When businesses are deciding whether to centralise a process or role, they assess whether centralising will add significant value, or significantly reduce their costs. Usually, this results in performing back office operations like accounting and HR once at head office, instead of multiple times by different local teams- saving time and money.
At cinemas, though they have centralised some of the same back office tasks, most sites still look after their own day to day operations through their Theatre Management System (TMS). Everything from building playlists and schedules, to moving content between screens, to monitoring hardware is done at site level by countless cinema managers, with all the cost and potential for error that involves.
Could, and should, cinemas centralise more of these operations?
Improve head office visibility
Where a TMS can show a site manager all the activity for their screens, and flag potential show-stopping errors days in advance, head office can only wait and react to issues as they occur. If, for example, a site left their content transfers until the night before, it would leave head office little time to help them resolve any issues before screenings resumed the next morning. Shifting this content monitoring to head office would allow one team to proactively resolve issues across the entire estate with time to spare, and allow faster response times to things like KDM requests, which are already usually dealt with at head office.
If cinemas centralise their hardware monitoring as well, they can ensure equipment is all functioning properly, and quickly deploy engineers where they are needed most. Additionally, they can optimise their inventory management (projector lightbulbs, etc.), plan replacements/repairs around convenience rather than emergencies, and reduce their storage needs, as they would see when components are due for replacement and only order them when they are actually needed.
Minimise human error
Each individual site currently builds their own schedules, populating their screens with ads, trailers, and features which all have their own complex interdependencies and contractual obligations. Every piece of content that is scheduled is a duplication of another site’s efforts and creates another opportunity for something to go wrong. We all know what kind of PR damage the wrong trailer in front of a family feature can cause. Moving control over means reducing the amount of human touch points (and thus potential for errors) from hundreds to just the few on the central team.
Eliminate manual tasks
As well as pre-show, playlist and schedule management, an enterprise TMS could provide central KDM delivery and automate reporting. Generating these proof of play reports at site level is currently resource intensive and costly, and getting KDMs onto the right screen servers can be a clunky process involving email and multiple transfers. Automating KDM delivery and running estate-wide reports at head office eliminates manual efforts (and minimises errors) at site level, which frees up on-site staff to focus on more important tasks, like building relationships with their customers.
Optimise the use of your data
Analysing statistics at a site level only provides cinema managers with part of the answer to making better business decisions. However, analysing the same statistics across an entire estate can lead to surprising discoveries that can drive efficiencies. Enterprise hardware monitoring, for example, can alert head office that certain combinations of equipment cause more errors than others, so they can easily optimise their configurations.
Consistency across sites
Achieving uniformity across an estate can strengthen brand reputation, but rolling out changes quickly can sometimes prove challenging. With an enterprise TMS, changes to the pre-show, for instance if an ad campaign is pulled or updated, can all be made once and pushed down to the relevant sites. A centralised pre-show also gives head-office control over its length, and makes it easier to target regional content correctly.
But what about the potential disadvantages of centralisation?
Can cinemas still benefit from local input?
Cinemas are an important part of many communities, and often pride themselves on showing the right content for their audiences. Centralising scheduling runs the risk of showing content that isn’t optimised to the area and missing out on customers who might have been tempted by content hand-picked by their local cinema manager. This risk can easily be mitigated by allowing cinema managers to continue scheduling a portion of their screenings, or allowing them to override head office suggestions in certain circumstances. Maintaining their cinema’s reputation as a community hub can also prove possible through data analysis, if head office can correctly identify high-performing content and continue adding it to regional programs.
Can cinemas keep morale up?
Whenever autonomy is taken from local teams, there is a danger of making them feel like they aren’t empowered to make any decisions. Yes tasks associated with building playlists may be removed, but these are mostly administrative, and moving them to head office gives staff the opportunity to spend time on more rewarding work. Giving managers more time to be managers, instead of administrators, means they can spend more time understanding their community, figuring out what their customers want, how best to provide it, and conducting research into what content and marketing the local community responds to.
Can cinemas hold on to site level skills?
To prevent staff from becoming too out of practice with their TMSs, head office can encourage sites to take advantage of any training their TMS provider offers. AAM, for example, provides extensive user guides and video tutorials online to ensure cinemas get the most out of their software.
So should cinemas centralise more operations?
Let’s return to our original question- would centralising more operations add significant value or significantly reduce costs for cinemas?
In short, yes! Reducing the resources needed to manage content, run reporting, and deal with errors can present significant cost reductions to a cinema chain. And cutting down on the need for emergency engineer callouts, as well as boosting equipment performance through statistical analysis could have an immediate effect on business expenses.
The added value is derived partly from the deeper relationships cinemas can form with audiences by delivering consistently faultless customer experiences. With staff released from back office responsibilities, they can spend time on more valuable tasks (like looking after their customers, or managing new revenue generating technologies), and fewer errors with showings mean fewer complaints. And even more value is added for head office because they can ensure their estate is always running exactly as they want it.