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Going to Towne: MovieTowne

A name that has become synonymous with enjoyable entertainment in the West Indies, MovieTowne is the epitome of a picture perfect company that is always looking to capitalise on an already incredible reputation. Endeavour Magazine spoke with Derek Chin, CEO.

A haven for holiday makers from all over the world, Trinidad and Tobago already enjoys a strong tourism industry, but when government initiatives were drawn up to encourage a diversification in the way income was generated for the national economy, one man more than stepped up to the plate. That man was Derek Chin.

Something of an eccentric, Derek should not be underestimated, as his vision and commitment to make Trinidad and Tobago a world leader in the entertainment industry has propelled the region forward. His experience as a key figure in both the Trinidad Commercial Development Company Limited and Dachin Enterprises, coupled with his vehement desire to always be pushing local business development has given him a keen and unique insight into what consumers want and what the economy needs, but he didn’t take any shortcuts when it cam to educating himself. Having completed a business administration degree at the University of Western Ontario and completed a stint as an auditor with KPMG, Canada, he returned to Trinidad back in 1981 with one goal; to revolutionise the video gaming industry, and boy did he accomplish that.

Speaking about the cinema industry in the region, he is candid about the humble beginnings; “The cinematic industry in Trinidad and Tobago was on its knees before MovieTowne came into being. People preferred DVD’s, VHS and Betamax at home to going to the cinema and considering the conditions of the old auditoriums, it was no surprise. There was little or no variety in choice, the bathroom facilities were deplorable and it was a dowdy and intimidating experience. Customer service was also far from polished.”

The Best Entertainment Complex in Towne

Highly regarded as the premier Cineplex, shopping and entertainment complex in the region, MovieTowne was a breath of fresh air for Trinidad and Tobago when it opened in 2002, as it offered high-end, family-friendly entertainment at an affordable price. It also appears to have singlehandedly reinvigorated the passion for seeing new releases up on the big screen. By offering sate of the art facilities, up to the minute sound quality and exemplar customer service, MovieTowne quickly became a favourite destination rather than an idea that was, initially, heralded as something of an unnecessary flourish of modernisation. “I wanted to bring the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood to movie fans here on the islands and give people a real experience. Also, I wanted to introduce people to a far higher level of customer service than they were accustomed to. MovieTowne was ahead of its time and I believe we have really opened people’s eyes and changed their expectations.”

With close to 14 years of successful operation under their belt, it should come as no surprise that Derek didn’t want to stop at just one complex, so in the years that followed the opening of the initial location, expansion was rapid and impressive. A further two complexes were opened which, like their predecessor, were not limited to simple cinema chains. Instead, these incredible complexes offered a multitude of shopping centres, restaurants and entertainment suites as well. It’s the small details that make a huge difference though; “Our Cineplexes are themed along the lines of Hollywood, with the latest being a back drop of Jurassic Park with all the dinosaurs as an attraction. We also have various life sized models of Batman, Chewbacca from Star Wars, the Joker, Gollum and Shrek…and these are just a part of our growing museum of film characters.”

At the Heart of the Community

What’s really interesting to note is that people aren’t simply attending these cathedrals of modern entertainment, they are sitting up and taking notice of the man behind the brand, with Derek becoming something of a local hero and a figurehead that represents what young people growing up in Trinidad and Tobago can accomplish with hard work. That’s because this isn’t just a business enterprise for Derek, it’s a way of life and offers a tangible way to give back to the local community, something that has not gone unnoticed. “MovieTowne is more than a business, and is now a cultural, educational and charitable institution on the islands.”

“We promote and fund youth education through film and we founded the Secondary Schools Short Film competition, which enables film students to not only get specialist support and tutoring but win scholarships into higher education courses and we engage in much charitable work while investing in communities.” What an incredible way to ensure that emerging talent is noticed and nurtured as soon as possible and Derek sees this as the key to continued success for the region.

With an eye for a development opportunity, Derek is excited about what the future holds for MovieTowne and elaborated about plans in the pipeline; “In Guyana we are opening six screens to accommodate approximately 2000 patrons. HiloFoods is our anchor tenant with 55000sq ft super store but we have interest from other tenants such as Wendy’s and Ruby Tuesday, including a bank FCB, First branch in Guyana. Construction has started with the piling works. Also, in San Fernando, we are the anchor for the proposed c3 shopping mall, a project owned by the JT Allum and Carlton Mack family of South Trinidad. MovieTowne South will be 92,000sq feet of cinema and retail space and is probably going to be the nicest Cineplex of the whole chain so far, fitted with eight state of the art cinemas, digital and Dolby surround sound systems, 3D technology, thematic layouts and maybe even a VIP section. “

While you might think this has all been something of a fairytale for Derek, the success he enjoys has come as the result of years of training and dedication to bringing premier entertainment back to Trinidad and Tobago. Watching films could, on the surface, seem like a frivolous pastime, but Derek has an inherent and deep understanding that they have a much deeper purpose; to bring people together. He may not have realised it at the start, but he has brought a whole nation together now and we can’t wait to see how he mixes things up again in the future with his contagious enthusiasm for progress and community.