Managing Well: Exhibitors discuss the growing importance of TMS in today’s digital cinema world

Features
Technology

With the heavy lifting on the exhibition industry’s collective digital projection system conversion process essentially in the rearview mirror for virtually all U.S. and most worldwide theatre owners, improving deployment of the requisite high-tech equipment that keeps cinemas up and running around the clock has become an increasingly important task across the industry.

We spoke to technologists at three leading exhibitors (Cinépolis, Studio Movie Grill and Malco) to solicit their expert viewpoints on which systems and service providers seamlessly help keep their locations fully operational for the benefit of their valued guests, 365 days each year.

Gabriel Morales Becker, theatre technology director at Cinépolis, believes that the most important aspect of their international circuit’s (330+ global locations and counting) TMS is having an LMS (Library Management System) with full visibility from the organization’s NOC (Network Operations Center). “This provides for real-time support capabilities for both programming and booking assistance for all content, as well as technical support on both hardware and software,” Becker affirms.

Cinépolis’s preferred provider for TMS is London, U.K.-based Arts Alliance Media (AAM). According to its corporate website, AAM software touches more than 25,000 movie screens around the world and its client base includes a number of international circuits in addition to Cinépolis, including Hoyts, Kinepolis and Wanda (AMC’s parent company).

Producer and AdFuser are favorite AAM software services singled out by Becker. He points to several reasons they selected them, including ease of deployment, maintenance, training and solid operability. If needed, they are also there to provide great support.

AAM initially provided TMS training manuals to Cinépolis, but the company decided to assume training in-house by producing their own tutorial videos that allow remote employee training in a couple of hours at the theatre level. At their NOC, on-the-job peer-to-peer training is the preferred method for getting the team sufficiently up to speed with operating protocol and best practices.

What, if anything, can AAM and other TMS providers improve upon in the future? Enhanced ad/trailer management by AAM's Adfuser, says Becker. He also stresses that it is very important to have VLANs at the cinema to separate monitoring from content networks.

Studio Movie Grill (SMG) IT director Val King relies on Film-Tech to provide a fully managed solution that provides “a highly automated, flexible and customizable system” that allows SMG—a leader in the in-theatre-dining space—to deploy a 100% projectionist-free environment at its 25 locations across the U.S.

An added benefit is that in addition to labor cost savings for exhibitors that permanently eliminate film operators, the majority of on-site theatre-level employees—that historically would have been deployed to operate the projection booth in every auditorium during an individual film’s runtime—are free to focus primarily on improving the cinema-going experience for all patrons. Customer service is king!

According to King, “The Film-Tech system is directly integrated into the box-office ticketing system, allowing for a single interface to control and manage all showtime and auditorium placements—including last-minute adjustments.”

This instant-access flexibility for any currently booked film on any screen in the complex facilitates more shows per day, increased customer choices, less auditorium downtime and, ultimately, greater bottom-line profits for the theatre owner.    

Additional benefits of this solution include an intuitive and easy-to-use third-party content input system. This allows a wide array of alternate content (from eSports to opera to corporate presentations or other theatre rentals) to be showcased in all auditoriums.

The built-in energy management, automated volume level adjustment, and automated recovery from power failure all come fully supported by the NOC. King adds, “Film-Tech’s NOC excels by eliminating the need for theater-level projection training. They employ field-trained technicians in their NOC that are experienced with the equipment and are able to resolve projection problems quickly.” Film-Tech’s NOC is a full-service, 24/7 operation with the ability to manage content, acquire and verify decryption keys, and construct playlists.

Film-Tech is also the automated go-to TMS at Malco Theatres, a Memphis, TN-based exhibitor. “They are fully integrated with complete control over our Barco projectors, Dolby sound processors and Screenvision’s onscreen advertising,” notes Scott Barden, regional director of digital operations for the chain. “This system also has control of the lighting and masking in each auditorium,”he adds.

Malco has a staff of roughly 12 people that range from level one to level two certification for service and equipment maintenance. Film-Tech’s fully automated system is a big hit with Barden and his colleagues. “We have been very impressed with its reliability and performance and would recommend this system to others in the industry,” he concludes.