Montreal-based entrepreneur Vince Guzzo, owner of a chain of cinemas and a Dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den TV show, has launched a pay-to-watch video on demand platform during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
“We are proud to announce the launch of Cinémas Guzzo Streaming, part of our stay home initiative. Our goal is to make it a little easier for people to stay home during this COVID-19 pandemic. We hope everyone stays safe and healthy, we will get through this together. Don’t panic,” said Guzzo, who owns and operates the largest chain of independent movie theatres in Quebec with 10 locations province wide with 146 screens and nine IMAX.
The Montreal-based entrepreneur also runs a chain of fine dining restaurants and a construction company. In 2007 he and his wife, Maria, established the Guzzo Foundation to centralize their philanthropic endeavours, through which they have raised millions of dollars to support medical research aimed at the prevention of cancer and the support of mental health initiatives.
“The idea came about because we started buying films almost two years now,” said Guzzo of the video on demand platform. “I saw a need when it comes to kids’ family movies. If it’s anybody who needs movies, it’s families. We came to the conclusion if there’s a movie that people need every week it’s family movies.
“As we were buying these rights, we were also acquiring VOD (video on demand) rights for Canada.”
The service has no monthly fee and is available online in conjunction with Vidflex/Worldplay.
From new movies to nostalgic ones, movies will be accessible by simply streaming the service at cinemasguzzostreaming.com, added Guzzo.
“The goal here is not to in any way hurt my movie business,” he said.
“I want to offer to movie fans various movies. Part of the goal is to go get European movies that don’t really come here or don’t really create a buzz but you know what for 99 cents I may actually want to see an Israeli movie.”
Recently, when the video on demand service launched, the response was so huge that it had 17,000 people sign up on the first day and it crashed the site. That is being taken care of for the future.
“What we’re looking to do is gradually launch anywhere between 10 and 20 movies a week to sort of create the habit of ‘let me go see what came up this week’,” said Guzzo. “We’re going to have a trailer section for upcoming movies. The whole idea is really to create an inexpensive way for people to say ‘let me give it a shot. Let me see a movie that I’m not used to seeing. Maybe I’ll enjoy it’.
“As long as it’s a pay as you go, you don’t feel that you’re paying for something that you’re really not going to use. You’re going to sign up, you’re going to have access to the movies but you’re going to pay for whatever you want to watch. I think this whole subscription model, call it the Netflix subscription model, I think is going to suffer in the next few years.”
For those people who are staying at home, the video on demand concept may make people lovers of movies again and they may want to come out to the theatres to watch again in the future, added Guzzo.
The video on demand venture is not a temporary initiative just for the coronavirus time frame but will continue on when life returns to normal.
Guzzo’s father opened the first cinema in 1974 in the east end of Montreal and in 1976 he expanded it to a three-screen multiplex. Vince Guzzo grew up in the movie theatre business with jobs as an usher, selling candy, a cashier and a projectionist. He officially took over management of a theatre in 1991.
The Montreal-based entrepreneur also runs a chain of fine dining restaurants and a construction company.
Guzzo has also added inspirational T-shirts to his ‘Mr. Sunshine’ fashion brand. Developed in collaboration with Montréal- based Ruddy Lad Co., one of the Dragon’s on-set investments, the collection serves to spread a positive spirit amid the COVID-19 crisis. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of each T-shirt is being donated to the Montréal Jewish General Hospital.
The T-shirts featuring “Ruddy Lad’s iconic character, sharp comments, and memorable style” that Guzzo said communicates key messages to encourage people to stay home and maintain social distancing.
“It’s a way to give back but it’s also a way to sort of get people’s minds off the negativity of everything that’s going on,” said Guzzo. “T-shirts have always been a way for teenagers, and adolescents and young adults to express themselves.”