When cinemas first made the conversion from analogue 35mm projectors to digital over ten years ago, they also installed their first TMS (Theatre Management System). For many cinemas, these contracts with their first TMS provider will soon be coming to an end, and they need to decide whether to search for a new provider. As well as considering reams of technical specifications and functionality when analysing the actual software, cinemas should be evaluating the companies who created it too.
But what should cinemas be looking for?
Questions you should ask a prospective software provider
Are they still actively working on their TMS?
Software that isn’t continually improved on quickly becomes incompatible with new hardware and technologies. As well as potentially limiting the upgrades you can make to the rest of your cinema’s set-up, over time, it will become harder to find support for outdated software.
A software provider who is still working on their TMS understands both this, and also that the TMS is the foundation onto which additional efficiencies can be built.
Are they developing any new solutions to augment their TMS?
When cinemas converted to digital, they were promised more than just a simple swap between building playlists with film to building them with a computer. A software provider that offers enterprise level solutions can deliver on that promise by connecting your screens to a wider ecosystem, and enabling the cost-saving efficiencies of centralisation. The right products built on the strong foundation of the right TMS, can also help unlock new revenue streams and add value to existing assets, like your pre-show.
How do they keep your end customers in mind?
Your new TMS should streamline your operations well enough that your staff are able to spend more time providing your customers with great service. Though your customers might not notice that you have upgraded your software, they will notice that your staff are more attentive, and that there are fewer mistakes during shows.
Do they have their own in-house Network Operations Centre (NOC)?
Digital cinema NOCs are typically filled with ex-projectionists with deep and developed understandings of the industry who can represent the interests of real-world cinemas when product decisions are being made. Software providers that offer these support services in-house are more likely to build practical solutions, as their software developers will have a more direct connection to cinema managers, and what they need.
Are they compatible with new solutions?
Integrating with other providers is becoming increasingly important as diverse new solutions and formats spring up in everything from proprietary Premium Large Format (PLF) screens and ticket pricing, to interactive pre-shows. Adopting some of these new technologies might prove to be your competitive advantage, and you don’t want your TMS to take you out of the running.
Will they be your software partner?
Many software providers are just that; providers. They will develop and sell you their solution, but their relationship with you as a customer ends there.
A software partner continues to be just as interested in ensuring your software is the right solution for you as they were on the day you first bought it. Look for indicators like training options, access to documentation, and ticket response times. Ongoing access to training and user guides is essential to ensuring that your staff are self-sufficient and effective, especially if the software continues to evolve. Online helpdesk ticketing systems can also promote transparency between you and their engineers so you can be confident that they will resolve your issues when your shows are at risk.