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Tuesday, April 25, 2006


If you read this Blog, you are probably aware that I have been a proponent of offering alternative (non-movie) content at cinemas for about 10 years. In the late '90s, in an effort to get cinemas to increase their utilization rates, we began touting the idea that cinemas should present alternative content via video projection. We now see this as commonplace in everything from pre-feature ads and entertainment to mini-film fests at cinemas.

In '02 I began pushing the notion of using cinemas for video gaming and gaming tournaments as a viable and easy source for additional revenue. The idea was to put gaming stations in cinemas consisting of tables and 27" TVs (cost about $300/station). Participants would bring their own game boxes, games, and controllers and be charged a nominal tournament fee. The quarter finalists on up in the tournament would get to game-battle on a cinema screen- winners receiving either monetary rewards or gaming gear. This is a guaranteed house packer.

Although some of my clients did not warm to the idea - "I already have Arcade games in the lobby" - to my surprise and delight I may have been fully vindicated: A new commercial for Microsoft's 360 X-Box depicts several people watching a movie, at a cinema, when suddenly a video game begins to play on the screen. They rush up and burst into the cinema's projection booth to discover a gamer playing on an X-Box hooked up to a video projector. This, larger then life game, blows them away and they query the gamer as to when it will be their turn to play.
Great commercial and spot on!

Today, cinemas must constantly be creating new ways to use their venue. 90% of video gamers range in age from 8 to 38 (a huge demographic) which is split almost evenly between male and female, and across all cultural, ethnic, and income levels. The movie industry provides great entertainment for millions of people on a worldwide basis, but it is not a growth industry. Therefore, to be successful, a cinema must be seen as "the place" to go for a variety of entertainment choices and not just a place to see a movie.

Note: Parts of this blog were extracted from the April 25th Cinema Training Central email Flash. If you would like to receive the CTC Flash in the future please provide you email address.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Product or brand placement in movies or in television shows is not new but has taken on more significance in the last few years. Normally, story lines involving a specific product (say a car) are pitched to a company that will then pay for having their product appear in a scene. The auto manufacturer may be willing to pay several hundred thousand to show a quick look of their product or millions if its brand is an integral part of the scene.

Although no studies have proven that product integration works as a marketing tactic it has become more and more prevalent, as advertisers feel viewers, particularly younger viewers, mostly ignore traditional commercial messages. The danger is that there will be too many placements in too many shows and movies which would, in effect, then mimic the low impact straight commercial. This is important, as over 50% of the 8-to-28 age group, in a recent poll stated they would be more likely to buy a video iPod and watch a 30 second ad in return for a free download of a favorite TV show. Meaning: that the alternative would be to PAY for downloads which were commercial free.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

JUST THE STATS / Video Chain Stores

Video Chain Stores:
  • Struggling with lack-luster movies in 2005 and a move by customers to purchase rather than rent DVDs, rentals were down by 1.8% to $8.8 billion in '05.
  • Blockbuster and Movie Gallery are the largest video rental chains while Netflix, their largest online rival, expects to grow from 4.2 million customers to 5.9 million by year end.
  • Blockbuster still has over 4,100 U.S. outlets, so don't count them out as they expect rental income to increase due to '06 movies like Mission Impossible and The DaVinci Code.
  • Additionally, as the new Hi-Definition DVD players and their more expensive discs come to market, there may be a resurgence in the rental side of the business.


One of the most important concepts in determining the profitability of a cinema is the utilization rate. This is the rate which measures the use of the cinema. In 2001, Entertainment Equipment developed a formula which could be used to measure a cinema's utilization rate and which is now used by many in the industry. That formula is as follows:

U = ____________A_________________
nSc x nSe x nSh x nD

Where: A = Admissions
nSc = # of Screens
nSe = # of Seats
nSh = # of Showings/Day
nD = # of Days
Calculated to derive a percentage figure, the result will show the use of the cinema. For example, if the figure derived is 18% then 82% of the time no one was occupying a seat in the cinema while a film was being played. This calculation can be used by a single screen cinema or for a circuit with 10,000 screens. Try it at your cinema, use a month's worth of data. Remember, an increase in your cinema's utilization rate, even by just a few percentage points, will greatly increase your cinema's profitability. So, do everything you can to get people into the cinema and remember: all cinemas are local community-centric.

