by Richard Heitmann,
Sales Director - AURES Technologies Ltd
The challenges and aspirations of today’s cinema operators
In recent years, the cinema industry has focused on making significant operational changes in order to enhance efficiency, profitability and customer service.
Firstly, there has been a drive to both increase and speed up throughput at the point-of-sale, at the same time giving customers a choice on how they engage: using a manned ticket desk, a manned concession desk or a self-service kiosk to make their purchases. In today’s cinema lobbies, tickets can largely be bought anywhere.
However, separate ticket box office and food, beverage and confectionery counters, costly to resource, have largely become a thing of the past. The majority of operators now draw customers to a counter where both collect their tickets and buy refreshments. This consolidation of the points-of-service has made it possible to run venues with reduced staffing and improve customer flow.
Secondly, in order to both generate additional margin and offer a better service, many operators have moved away from the single-tariff, non-allocated ticket model to one of allocated seats, in some cases accompanied by tiered pricing. This can be more profitable for the operator and makes for a more comfortable and personalised viewing experience.
Thirdly, aware that considerable revenue can be generated by the sale of food, beverages and other merchandise, operators have led a concerted drive to turn cinemas into leisure destinations. F & B now plays an important part in the customer’s enjoyment and is an integral element of the whole experience. Recent years have seen the development of bars, cafes and refreshment counters. By combining ticket and refreshment counters, spend has increased, and with it customer convenience and enjoyment.
Cinema Point-of-Sale: an evolving picture
To drive these changes, point-of-sale technology has taken on an increasingly pivotal role and has become more functional and intelligent. Convinced that POS has a role beyond the simple purchase of tickets and that a good system can enhance overall profitability, operators are investing in this area of technology.
Ticket purchase has gone multi-channel and is no longer confined to a lobby-based box office. Purchasing by telephone or via the operator’s web site has gained real traction, as has buying e-tickets via other third-party portals, even via social networking sites.
That said, a large volume of tickets are still purchased onsite, pre-performance, so the latest POS solutions have to manage a secure and integrated scenario which consolidates real-time ticket purchase across multiple channels. In the development pipeline is a new generation of self-service kiosks, effectively a new take on the ATM, which will speed up ticket purchase even further.
Today’s POS also has to integrate the functions of mobile order and payment as some operators equip staff with tablet PCs to queue-bust and speed up ticket sales. Others deploy them to take orders and payment for in-theatre dining. Then there is the processing of QR codes routed to cinemagoers’ smartphones following an online or telephone booking and which simply need scanning at the auditorium door. Mobile POS devices are ideal in this context too.
When it comes to the purchase of food and beverages, POS has to be flexible here too. Customers may preorder items when they book and pay for tickets online, then visit the concession counter or bar with their smartphone or printed QR code for scanning prior to collection. Equally they may use self-service POS kiosks to purchase items. Both approaches are particularly useful during periods of heavy footfall or pre-screening when time is tight.
Many customers simply choose their refreshments on the night. In this context, customer-facing secondary screens attached to POS terminals have a role to play in displaying promotions and tempting customers to make impulse buys.
In short, POS technology is now all about multi-channel selling so that any combination of cinema tickets and food items may be purchased from anywhere at any time, with the emphasis on upselling. The right POS solution can help an operator to capitalise on all of these commercial opportunities.
With considerable effort being put into improving the movie-going experience in a number of ways, operators are naturally keen to secure loyalty and repeat custom. Customer data can be captured when tickets are purchased then stored in a customer relationship management database and transformed into valuable post-performance analysis. POS-driven loyalty schemes provide an effective tool for getting to know the customer in depth, for managing programmes of regular communication and for building loyalty through offers such as discounted tickets and catering.
AURES Technologies: shaping the cinema sector and meeting its needs
AURES Technologies has become the cinema sector’s de facto system, its first choice PC-based touchscreen EPoS hardware. This pole position has been hard won and derives from many years’ experience of working hand-in-hand with operators to understand their operational processes, financial model and customer engagement strategy – then translating those needs and ambitions into innovation.
The result has been ground-breaking new POS developments which have shaped the cinema sector, enabling it to flourish and evolve and which have produced the desired business outcomes. AURES Technologies has delivered technical solutions across the board to meet the goals of its cinema operator clients.
Your Goal = Customer Seat Selection
AURES Solution = Pole Mounting
Cinemas told us they needed to offer customers a means of quickly and easily choosing seats. Thanks to our development of unique ‘all in the head’ technology, we were able to provide mounting options to lift terminals off the counter and attach them to poles. AURES Technologies was the first in the market to do this and it brought about a dramatic change; staff could now swivel the touchscreen to face the client and invite them to opt for their preferred seat using an intuitive touchscreen or install a secondary screen on the back of their terminals that mirrors what staff see; this achieves the same outcome. This one change added convenience and reduced cost dramatically.
