MADRID — In 1996, when still at high school, Spain’s Arturo Guillen, having flunked some exams, took a summer job at Entertainment Data Inc.(EDI), which had just set up in Spain, intent on delivering computer-collected box office results to distributors.
Cinema theaters would start relaying results from 10 pm, Guillén recalls. Sometimes the computer froze, so the results were typed out on paper. Guillen would then take an envelope with the final figures around to the studios at 5 am every night, so they had them when they woke up.
“Delays in figures decreases their value and quality,” Guillén told Variety at San Sebastian.
A few cinemas baulked at giving figures. “Once they tried them they saw their value immediately.”
Just a few years later, Guillen was an accepted member of the Spanish film establishment, called on when it came to analyzing film exports or box office at home.
He now teaches movie distribution and exhibition at Barcelona’s Escac, one of the most prestigious films schools in Spain.
23 years on, Guillen has just been promoted at Comscore Movie Division to SVP & Global Managing Director, replacing Steve Buck and Jim Zak.
Times have changed. Guillen has survived rampant consolidation as EDI was bought by Nielsen in 1997 and in 2009 Nielsen EDI by Rentrak which then merged with Comscore in 2016.
But Guillen’s passion for reporting and innovation, and his faith in box office build have not wavered one iota.
The narrative of Guillén’s professional life has indeed been growth. Guillen started as Spain caught the full force of multiplexing which was to drive year-upon-year growth at the Spanish box office. When at Rentrak, he made a splash launching its first international VOD measurement, of dominant pay TV/SVOD platform Canal Plus/Yomvi. Results recorded the dawn of a consumer habit revolution in Spain, Yomvi active users shooting up 96% in just for months from July 2012 to November’s 546,996. That is “outstanding growth,” Guillen, then Rentrak VP EMEA, said at the time.
Guillen was instrumental in setting up partnerships with tech and analytics start-ups such as Showtime Analytics and Gower Street Analytics.
Overseeing Comscore’s movie division for EMEA and India for the last six years, he also did what he has always done: Extending box office reporting, but now to Turkey, the Middle East, India and West Africa.
“The Middle East has seen incredible growth. We’ve just opened in Western Africa with Nigeria, Liberia and Ghana. Nigerian box office is growing at 30% a year. It’s become the African Hollywood,” Guillen enthuses.
“There’s a common wisdom that theatrical box office is declining. I think it’s the opposite,” he added. “U.S. domestic grows 2% a year on average, which is very good for a mature market. International is growing 6% a year.”
But growth may not always come from where it seems most likely, Guillen argues. Some Indian movies are more popular in China than India; a key point about Turkey is the strength of its local movies.
For Guillén, SVOD viewing may prompt a counter-reaction. Mobile consumption very often takes place in isolation. “The theatrical world has become almost the exclusive space to consume socially,” Guillen said at San Sebastian, flicking up on his mobile a video clip of an Indian audience going wild, standing, dancing, in a theater.
SVOD players are now moving into the cinema theater world, Guillén glows.“And we’ll see more.”
Said Comscore CEO Dale Fuller: “There is an incredible amount of complexity and opportunity in the industry today, and finding the right leaders to act as change agents for Comscore Movies was one of the most important decisions we’ve made this year.
He went on: “I’ve been highly impressed with Arturo’s leadership within Comscore. He now give us a formidable leadership advantage as we continue to develop innovative products, services and solutions for our clients.”
Where will Guillén take Comscore?
“Data is the basis to define reality,” he argues. “We’ve been collecting it. I’m working towards translating that data into functional intelligence and insight.”
He doesn’t go into detail. But his aim is surely to excite the industry as much as he once was, as a flunked high school student, discovering the powers of statistics two decades ago in a modernizing Spain.