Thursday, April 06, 2006



Operating A Cinema (2 Day Training Program)
The goal of this program is to review the aspects of cinema management from an operational viewpoint. It is designed for theatre management and owner/operators, as well as, for those who are open to exploring new concepts on how to operate and manage a cinema as a unique business venture requiring a unique management approach.

The operational/management issues to be covered include: concession and boxoffice, advertising and promotions, safety and security, facility maintenance and upkeep, increasing off-hour theatre utilization, purchasing and vendor negotiations. Technical topics will include: projection room equipment overview and maintenance, projection room management and the important relationship in coordinating the content (pre feature - feature - post feature) with management functions, particularly concession operations. Other technical issues will include: acoustics and picture formats (film, as well as, video projection). Also discussed will be staff hiring, firing, retention and the roles and responsibilities of boxoffice and concession personnel, as well as, ushers and ticket-takers.

The course is taught by several instructors with diverse backgrounds in cinema management, operations, concessions and projection. Many aspects of this program are hands-on and class participation and questions are highly encouraged.

Maximizing Concession Operating Profits (1 Day Training Program)
This course provides a detailed look at concession operations from an analytical point of view. Normally set in a roundtable discussion format the goal is to provide each trainee the tools necessary to maximize concession profits.

A complete discussion of a cinema's concession sales profit analysis will be covered, including: the calculation of the major indicators which drive the three key concession sales tactics: Speed, Communication, and Value. Determining your patron's buying resistance and why it's best to push "middle pricing" will be discussed along with the good and bad of combo sales and how to use combos to target markets. What sells and what are the hot trends in concession and how these trends relate to buying behavior. Also covered will be the selling of non-food items and services at the cinema. The use of staff incentives, rebate programs, volume discounts, coupons, customer reward programs and other concepts to increase returns will also be considered. Attendees will have the opportunity to role-play in an actual concession stand and review and discuss several successful new employee incentive techniques that are proven income generators.

Taken separatly or in conjunction with the Operating A Cinema Program this is a must one-of-a-kind training program for anyone managing, or responsible for, cinema concession operations.

Marketing Your Cinema (1 Day Training Program)
Although only of a one day duration the purpose of this course is to open the trainee's mind and curiosity to operating a cinema as a "local" business. Topics covered are branding & business identity, the techniques of connecting your cinema to the local community, content selection as a marketing tool, defining your patrons and how to increase your cinema's market reach. This course piques the trainees's curiosity and defines the competition, and the benefits of going your own way. Further discussion will include how to use your staff as a marketing/promotion tool and how to train them for this purpose. The issue of why customers "leave" and how to prevent losing customers will be discussed. The benefit of exhibiting non-film content will be introduced and the how and why this is a win/win situation for your cinema and your patrons.

This is relevant training for those responsible for the long-term profitability of a cinema. No prior courses are requisite. The trainee simply brings an open mind and inquisitive attitude. Class participation is highly encouraged!

Cinema Owners/Investors Program (5 Day Training Program)
This 5 day training program is the most comprehensive offered at CTC. With one-on-one private instruction this training is for the serious current or potential cinema owner/operator or cinema project investor. It is a program for those looking to obtain a comprehensive study of the workings of the movie exhibition industry and how a cinema fits into this business landscape.

The subject matter covers all aspects of a cinema and can function as a test bed for participants wanting to validate their cinema project's potential, or as a means of obtaining a large amount of knowledge regarding a build-out, expansion, or turnkey operation. This is a jam-packed, intensive program with day, as well as, evening instruction. You are literally immersed in the subject matter with the goal of leaving the program with a complete understanding of the hows, whys, and whats of a cinema with emphasis on present and future technology impacts.

All aspects of a cinema business are covered, including: technical, operational, marketing, staffing, concessions, MIS, product mix and pricing, and the business's profit drivers. Many past participants have brought their business plans with them for review and analysis while attending this Program.

This Program is scheduled by appointment only.

Alternative Content & Digital Cinema (1 Day Training Program)
This Program is intended to answer all the questions surrounding digital cinema and the use of standard video projectors in cinemas with a detailed discussion about how D-Cinema works and what are its benefits and downsides to the disstributor and exhibitor.

