For more than a decade, theatre management software has been the backbone of every cinema that made the transition to digital projection technology, which is to say, virtually every movie theatre in the world. Many different manufacturers provide their own approach to the challenges that TMS was designed to address. I recently spoke with five TMS manufacturers and asked if they thought exhibitors were getting the most from their TMS, where their TMS fits in a movie theatre enterprise and, most of all, what new ideas in TMS can we expect to see when the industry gathers in Las Vegas next week for CinemaCon 2017. We’re presenting the companies alphabetically and will be offering their answers over the next five days. First up: Arts Alliance Media.
Digital Cinema Report: Do exhibitors fully understand all the benefits that TMS can provide?
John Aalbers, CEO, Arts Alliance Media: Some exhibitors understand the benefits of their TMS better than others. For some it’s just a means of building playlists – which is great, it saves a lot of time and means users can see exactly which content is where – but many exhibitors aren’t using the full potential of their software. For example, TMS [packages] often have powerful automation features, so that shows can be scheduled automatically and pre-show content inserted into the right place in the playlist, all without manual intervention. One of the biggest benefits of a TMS is how features like this help eliminate human error, avoiding mistakes which can happen often and making sure content plays as intended. It also saves staff time, so they can concentrate on making a difference where it matters – with customers, improving their experience.
We find that the exhibitors who take the time to learn about all the features the TMS has to offer are unsurprisingly the ones that get the most out of it.
But beyond just learning all the tips and tricks, for many exhibitors the best thing about a TMS is how it enables your screens to be connected into a wider ecosystem. That can be either to enterprise-level software so operations can be even more efficient across a circuit, or to various other services that can really transform how cinemas operate, making them more dynamic and responsive. Once your cinema is connected, the possibilities are almost endless.
DCR: Can TMS be used to manage and improve the lobby experience or POS purchasing?
JA: Typically the functionality of a TMS stops at the door to the projection booth, focusing on getting the right content on screen at the right time and monitoring for any potential issues. We are, however increasingly seeing it as the pillar upon which other software and services can be built, in all cases to simplify the job of cinema operations and help exhibitors give their audience the best possible experience.
Screenwriter already interfaces with exhibitors POS systems so that shows can be scheduled in the TMS directly from the POS, and we’re currently working with a signage partner to share data in real time from Screenwriter so that lobby signage systems can dynamically adjust their programming to match the feature and pre-show content on the big screen.
DCR: Can TMS help exhibitors grow and maintain customer loyalty groups?
JA: Not necessarily directly, but greater automation allows exhibitors to experiment with new ways of interacting with their customers that wouldn’t be possible if constant manual editing of playlists or schedules was needed. The flexibility a TMS provides to scheduling and playlists means there is a great opportunity to be more dynamic with programming, creating compelling, targeted experiences for different groups.
DCR: What improvements and advances in TMS can we expect to see at CinemaCon 2017?
JA: The TMS is the building block of many other innovations, as well as being the gatekeeper to everything that appears on the big screen. We’re starting to see more of those innovations emerge from something like our CineCardz product, which enables a customer-personalized video to be inserted directly into the pre-show through the TMS, through to using data pulled from the TMS to make better business decisions.
One of the other advances we’re seeing in TMS addresses the explosion of different content technical versions, TMS [packages] are evolving to understand how to automatically target the right version to the right screen – again something that both avoids mistakes caused by human error and saves significant staff time.
And the TMS also has potential beyond this – for instance creating dynamic programming becomes possible, as does even better KDM management, when system information can be sent automatically to a central Trusted Device List, minimizing the risk of KDM errors.