for corporate events, church groups, weddings and private functions.

Mr Richards added that the complex's design was "more of an Asian model". While a Thai-based firm, the Office of Bangkok Architects (OBA), had developed the initial concept drawings, the Atavus Group handed everything else over to Bahamian consultants.

A. K. Rolle & Associates "have been leading the design and development ever since", with modifications made to the original plan as construction progressed.

Atavus Group and its contractors began site clearance and levelling efforts in January last year, with the foundation poured in September 2016 prior to the start of vertical construction.

"We were looking for some place centrally located," Mr Foulkes said of Fusion Superplex's home, overlooking the Airport Highway and JFK Drive/Gladstone Road roundabout. "The heart of the island, something easily accessible from out east and west, and close to the tourist destinations.

"While this is built for Bahamians, we recognise that largely this is a tourist country, and wanted to build something" that would impress and attract visitors.

Mr Foulkes said Atavus Group was projecting that 10 per cent of its customer base could be tourists, although it had the capacity to accommodate numbers greater than this estimate.

While declining to reveal financial projections, Messrs Foulkes and Richards said Atavus Group's forecasts were "conservative" and below average movie industry occupancy standards.

Mr Foulkes said the group had initially sought to acquire land from the Government, before purchasing the current site that was not even formally for sale.

He added that they had already obtained government approval to expand northern Gladstone Road from two lanes to four, given the "need to improve traffic flow" to both the Fusion Superplex and other nearby businesses.

The Atavus Group chief executive added that the complex would also have a "built-in air filtration system" to combat any further blazes and pollution from the nearby New Providence landfill, promising that the developer will add its voice to those "agitating" for the problems to be resolved.

The Fusion Superplex is also planning to exploit its 37,000 square feet of roof space by fitting it with solar panels, in a bid to tap into renewable energy and lower its electricity costs.

Mr Foulkes said the opening date would be pinned down as construction neared completion, and added: "We want to give time to train our staff

"There's a lot of technology in the building, and we want them to have skill sets so they can operate it with a level of expertise. This is a hotel-type of experience, and we want the service level to be just like that. That takes time."

Mr Richards told Tribune Business: "If you want to be iconic, do something that stands the test of time, you research the product properly. There's a huge need for this in this market.

"When you look at what we've done, we haven't taken any short cuts. We spent years in research, we took the time to build our resources in terms of the technology, and took the time to employ the right expertise and professionals.

"The biggest challenge our group faced is making sure the experience is what it needed to be. Bahamians are very peculiar, and want something that's a cut above."

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 4 months ago

Is Carlos Foulkes related to Dione and Arthur Foulkes?

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OldFort2012 1 year, 4 months ago

Another folly which will be in receivership within 3 year of opening. The liquidators can do a job lot sale with the other monstrosity just down the road. Pardon me, I meant to say: Another wonderful first for the Bahamas and another marvellous, well thought out profitable project, just like Baha Mar.

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banker 1 year, 4 months ago

The theater could fizzle right at opening. IMAX shares are at a 5 year low. The parent corporation has negative earnings estimate revisions. Share price has dropped over 7% this month alone. There are not enough IMAX film offerings to keep people coming back. There is theater fatigue in the market place and it doesn't bode well.

The rest of this post is just an exercise in speculative financial engineering.

Now, if you did this project to ... ummm ... "wash some capital holdings" and say, .... as an example .... convert a non-convertible currency to something of value that can be sold for hard-currency, then it makes a lot sense, even though you know that it is going to fail.

One of my foreign colleagues tells of going into a pizza place in a manufacturing city in his country. This pizza joint had 3 or 4 stores in the city. One day, as he walked in, there were a bunch of louts drinking beer. One of the guys growled "We're closed" even though there were a bunch of guys there. Almost every time that he drove by one of their locations, there were no pizzas coming out the door. It was a business meant to fail, for a very specific reason.

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OldFort2012 1 year, 4 months ago

You are undoubtedly right: it is meant to fail, for a specific reason. However, I can think of 10 ways you can launder money and exchange B$ for US$ far more easily and cheaper. If that is the intention, the people behind the project should give me a call.