The application of video projection for alternative non-film content and in-theatre promotions will be explored with emphasis on digital image optimization, and the opportunities and pitfalls this presents to the exhibitor. Various projector models, pricing, and the good and bad points of the LCD, DLP, and LCoS technologies will be explained. The application of flat panel and plasma screens at cinemas will also be covered.

A hands-on workshop emphasizing the selection of the right video projection equipment for various in cinema applications including projectors and source components will be fully reviewed.

This Program addresses the issue of two technologies (film and digital) co-existing at a cinema and each contributing to its profitability. This training is for anyone with an interest in knowing what the cinema of the future will look like and how it will operate. It presents the choices confronting the exhibitor and proposes a variety of ways to address the future.

Modern Cinema Design & Planning (1 Day Training Program)
Cinema design and planning essentially revolves around how to optimize the whole presentation environment - entrance/lobby/foyer, auditoriums, interior space, concession/service areas, projection room, and egress & exits - so as to make going to the movies a special 'experience' unavailable anywhere else.

Seating, sightlines, and screens, acoustical wall design, lighting, architectural plans and general construction, will all be covered in this course. The concept of the 468 viewing rule will be discussed and the ideal presentation environment will be explored. The pros and cons of various seating configurations, and the sizing of auditoriums will be discussed. Floor plans, interior elevations, HVAC, room reverberations, and many other topics in regard to the design of a modern cinema are considered. This is a very compressed but comprehensive study taught by individuals who have designed and been involved in the build-out of numerous cinema projects. This course should be attended by anyone with an interest in the overall environment of a venue used for public presentations, or for those seeking more general knowledge of the important physical attributes of a cinema space.

Primary Technical Training (2 Day Training Program)
For those starting a career in the cinema industry or those with a basic knowledge of cinema operation this course provides a solid foundation upon which to build your skill set. Participants learn the proper techniques and procedures of projection room operations: answering the questions of What & How It Works In The Projection Booth. All the components of a cinema's projection and sound equipment are covered and their function and interfacing explained.

Proper film handling and makeup, including: film inspection, splicing and film cues, presentation setup (features, trailers, promos), proper threading and use of leaders, moving film prints, handling film wraps and their prevention, basic projection room equipment troubleshooting and day-to-day equipment maintenance are all covered in this course. The concepts of picture formats and lens are also discussed. Additionally, participants are introduced to the PROP System, EEC's proprietary Projection Room Operating Procedures.

This two day training program is truly hands-on with participants performing film inspection and makeup, threading, and routine maintenance procedures and parts replacement on actual projectors and film platter systems. They perform proper xenon lamp replacement and alignment and how to troubleshoot a sound problem. Booth safety is stressed throughout.

This is a must course for those beginning or having a basic knowledge of film projection and it sets the foundation for all other CTC technical training programs.

Intermediate Cinema Technical Training (2 Day Training Program)
This course is geared toward the individual who already has a foundation in film handling and basic projection room procedures and wants to further enhance their technical skills. Areas covered include: film platter timing and adjustment, film shutter timing, proper procedure for checking Dolby sound levels and the running of test tone and buzz track. Film formats and the concept of image sizes and apertures in conjunction with RP40 picture alignment test film is demonstrated with each participant threading and running test film loops. Troubleshooting a xenon power supply (rectifier) and the replacement and tapping of diodes is covered.

Additionally, the basics of cinema video projection and D-Cinema is discussed and all the various digital technologies. Throughout the course emphasis is placed upon the proper equipment parts terminology and definitions with a review of the A & B Sound Chain components.

Advanced Cinema Technical Training - Audio (3 Day Training Program)
For the experienced cinema projectionist or technician or for audio specialists, this high impact 3 day Program covers advanced audio topics culminating with each participant performing an auditorium sound equalization.

Topics include: A & B chain alignment, installation of LED readers (analog and digital). The proper installation of sound racks detailing audio cabling, audio component wiring, tuning, and training staff on the proper use and maintenance of all components. Popular models of audio equipment will be demonstrated and highlighted, including: Dolby, DTS, Ultra Stereo, Smart, Panastereo, QSC, Yamaha, etc.

