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Gateway City/Who’s Here: Bardan Cinema equips cinemas throughout Latin America and the Caribbean

Vilma Benitez, chief executive officer for Bardan Cinema, in the lobby of her office in Brickell Key, Nov. 12, 2015.
Vilma Benitez, chief executive officer for Bardan Cinema, in the lobby of her office in Brickell Key, Nov. 12, 2015. FOR THE MIAMI HERALD

Miami-based Bardan Cinema is a key factor in the movie theater market across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The family-owned company, founded in 1977, supplies new and existing movie houses with everything except the movies, food and customers.

“We work with small and large exhibitors to design new theaters or redesign and enhance existing ones,” said Vilma Benitez, the company’s CEO. “We sell state-of-the-art projectors, sound systems, screens and other equipment, as well as the seats, concession equipment and anything else they need. We customize theaters, providing exhibitors with exactly what they want within their budgets, and advise them on the best options for being profitable within the demographics of their individual markets. We are integrators.”

Bardan has also played an important role in the digitalization of theaters over the years, selling its customers new generations of advanced sound and projection equipment. In the pre-digital era, the big studios delivered prints of each movie, sending one copy to a group of theaters, Benitez explained. There was one roll for one screen. Each copy was used by many different theaters and became degraded over time in the old mechanical projectors that were used for many decades.

“Today, there is no film — it’s all digital,” she said. “For a customer who owns a group of theaters, a digital film can be shown on multiple screens.” The digital copies used today are encrypted to cut down on piracy, and maintain their quality over time since they don’t wear out like film.

Bardan works with the designers and manufacturers of the most advanced digital equipment, such as Barco, a world leader in digital cinema projection, Philips, Dolby, Klipsch and others.

Bardan tailors its recommendations for sound systems, screen size and projectors to the size of each theater and the budget of the exhibitor.

Aside from consulting with customers on theater design and construction and providing equipment, Bardan also runs a state-of-the-art monitoring center in Miami that oversees more than 2,000 movie screens in Latin America and the Caribbean. The center — which has electronic maps that can give an overview of South America or drill down to whether a projector is working in a theater in Peru — lets the company keep track of which movies are being shown at different times in different theaters, monitor any problems in equipment, and provide logs of movie use by theaters for a film industry office in London.

Today Bardan’s clients range from owners of two or three theaters, to megaplex operators with hundreds of screens. The company has 35 employees, 20 of whom are based in Miami, and uses contractors to perform maintenance for clients throughout the region.

“We cover all of Latin America and the Caribbean outside of Mexico, and are starting to develop new clients in the U.S. Southeast,” Benitez said. The company also has provided systems for museums in Mexico and Egypt.

The privately held company does not release its sales figures, but Benitez said that Bardan has experienced double-digit revenue growth through last year, and made significant investments in its electronic monitoring center.

Bardan recently completed two state-of-the-art cinema venues in Coconut Creek (11 screens) and Chapel Hill, North Carolina (13 screens) for exhibitor Silverspot Cinema. For both projects, Bardan provided design and configuration services as well as installation of the latest digital audio and projection systems. These cinemas offer customers attractive interior designs, leather seats, dining options and other amenities.

In collaboration with Barco, Bardan configured and installed the Barco Lobby Experience, which combines creative visuals on digital screens with sound, comfortable surroundings and dining to enhance the theater experience for moviegoers.

Bardan is also providing the Silverspot theaters with its 24/7 monitoring and remote support services.

Bardan was founded by Vilma Benitez’s father-in-law, Bartolo Benitez, who had many years of experience in theaters and the movie industry, and his son, Daniel, who later married Vilma. After Daniel became ill and died, Vilma began taking over the company’s operations and became CEO in 2008. Their son, Daniel Jr., is Bardan’s vice president and chief technology officer.

Born in Managua, Nicaragua, to parents who were from Spain and Nicaragua, Vilma Benitez studied in Spain and later received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Miami. She started working at Bardan in 1979 after she married Daniel Benitez. Her first job was working with her father at a shoe manufacturing plant in Honduras.

Despite the popularity of movies on TV, computers and tablets, Benitez sees good growth prospects for Bardan in Latin America and the U.S. Beyond a strong cinema market in Latin America, Bardan is building a new clientele among developers of malls and hotel operators, who can use a new generation of video walls and other video systems for advertising and entertainment.

As for cinemas, “We want to make the moviegoers’ social experience better by bringing lobbies to life,” Benitez said.

“People can watch Netflix, but they also want to get out of the house. We help make the movies more exciting and entertaining and make theaters a fun social experience.”

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com

Bardan Cinema

Business: Miami-based Bardan supplies movie theaters with everything they need except the movies, food and customers. They sell and install high-tech screens, sound systems, projectors, 3D equipment and related devices, as well as seats, concession counters and machines (for popcorn, hot dogs and soft drinks), electronic signage, electronic ticketing, ticket booths, etc. Bardan works with exhibitors, the owners of existing theaters who want to remodel or developers planning to build new venues, helping to design modern, right-sized movie houses for different markets and choose the most appropriate types of technical devices, concession equipment and furnishings. The company also electronically tracks films being screened and monitors equipment at each theater from Miami, so that technical problems can be anticipated and resolved quickly.

Founded: In 1977 by Bartolo Benitez and his son, Daniel. The name “Bardan” is a combination of the first parts of Bartolo and Daniel.

Headquarters: 520 Brickell Key Drive, Miami.

CEO: Vilma Benitez.

Employees: 35, including 20 in Miami and 15 throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Ownership: Family-owned company.

Customers: Owners of movie theaters who may have two or three movie houses or hundreds of theaters.

Website: bardancinema.com

Source: Bardan Cinema

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