This has been a momentous year for digital cinema pioneer Arts Alliance Media. The company celebrated its twentieth year in business and the tenth anniversary of one of its flagship products, the Screenwriter theatre management system that has supported cinema operations through the transition to digital cinema. First launched in 2013, Screenwriter was designed to supersede AAM’s first generation theatre management system that supported exhibitors enrolled in the virtual print fee program as they upgraded to digital cinema equipment. Consequently, Screenwriter embodied an operational restructure, enabling cinemas to centralize their workflows from a single screen instead of traditional, manual methods. The company also launched Screenlighter, a theatre management system designed to solely meet the operational requirements of independent and one-four screen cinemas. But today, the company is thinking only of the future and the ways in which it can help the cinema industry thrive in the months and years ahead. To get a better sense of the company’s plans, I recently spoke via email with David Ong, AAM’s chief commercial officer. One thing he made very clear was the fact that at AAM, people matter most.
Digital Cinema Report: Arts Alliance Media recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Screenwriter. What does it mean to AAM to have reached that milestone?
David Ong: Reaching the 10-year milestone with Screenwriter is a momentous occasion for Arts Alliance Media. It’s an achievement that we are immensely proud of, and it carries deep significance for our entire team. Connecting to more than 44,000 screens worldwide, Screenwriter has become the most adopted theatre management system in the world which in itself is a testament to the trust and confidence the cinema industry has placed in us.
Cinema is all about creating unforgettable experiences and we take immense pride in knowing that our technology is the heart of so many exhibitors’ operations.
DCR: What do you think has been the secret to Screenwriter’s success?
DO: It's all about the people who breathe life into it, nurture it, and drive it forward. When you look behind the curtain, you'll find a passionate team at Arts Alliance Media that's at the heart of it all. It’s not simply technology, it's the human touch that powers it. From our brilliant developers and product managers to our ever-reliable tech support teams.
Many of our teams include ex-cinema managers and projectionists which is effectively our secret sauce. We’ve adopted a mindset of Creating Cinema Solutions Created by Cinema People (For Us By Us) which provides an insider's edge. We know the challenges, the opportunities, and the intricacies of the cinema world because we've been there ourselves. This insider's perspective allows us to deliver tools that are tailor-made to meet the specific requirements of cinemas. It’s the personal, cinema-centric approach that sets Screenwriter apart.
To bolster that knowledge, we champion a collaborative approach with our cinema customers. Over the years, we've worked hand-in-hand with our exhibitor partners, constantly engaging with them to understand their evolving needs and challenges. We have made it our mission to always exceed our partners' requirements and this close collaboration has been the driving force behind Screenwriter's continuous improvement. The cinema industry is dynamic and ever-evolving, therefore it’s vital to remain in sync with the market to keep pace with changing times.
DCR: What does the future hold for theatre management systems and particularly Screenwriter?
DO: Our vision is clear: we aim to continue supporting cinemas in their efforts to become more energy-conscious and to make their daily operations as seamless as possible. It’s about making operations smarter, more efficient, and customer centric.
Great customer service has always been at the heart of a memorable cinema visit. It's the warm welcome, the treats at concessions, and the immersive experience that keep people coming back for more. We want to automate repetitive, time-consuming tasks to free up site-level staff so they can focus on what truly matters, their customers. That's the future we're working towards. It's striking that perfect balance between progressive automation and the personal touch that makes a cinema visit so special.
DCR: Your entry-level TMS, Screenlighter, launched last year. What did you learn about the industry to deploy a secondary solution?
DO: One thing which became clear was that for many smaller exhibitors, less is more. While larger multiplexes will benefit from a wide array of features, smaller cinemas often prefer the more essential functionality, like content and KDM management, playlist creation, and screen visibility.
We realized that a one-size-fits-all approach simply wouldn't cut it. We wanted to develop a TMS solution specifically tailored to the needs of these smaller cinemas. Screenlighter was born out of this need. It's a lighter, nimbler TMS that provides the essential features these cinemas require to run their operations efficiently. It's about giving them the tools they need without overwhelming them with unnecessary complexity. All of which we had the pleasure of discussing with theatre owners at this year’s regional trade shows, including CineShow, Tristate Theatre Convention, and the Geneva Convention.
Through Screenlighter, we have been able to show our support for these vital community institutions. It's been an engaging journey, and it's reinforced our belief that in the world of cinema, diversity is not a challenge; it's an opportunity to innovate.
DCR: Arts Alliance Media exhibited at META Cinema Forum in Dubai earlier this month. What are you hoping to deliver to the Middle East?
DO: We want to contribute to the region's cinematic evolution by providing tools which has helped global exhibition evolve beyond digital cinema.
At META, our Enterprise Theatre Management System, Producer, was the star of the show. We understand that the Middle East has a thirst for cutting-edge technology, and we wanted to align with that sentiment. Innovation has been a recurring theme in previous years which is why we emphasised automation, specifically focusing on progressive functionalities like splits and automatic playlist creation. We also saw this as the perfect opportunity to unveil the most significant update to Producer since 2021. This update introduced new attributes management, a feature designed to help exhibitors ensure content is optimised to each auditoriums’ devices and provide viewers with the best possible experience.
DCR: You’re set to exhibit at CineAsia again next month. What can attendees expect to see at your booth?
DO: CineAsia holds a special place in my heart, as much of my journey at AAM has revolved around the vibrant cinema community in Asia. But, as a company, we're all geared up to bring the extraordinary to our booth again this year which will be located on our partner’s, Goldenduck, space.
As a technology provider, we always strive to be a thought leader and innovator in the cinema world. We've been listening to the industry, learning from it, and evolving our solutions to meet its ever-changing needs. Therefore, one exciting area of exploration is second screen advertising.
This is all about creating deeper engagement with cinema audiences. We understand that today's moviegoers crave a more interactive experience which we’ve taken into consideration. In addition, we’re committed to promoting diversity in cinema which is why we'll be showcasing our developments in accessible cinema solutions. This is a part of our mission to create cinema experiences that are inclusive and welcoming to all.
It's going to be an exciting journey, and we can't wait to meet with everyone in Bangkok.