Your Goal = Protecting Terminals from Spillage
AURES Solution = Pole Mounting
Many operators opt to pole-mount terminals for a different reason. If they operate combined ticket and concession counters, they are likely to have experienced problems due to the ingress of food and spillage of drinks, which can cause terminal failure. By elevating POS terminals on poles, this problem is immediately solved. Increased reliability is the result, and the freeing up of space on the counter is an additional plus.
Your Goal = Reduce Cost of Ownership
AURES Solution = Technology that’s cost-effective, durable and user-maintainable
We originally found ourselves competing with hardware manufacturers such as IBM, NCR and Nixdorf. Our customers were dissatisfied and told us they needed a lower cost of lifetime ownership than they were achieving from these terminals, but with no loss of durability and performance. The focus of our design and development has therefore been to deliver great performance and reliability, to extend the workable life of our hardware and to reduce its cost of ownership. We have evolved extremely reliable and rugged technology with one of the longest lifetimes in the industry.
Much of the cost of POS ownership comes not from the initial purchase but from the cost of support, maintenance and upgrade over the terminal’s lifetime. With our hardware, users can perform swaps of key parts such as the motherboard in minutes (removing the need to wait for engineering support whilst a terminal is out of use). Processor and other upgrades can be easily applied onsite to an existing box. Easy upgradability and user independence translate into tangible cost savings. We also offer an industry-beating warranty and a range of complementary services such as preventive maintenance.
AURES also uses computer components that reduce total cost of ownership. There are four elements that limit potential failure, increase reliability and extend operating life: Solid State storage drives (SSDs), PCT touchscreens, fanless construction and an integrated (rather than a distributed) unit. We provide all of these to our cinema operator clients.
Your Goal = Introduce Mobile POS
AURES Solution = Our new multifunction Tablet PC
As discussed above, most cinema chains now offer booking online. The universality of the smartphone and the growth of mobile apps have also been taken into account. To respond to the requirement of our cinema clients to use tablet-based POS for F & B orders and for ticket sales, AURES has designed and is about to launch its new branded tablet, SWING. SWING is the first multi-configured tablet PC to take full POS functionality to the customer. It will run as part of an enterprise-wide POS infrastructure and will introduce versatility and agility to cinemas.
Cinema Goal = Sell more Food & Beverages
AURES solution = Combined POS with Secondary Screens
Affordable and compact secondary screens are now offered as an adjunct to our fixed-point POS terminals. Not only can they be used to display purchase details to the customer but, beyond that, they are a great tool to promote offers and merchandise in a targeted fashion. Customers report a significant uplift of food and beverage sales when they present cinema-goers with compelling offers at the point of purchase. This simple and inexpensive device makes easy work of upselling with no add-on costs.
Other customers have opted to install self-service kiosks, comprising our touchscreen terminals within a casing. With an increasing emphasis on the importance of the cinema lobby as the entrance to a leisure destination and a desire to extend client linger time here, kiosks can be a perfect way to facilitate both ticket collection and F & B purchases.
Your Goal = A complete product and service package
AURES Solution = Our unique maintenance package
As an enhancement to traditional systems support, AURES has introduced an exceptionally cost-effective maintenance package structured to the needs of the cinema sector.
AURES supplements the supply of its PC-based touchscreen EPoS terminals - and accessories such as cash drawers, printers and secondary screens - with a range of complementary services including Engineering, Implementation, Onsite maintenance, Preventative maintenance, Systems support and product Warranty.
Working with sector-leading technology suppliers
Vista Entertainment Solutions
The relationship between Vista Entertainment Solutions UK and AURES Technologies (on the J2 Retail Systems side of the business) goes back 18 years. From the earliest days, the synergy between us was evident.
Vista’s expertise in developing software solutions tailored to the cinema exhibition sector perfectly complements our technical strength in hardware manufacture and understanding of the industry. Client by client the partnership has built, to the point where now each member could well be considered the de facto supplier.
There are few UK cinema groups, large and small, that do not use Vista Cinema software and AURES hardware. Our relationship has crossed geographical borders too; we have joint clients in Australia, Canada and we are doing an increasing number of rollouts across many European countries.
Says Mischa Kay, Managing Director for EMEA, Vista Entertainment Solutions UK: “Our relationship goes beyond the supply of systems to meet the needs of cinema operators. Vista and AURES actively collaborate on new technologies and new developments that shape the industry and facilitate business expansion for our joint clients. We listen and we deliver what they need to achieve their aspirations and goals; enabling a trading environment that is efficient and profitable and that has the cinema-goer’s convenience and enjoyment at its heart.”