Participants are encouraged to bring technical issues or problems they are experiencing for discussion and resolution. This is a Program for those seeking to hone their skills or individuals with a desire to advance their already solid technical capabilities. Emphasis is placed upon improving each participants' technical diagnostic skills.

Test equipment, including oscilloscopes, real time analyzers, sound level meters, test films and discs, and PC generated test setups are provided or participants are welcomed to bring their own test gear. Those with a goal of working as a cinema technician or engineer or those who desire to enhance their technical skills should strongly consider this training. Dolby and THX testing procedures and guidelines are incorporated in the training.

Advanced Cinema Technical Training - Projection (3 Day Training Program)
For the experienced cinema projectionist or technician seeking to enhance the skills and knowledge regarding the on-screen image and exacting the best performance from modern projection equipment this is a must course.

Topics include: lens turrets and lens sizing, cutting and sizing of apertures, servicing film gates and intermittents. The proper hook-up of an audio system to the projection system wiring, cabling, testing and alignment. Xenon lamp sizing and light failure troubleshooting. Proper installation and checking of rectifier diodes and lamp igniters. The proper use of image test films and equipment will also be covered. The trend toward pre-feature promotions and alternative content will be explored as participants will operate and learn the good and bad of digital projectors as well (both LCD and DLP types).

A companion course to the Advanced Audio Program this jam-packed 3 day Progam focuses on techniques for troubleshooting projection problems and as with all CTC Technical Programs is hands-on and class size is limited.

CTC Technical Master Class (3 Day Training Program)
This is a very special training program for individuals who are currently working in a technical capacity within the cinema industry. This Master Class will revolve around the technical issues and problems which are currently facing the cinema industry and explore issues through a general interchange of ideas, concepts, and viewpoints coupled with the experimental use of either new or upgraded cinema projection and sound equipment.

Typical topics for discussion would for example be: film image perception vs. 35mm film presentations. Film & D-Cinema vs. HDTV. Best alternatives for a cinema's film and digital projection . The setting of industry standards regarding a more formal certification for cinema technicians and engineers.

Additionally, the purpose of the Technical Master Class is to provide the participant an opportunity to discuss these issues with experts in the industry. It is a forum for the interchange of knowledge, which has the effect of adancing the technology of the cinema. This training will be given at specific times throughout the year convenient to the participants and be by invitation only. Class size is limited to 5 or less individuals with instruction and interchange with at least 5 of our faculty and guest instructors making this 3 day Program truly immersive.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Pic n' Play Promotions - Marketing That Increases Cinema Concession Profits

Pic n' Play is a unique, high impact, Cinema concession marketing program which links concession sales to mass media products, such as music CDs, DVDs, and other consumer friendly entertainment themed products. This marketing strategy, which had a very successful launch in 2005, has proven to increase concession sales while improving patron goodwill.

Pic n' Play combines customer appreciation with a high margin concession revenue generator, by offering a special concession promotion coupled with a free and exciting appreciation "give away" of a well known consumer product. Pic n' Play is Simple, Effective, and Direct. Here's how it works:

Each Cinema Patron is given a coupon by the Boxoffice Attendant upon admission (the coupons are included in the Pic n' Play package).

Next, the Cinema Patron presents the Coupon at the concession stand which entitles the Patron to a FREE gift with the purchase of the Pic n' Play Concession Special (as decided upon by each Cinema). Examples of what Specials could be offered are:

  • Combo: Large Popcorn and Two Medium Drinks
  • Combo: Large Popcorn, Medium Drink, & Candy Bar
  • Value Special: i.e. Spend $10 or more & receive free gift
  • High-margin non-sellers: i.e. Free gift with purchase of Large Popcorn or Nachos
  • High Volume Generator: Free gift with any Drink or Popcorn purchase

Pic n' Play is self-managing. There is no extra work or effort required on the part of theatre management or staff. Also, Pic n' Play is RISK FREE. Unused gifts are fully refundable and reordering is simple via 800# or e-mail. Additionally, Pic n' Play is designed for automatic expansion and a variety of media promotions, in 2006 music CDs, DVDs, and MP3 (iPOD) accessories will be offered.

Discover Pic n' Play - There is nothing like it in the Cinema Industry!

For full details or to enroll as a participating Pic n' Play Cinema contact: Entertainment Equipment Corp. at 800-448-1656 or entequip@aol.com.