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banker 1 year, 4 months ago

Let me paint a scenario for you. Suppose you built the building to be sold as a shell for "foreign hedge". Suppose the building was built solely as land and building on commercially zoned land. Suppose that you knew certain foreign buyers, from say an Asian country with a large population and an autocratic government who one day decides that you business empire is getting too big for its britches. It would behoove you to have some capital parked in a far off place, even though you paid x for it and have to sell if for 0.5x. Doesn't matter, you have safe money and a safe landing. So, you engineer large empty buildings to be sold to foreign investors. That way the hard currency doesn't even enter the country.

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Believer 1 year, 4 months ago

Do you think they will have a big generator

🇧🇸

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B_I_D___ 1 year, 4 months ago

Is this the project Shame Gibson is involved with? I wonder how much BoB money is involved...

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sheeprunner12 1 year, 4 months ago

The company lawyer said that no politician or numbers house boss is involved in this project ....... well who is financing this project???? ....... Bay Street????? ........ Lyford Cay ............ Chinese????? ...... smh

Sounds like a nice idea, but can this really make money in Nassau with Mall at Marathon and SWPlaza and Mario's competing for the same scarce local entertainment dollars ......... and will Atlantis and Bahamar want their guests exposed to this experience????? .......... This sounds like overkill ............. Bahamians will flock there for a year or two and then it will fade ....... But again, our millennials are becoming tech addicts, so it may be a hit with the U30 crew

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B_I_D___ 1 year, 4 months ago

Maybe no ACTIVE politicians...LOL. Agreed though...it will be a colossal waste of money that will be run down and deserted in a few short years.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 4 months ago

I smell Red Chinese money behind this investment.....it has a most distinct unpleasant odor about it!

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BahamaPundit 1 year, 4 months ago

Guys. Guys! Let's be positive. Awesome idea!! I hope it does great. This project may be built on a mountain of ilicit pirate skelaton bones, but at least it is something new and adds value to our tourist product!!!

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Reality_Check 1 year, 4 months ago

I just can't see where many people from abroad will be interested in a stay at Baha Mar to watch lousy movies made in Red China as a featured attraction.

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John 1 year, 4 months ago

Sounds like they should have included a couple of web shops and a strip joint..at least to generate additional revenue.

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TheQuant_In_Hiding 1 year, 4 months ago

The numbers here don't add up.

800,000 people (annual projection)

10% from tourism = 80,000 people (Tourists) 800,000 -80,000 = 720,000 people (Bahamians)

If your projections are correct, then on average there should be at least 60,000 Bahamians (and about 7,000 tourists) visiting this entertainment complex per month....?

I personally like the idea of an IMAX theater. Regardless of the overarching dismal landscape of the film industry currently, I still think there is an appetite for high quality entertainment. However, let's be real with the numbers here guys.

The employed labor force as at May 2016 stood at about 188,000. Of that number, approximately 45,120 people (i.e. 24%) make up your key demographic (i.e. 25-34 years old).

Let's assume at least 70% of these individuals have enough wiggle room (as far as their disposable income is concerned) to afford such luxuries as entertainment on a monthly basis (I'm trying to give you guys the benefit of the doubt here, that number is probably between 40 and 50 percent realistically), then you're left with about 31,000 Bahamian people.

Let's add another 15,000 people to account for the kids who are not a part of the labor force, but are supported by parents who can afford such luxuries in the Bahamas. Now we have about 46,000 people who are likely to be the bulk of your "client base". Let's add another 20,000 people who are north of your target market (i.e. 35+), now we have about 66,000 people.

This number is a rough estimate of your "client base". This doesn't account for a lot of things , for example preferences, location, trends in the industry etc.

Assuming none of these things matter (which they do), then you're target market would still have to support you consistently for 12 months out of the year for your projections to be anywhere near the realm of plausibility; especially given the country's current economic back-drop.

Frankly, that's ambitious. So much so, I would venture to say that it's near impossible. I also question how you guys arrived at that number as far as tourists are concerned...

My personal opinion is that you may see these numbers over a 3-5 year time horizon, but to say that this is a viable annual projection as it stands is a tough sell for me.

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