Kieren Dell

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Majestic Cinemas Executive Officer

Kieren, you are Chief Executive Officer of Majestic Cinemas, which has seven sites throughout New South Wales and South East Queensland. Can you tell us a little bit about this business and its growth trajectory?

We started the business in Nambucca Heads in late 2002, when I was living in Scotts Head. We bought the cinema there, without any experience in the industry, as I thought it would be a fun business to be in (which it is), and because I have always loved movies and the cinema. We took on two more sites in Inverell and Singleton in late 2005 and then Port Macquarie in mid-2006, which we redeveloped in 2013 to five screens.
This was a huge growth in just over six months. It took us a while to develop the appropriate processes and procedures and to put some key people in place. Once we had done that, we also added the little cinema at The Entrance a couple of years later. We then added Nambour (on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast) and the beautiful Sawtell Cinema to the group in late 2016.
We are currently awaiting the opening of the new four-screen cinema in Kempsey later this year, in conjunction with Gowings and the local Council, as well as the Federal Government. This will be the eighth Majestic site. We are currently building a new site in Brisbane to be opened in late 2020, which will be our first metro site.
We are proud of being a successful Mid North Coast company that has been able to grow beyond our local area and, as a result, provide even better services to our local customers.

When it comes to growing a business, what have been some of the key learnings for you along the way?

Having worked in senior roles in financial services, including my own private consulting company, I thought I had a pretty good idea of how business worked. However, growing a retail business like this creates a lot of opportunities to learn. The main thing is how important good people are in any business, to provide the best in customer service, even when things occasionally go wrong. The need for balance in a small to medium and growing business of having policies and procedures, yet remaining flexible to ensure we keep the experience fun and enjoyable for our customers. And, the importance of always keeping an eye on the bottom line when capital is scarce, and costs are rising.
Over the last ten years, the way we consume movies has changed quite significantly. For example, we can now access movies in the comfort of our own homes via streaming apps, and these streaming apps are now creating a lot of exclusive content of their own.

Can you tell us how your business has had to adapt to these changes in consumer behaviour?

People have been able to access movies from video shops for 30+ years, so all that has really changed in that regard is we don’t have to get off our couch (or pay late fees) and we can consume as much as we want for one price. The big change has been in TV, which has really stepped up its game with the variety provided by the streaming services. However, this has not changed the average number of times that Australians go to the movies (3.6 p.a.), which is the highest in the developed world and has remained pretty much unchanged since video came along in the eighties.
What has changed is the mix of movies people want to see on the big screen, with blockbuster experiences like Avengers and Avatar and Star Wars really driving the Box Office, and smaller movies at the other end also being very popular. This is especially with the Baby Boomer and older generations, along with family movies in school holiday time. This has led to the loss of middle-sized dramas and movies from the cinema landscape, which is a shame.
The other change is that consumers now have a higher level of expectation as to convenience and service. So, we need more screens with more sessions to cater for this and to show movies as close to their national (and often global) release dates as possible, as consumers in regional areas are no longer willing to wait even a few weeks in many cases. We need to continually be working on our offering and services to those customers, to convince them to have a night out rather than stay in.

What is the most rewarding part about your role as CEO of Majestic Cinemas?

It would have to be the development of our people. From our ever-expanding senior management team to our site managers who do such a great job managing each site, to the many young people, whom we were able to train in their first job and whom we have proudly watched either go off on to bigger and better things, or who have built great careers within Majestic. We take our commitment to our youngest employees extremely seriously – a great first experience in a job can really help them in their lives.

What have you learnt about creating an environment where you can succeed?

It is all about empowering your people and focusing them on the customer experience. We want our staff to have fun at work, as our customers come in to be entertained. Happy and motivated staff means happy customers and a good business.

And finally, if you could invite three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?

That’s a hard one. My preference would be for entrepreneurs who have built an innovative business and can impart wisdom. To that end, I would go for Warren Buffett (the Sage of Omaha, who can teach us all about investing in and growing businesses), Jeff Bezos (Amazon, who has built up a disruptive behemoth from nothing by constantly innovating), and Gail Kelly (former Westpac CEO, who overcame the odds to run one of the largest companies in Australia and did so with care and compassion and equanimity).

Thanks for your time, Kieren.

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