Purchasing Power: Exhibitors hail a new age of movie ticketing and POS

Features
Cinemas Features

In this Film Journal International survey, five top exhibitors reflect on the ways technology has impacted how their customers purchase movie tickets and enhanced the business operations of cinemas. Moviegoers are more engaged than ever and seem to have no reservations about reserved seating.

 

Sarah Van Lange

Director, Communications

Cineplex

Ticketing/POS Technology: Vista Entertainment Solutions

How have the advances in ticketing and POS technology impacted your operations?

Advances in ticketing technology really have revolutionized the moviegoing experience for many of our guests, particularly those that are more comfortable using technology through our ATKs [automated ticketing kiosks] in-theatre, the Cineplex Mobile App and through Cineplex.com. Mobile ticketing is particularly popular, as our app is a convenient one-stop destination for guests to buy tickets, browse showtimes and theatre listings, as well as catch up on the latest movie and entertainment news. Users can also view trailers and exclusive content, view box-office results and check their SCENE loyalty points balance. 

From an operations perspective, the deployment of these technologies—ATKs in-theatre and the Cineplex Mobile App—has enabled us to better service our guests in many ways. For example, they provide insight into attendance numbers at the theatre level in advance, which means we’re able to bring in additional staff if required on a particular evening. Another example would be that we’re able to reallocate staff from behind a box office and put them in front of it, engaging and interacting one-on-one with our guests. Many of our guests love the experience of purchasing their ticket at the theatre and we will continue to offer it, but advances in ticketing and POS technology provide others with a choice.

What percentage of your customers reserve tickets in advance?

Reserved seating is very connected to film product, so it’s hard to pull a specific stat around that. What I can tell you that I think makes a similar point is that the Cineplex Mobile App was downloaded 17.3 million times and has recorded 918 million app sessions since its launch.

Have you seen a change in customer engagement thanks to the web’s role in ticketing and providing information about the movies you show?

Absolutely. Year over year, we’re certainly seeing higher engagement on the Cineplex Mobile App and higher visitation to Cineplex.com. On the guest services side, we’re seeing movie lovers across Canada reaching out to us more and more through the chat functionality on our website as opposed to picking up the phone and calling our call centre. More and more movie lovers are online—we’re listening and we’re engaging with them there.

 

Joel Davis

VP & Chief Operating Officer

Premiere Cinema Corp.

Ticketing/POS Technology: RTS (Ready Theatre Systems)

How have the advances in ticketing and POS technology impacted your operations?

Advance ticketing has definitely improved the experience for the guest, from just looking up showtimes to reserving their favorite seat. Patrons have access through their cellphones to movie times through a variety of sources that tie directly into our POS to reserve tickets instantly. Proprietary apps are available for showtimes at your local theatre company or patrons can use popular apps for showtimes like Flixster, Fandango, Movie Tickets and others. Patrons enjoy the convenience factor of bypassing the box office versus the traditional method of standing in line at the box office.

POS systems have evolved to keep up with the ever-changing demand of the cinema business from just being a register. Online ticketing is just one of the aspects of its main function. The POS links to several functions in a theatre. Just to name a few: time management, DLP, inventory, analytical reporting, automated hotline, Rentrak, digital signage, HVAC comfort settings for temperature, and smart building controls. We have gone from the old days of doing everything manually to a more automated world that is more efficient. 

What percentage of your customers reserve tickets in advance?

Before reserved seating, it was less than 12 percent on average for high-demand features; since we converted to recliner seating, this has created more of demand for advance tickets. I would say advance reserved-seating sales have at least doubled. The old model is changing and this reserved ticketing model is quickly becoming the norm in large to middle markets. Patrons are quickly accepting the reserved model due to the wide acceptance of recliners. It’s the law of supply versus demand due to the loss in chair inventory. It created a greater occupancy and a higher revenue stream for advance tickets that did not exist before. 

Have you seen a change in customer engagement thanks to the outreach efforts of companies like Fandango and Atom Tickets?