Munich-based author of ticketing and concession systems COMPESO has recently partnered with AURES Technologies. Founded in 1984 and now with 2,500 clients, COMPESO ranks as the premier provider of solutions to the German and wider European cinema and theater markets. It is now focussing on development a US market for its solutions, and AURES is part of this drive.
Says COMPESO’s Director of Marketing Annette Wagner: “Whilst we focus on the strength and breadth of our software solutions, the cooperation of COMPESO and AURES is a perfect match to provide an integrated solution for the American market.”
“We’re great believers in partnership; they’re especially important when penetrating a new market. AURES (through its J2 brand) has been present in the US cinema industry for many years, plus we already share a number of joint clients including one of the world’s premier cinema chains.”
Our cinema operator clients
Cine-Sense Consultancy – for Everyman Cinemas and The Light Cinemas
Experienced cinema industry technology practitioner John Beirne is employed as IT Consultant by two cinema groups: Everyman Cinemas and The Light Cinemas.
John Beirne first engaged with AURES Technologies 20 years ago when he was Operations Manager at Cineworld. "I brought J2 in as my POS hardware supplier at Cineworld and have been working with them ever since."
"I see AURES as a significant player. Their hardware is very, very reliable and perfectly suited for the cinema environment. The terminals are used a good 12 hours a day or more, every day, and hardware failures are few and far between. Hardware reliability is key for me."
Speaking in his capacity as IT Consultant to Everyman Cinemas and The Light Cinemas, John Beirne finds that the relationship with AURES works well in both cases. "I've worked with J2 then AURES for 20 years and have never had any hesitation in suggesting AURES hardware to my clients."
Vue Entertainment has been working with J2 then AURES Technologies for close on 14 years. Roland Jones, now Executive Director of Technical Services, Vue International, joined the groupjust after its inception in 2003. “When I came in, we reviewed all our suppliers and hardware. J2 was one of the few suppliers that was here before I was and is the only supplier that has not been replaced; that’s quite an accolade”.
“J2 and then AURES have always delivered a really good value for money proposition which has not broken down over more than a decade of use.”
“As a privately owned business, we are really focused on Return on Investment and value for money. Our suppliers have to deliver. There are bigger brand names and more expensive alternatives in the market but we’ve never found they offered better value for money than J2.”
“We ask a lot of our hardware. We’re open 364 days a year, 13-15 hours a day, and our hardware has to perform reliably day in day out. The J2s do that.”
“Our physical environment is tough too. At our combined ticket and concession counters, we sell food and beverages. Let me tell you that split drinks and popcorn are not conducive to electronics! So we were one of first to use J2’s pole-mounting. This takes the device off the surface and any problems due to spillage are taken out of the equation. “
“In our constant drive for value for money we want technology that is cost-effective, not over-engineered. J2 has always managed to innovate and create the next device, in areas such as processing capacity or the use of secondary screens which enable us to advertise directly to the customer. Thanks to J2 we can now easily process barcodes and QR codes. J2 has always managed to keep up with the development cycle, which is good for us and delivers great value for money.”
“I like dealing with a lean team of individuals that we know and trust, and J2 gives us this. With bigger organisations, you pay for the brand but never see the head guy. I don’t want to pay for teams of hundreds of people to serve me; I just need a really good product with a responsive organisation to support me.”
“J2 have grown with us. They were originally small in the UK and are now present across the world. We started with 6 cinemas in Scotland; we now have 84 in the UK and multiple operations on the continent. When we’ve looked to do overseas till rolls outs, for example in Italy, we’ve had the leverage of an organisation that can install quality terminals for us and support us as we grow.”
Cinema City has over 100 cinemas across Europe, and a total of 300 AURES POS terminals.
Pawan Singh is International Operations Manager for Cinema City. He explains: “As we merged with Cineworld, we started to look for best solutions across both organisations. AURES tills seemed to be better choice that the devices used in Cinema City before.”
“We have found the large number of USB and RS232 ports on the AURES terminals particularly useful. The AC adaptor mount in the base is also very useful as it allows us to manage cables easily and tightly.”
“The relationship with AURES is great. AURES does everything to make cooperation smooth and easy for us.”
AURES: a game-changer in the cinema sector
In short, AURES has been and continues to be a game-changer in the cinema sector. We have worked with our customers in true partnership, both guiding them and responding to their needs and ambitions. The result is a range of AURES technology that is tailor-made for the cinema sector and that meets its requirement for customer choice, system longevity and a hard-to-beat cost of lifetime ownership; at the same time providing a platform for further growth, diversification and innovation.