It is challenging to run a modern digital cinema theatre complex without theatre management software, which raises the question: who would want to? TMS has streamlined the exhibition business and opened the door to possibilities that were not even imagined more than a decade ago. With CinemaCon 2016 set to convene next month in Las Vegas one thing is certain: TMS will be a major topic at the show. To help readers stay abreast of the latest developments in Digital Cinema Report asked leading manufacturers what we can expect at the show. In part one of our ongoing series I spoke via email with John Aalbers, CEO of Arts Alliance Media.
Digital Cinema Report: Briefly describe your company’s line of TMS products and services.
John Aalbers: Screenwriter is the most powerful, flexible and widely deployed cinema TMS. Designed from the ground up to unlock the full potential of digital cinema, Screenwriter enables exhibitors to monitor and control all screens from a simple, intuitive web interface, showing what’s happening across their entire complex in real time. Content can be easily managed, and many processes can be automated which were previously time-consuming and inaccurate. Screenwriter also proactively alerts users to any problems in time to fix them and avoid losing shows. With Screenwriter, cinema staff is no longer tied to the projection booth, meaning they can spend more time improving the front of house experience for customers. Screenwriter is just the start of what exhibitors can do. Once your sites are connected, the possibilities are almost endless, and we think there is going to be some really exciting developments coming up that the TMS is going to be the key.
DCR: What are you highlighting at CinemaCon 2016?
JA: We will be highlighting the launch of Thunderstorm, an online marketplace that provides exhibitors access to a portfolio of innovative products, services and apps. This specially curated set of technologies enables exhibitors to drive greater customer engagement, create new business opportunities and generate more revenue. Tailored specifically for the cinema industry, Thunderstorm is a one-stop shop for cinema owners of all sizes to access best-in-class technologies from industry partners.
To enhance customer engagement, capabilities currently available within Thunderstorm include the ability for audiences to create personalized pre-show videos, and live audience interaction via social media. To optimize business efficiencies, Thunderstorm also focuses on areas such as advertising and optimised theatre management. The marketplace includes services that enable second screen advertising, business intelligence and predictive analytics to plug into scheduling. More, exciting services will be added over the coming months.
The platform also represents a fantastic new route to market for application and service developers to offer their technologies through the Thunderstorm marketplace to the many exhibitors connecting to the platform and deploying services in their cinemas.
We’ll be presenting demonstrations of Thunderstorm throughout CinemaCon on our Booth 2715A.
DCR: In your view, what have been the biggest developments in theatre management technology in the past decade?
JA: One of the biggest developments has been cinemas realizing they need TMS at all. We’ve found that once they understand how much time they can save and how much more automated they can make their processes, they really understand the benefits.
The power of TMS to automate playlists, scheduling and KDMs has dramatically increased, and especially when combined with a circuit-level enterprise TMS, can take care of so much of the repetitive tasks and let cinema managers get back to what they do best – making customer experiences at the movies truly special.
DCR: Is there an opportunity in the market to provide a full suite of software and services including POS, TMS, and NOC Services? If so, what is your company doing in this area?
JA: From our Screenwriter Theatre Management System to our Producer enterprise-level suite for centralised circuit management, we provide exhibitors with a number of software solutions needed to not only run modern digital cinemas efficiently, but also substantially improve the bottom line. Our suite of software solutions offer services to the market that tackle a wide range of issues that exhibitors face, while also enhancing the audience experience.
At AAM, we aim to bring the best in cinema software to customers, and we’ve spent many years developing our Screenwriter TMS, plus associated products that help automate and manage cinema operations.
We also have an in-house NOC that looks after several thousand screens worldwide, and with our Lifeguard NOC Tools software, we’re also bringing that power and experience to exhibitors themselves.
As for POS systems, there are several companies that are doing great things in this space, so rather than compete with their area of expertise we look to work with them to integrate their systems with ours so the customer has the best of both worlds.
DCR: Many exhibitors have told me that they would like to see software that can manage event cinema ticket sales. How does your company address this issue?
JA: As mentioned previously, it’s not really our area of expertise to develop ourselves, but through integration with our existing software suite and also through our new Thunderstorm marketplace, we are dedicated to bringing the best services to our exhibitor customers, so we’ll happily work with anyone we think has something great to offer cinemas.
DCR: Along those lines, do you believe that cinema on demand in movie theatres is possible and, if so, what role can TMS play?
JA: There’s huge potential for exhibitors to bring more of what customers want to their cinemas. Although the technology has shifted to digital, the operational practices haven’t changed that much from the 35mm world. When everyone has the same films to show, how do you differentiate your cinemas? We think it’s in two ways:
By moving to more dynamic programming. Matching the content to who is in your audience not only makes better use of your auditoriums and increases occupancy at times that can be traditionally quieter, but it improves the customer experience by giving people what they want, when they want. This can only be done when you understand your audience – something else we think will see great improvement over the coming months and years – and if you have a way of easily managing your content, such as a TMS of course.
By devoting more time to making your customer experience as special as possible. This is where the TMS and other software comes in, by automating the mundane operational tasks and freeing up your cinema managers to do what they do best, help customers have a great experience. This is the only part of your operation you have complete control over (unlike the films being released) and it’s the part that really makes the difference.