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Industry Update

By Selena Fragassi


Meeting at the movies. It’s something friends, dates and families do all the time. But literally meeting at the movies—that’s something Julie Wiggins helped to reinvent as the executive director of sales for Canada’s largest chain, Cineplex. “Julie has taken a very unique venue type and developed momentum across the country in illustrating the benefits and specialness of using movie theaters for meetings, conferences and events. Under her leadership, business has flourished because she is innovative and takes a challenge head on,” says Unique Venues President Chuck Salem. “This epitomizes our own passion of introducing meeting and event planners to venues that turn traditional upside down, and for that reason we want to award her with the honor of being our 2014 (UNIQUE?) Professional of the Year.” Here, Wiggins tells us how she got started in the meetings business, what she’s been able to achieve for the 161 theaters in her portfolio the past three years and her marquee success this year.

Unique Venues: How did you first get started in the industry?
Julie Wiggins: “I was in the meetings business; for 10 years I worked with the Meetings Canada group— they put together North America’s largest conference for meeting planners called IncentiveWorks.”

UV: What made you want to make the switch to Cineplex?
JW: “I’ve had success helping to turn around sales teams that were struggling … so the role with Cineplex was my chance to completely change their approach to the meetings business. Prior to my arrival they were more interested in the ‘fun’ type of client appreciation events where people came in to see a movie together. We needed to change that to let them know a movie theater is actually a better ballroom with better chairs, better A/V and a better way to see a presentation or have a training or a town hall or shareholder meeting. That’s what attracted me—fundamentally changing the customer they were going after, and that’s what we’ve done.”

UV: How did you start to accomplish that objective?
JW: “Good old-fashioned prospecting. Changing where we were marketing was a big part, as was our positioning. We completely revitalized our marketing plan and went after the industries we thought would have a need for that—and it worked. In three years, we’ve increased the number of meetings booked by 50 percent. In 2012, there was were? a lot of new customers so now we are seeing the benefit of repeat business.”

UV: What knowledge did you take from your time in meetings industry that helped you at Cineplex?
JW: “The relationships I’ve cultivated over the years. People think Canadians are super touchy-feely and maybe that’s true, but holding on to personal connections I’ve found is super key.” (CAN WE STRIKE ONE OF THE ‘SUPERS’ IN HER COMMENTS. MAYBE THE SECOND ONE)

UV: What is your biggest accomplishment of 2014?
JW: “We relaunched our website to make it a more user-friendly, searchable database. With 160 locations, it’s a huge undertaking to get that entire inventory in the system. I have a writer and designer helping me, but I’ve done all the strategizing and learned more about websites than I ever thought I would.”

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