Companies are now starting to see the payoff in infrastructure they invested in due to the recent changes in the large to middle markets to the recliner reserved-seating model. On the flip side, smaller markets have not seen that much increase.

What’s your current stance on the Movie Pass scheme?

There’s not enough information at this time to make a prediction. I do, however, believe that anything that puts patrons in seats and does not compromise the pricing structure is a great thing.

 

Brian Schultz

Founder/CEO

& Tearlach Hutcheson

Senior Director of Programming

Studio Movie Grill

Ticketing & POS Technology: Vista Entertainment Solutions

How have the advances in ticketing and POS technology impacted your operations?

In the last 15 years I haven’t seen anything in POS technology that has advanced the way we do business. There were big advances 15 to 20 years ago, but advances since then have been minor.—Hutcheson

What percentage of your customers reserve tickets in advance?

Fifty percent.

Have you seen a change in customer engagement thanks to the outreach efforts of companies like Fandango and Atom Tickets?

Fandango, yes. Atom’s market share isn’t large enough yet to make a difference.—Hutcheson

What’s your current stance on the MoviePass scheme?

If you love movies as much as we do at SMG, we should all embrace any outlet that allows for ease of use for our guests. If MoviePass subscriptions enable more frequent moviegoing and exploration of movie content, then we’re all for it! Our partnerships are about creating the ability to see more films more often at the theatre, sitting in a comfortable seat with immersive sound on a giant screen, enjoying quality food, and in the communal experience only movie theatres can provide.

MoviePass has enhanced our ability to open hearts and minds by providing a no-risk vehicle for moviegoers to sample movies they might not otherwise see. SMG was amazed to learn that in some cases, as with Lady Bird, MoviePass generated a double-digit percentage of total attendance. We are in the business of creating the habit of moviegoing and we are excited to be an early adopter of MoviePass.—Schultz

 

Brock Bagby

Executive VP

B&B Theatres

Ticketing/POS Technology: Vista Entertainment Systems

How have the advances in ticketing and POS technology impacted your operations?

Advance ticket sales and POS technology have drastically changed how we do business. An impressive 40 percent of our screens now offer guests luxury-recliner reserved seating. This enables a significantly higher volume of online sales, so we are seeing many guests arrive with their seats already reserved. This is helping box-office lines and wait times shorten at the theatre.

What percentage of your customers reserve tickets in advance?

In our reserved-seating recliner towns, we are seeing 30 percent of customers reserve early. On massive blockbuster weekends such as Star Wars, we often see that shoot up into the 60 percent range.

Have you seen a change in customer engagement thanks to the web’s role in ticketing and providing information about the movies you show?

Yes, customers are now wanting showtimes more quickly so that they can reserve their seat. If showtimes aren’t posted quickly, customers are frustrated, as they want to have the option of buying their seat earlier and earlier.

 

Chris Johnson, CEO

Classic Cinemas

Ticketing/POS Technology: Titan Technologies

How have the advances in ticketing and POS technology impacted your operations?

They give us the ability to offer our ticketing inventory through digital platforms in real time. The dial-up showtime phone line is dead. Switching the majority of sales to credit cards reduces cash handling and fraud. Print-at-home and send-to-mobile help predict sales. The ability to do reserved seats and have a quality loyalty program are also advantages.

What percentage of your customers reserve tickets in advance?

It completely depends on the movie and the location. Once a theatre switches to recliners, the percentage increases; then it goes up higher with reserved seats. Essentially, the frequency of sellouts or getting a good seat at showtime is the biggest factor. So for theatres with general seating that rarely sell out, it’s maybe two to five percent, Recliners without reserved seating 10 to 25 percent, and recliners with reserved seating 30-plus percent. 

Have you seen a change in customer engagement thanks to the web’s role in ticketing and providing information about the movies you show?

Yes, the guests can watch trailers, see reviews, audience scores, ticket availability, and really be more informed of what is playing and whether they want to see it.