The future of movie theaters in the post-COVID reality

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the entire movie industry. Not only were the cinemas closed for many months, but also several big movie conventions were canceled and some of the most anticipated premieres – postponed. After this period of stagnation and uncertainty, movie theaters are now coming back! In this article, we take a look at how your customer’s expectations have changed during the lockdown period what you can do to optimize your movie ticket sales and ensure your business’s long-term sustainability.

The situation of movie theaters during the pandemic

The movie industry has been lately one of the most disadvantaged entertainment sectors. The list of productions that were impacted and delayed by COVID-19 amounts to hundreds of different titles, including promising blockbusters and the list is still growing. The restrictions introduced in many countries forced movie theaters to shut down for several months. In some countries, theaters can open only outside curfew hours and have to operate their auditoriums at a limited capacity. Worst of all, for the few cinemas that are allowed to operate, most of them are not permitted to sell concessions! All these factors have resulted in a significant revenue drop and introduced a sentiment of uncertainty which has put the whole industry at risk.

Giving people what they expect

Although the pandemic has generally resulted in stagnation and dealing with limitations, it can be argued this period has also had some positive effects on our lives. These include easier access to popular products and services as well as making sure customer experience and service are everyone’s top priority. With a rising number of online stores, mobile apps, and other technologies that make our lives easier, we simply now take all this for granted: more and more people are choosing self-service checkouts, ordering from mobile app menus, or using mobile payments even in brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants. This sudden uptake has encouraged many business owners to start introducing innovative digital solutions that are expected and requested by their clients and it is safe to say, we can expect that buying things or booking services online or through a mobile app will be the new norm across all entertainment and hospitality venues.

How to adjust to the consumer’s needs?

Buying movie theater tickets online was already widespread even before the pandemic, however, the trend has experienced an unprecedented acceleration in the last year. This is understandable as the process brings many tangible benefits to customers. Thanks to digital technology, patrons can seamlessly plan their visit and book their tickets through mobile apps or directly on movie theaters’ websites, they don’t waste time in queues and can pay for their purchases instantly. They can show up in the theater a few minutes before the movie starts and head directly to the screening room or arrive more relaxed and find time for a pre-movie drink or trip to the concession stand. Some cinemas are even offering their customers the ability to buy concessions online for counter pick up or for an in-seat delivery. Providing clients with a fully supported, contactless, efficient, and compelling digital sales channel has today become essential for most cinemas in order to meet the renewed demand and expectations of their patrons.

Ticket booking system for movie theaters: two options

If you plan to also provide your clients with the possibility to book movie tickets online or are looking to upgrade your current solution, you should carefully select the software that you plan on using. The first thing to consider is the reliability of the service provider – while picking the system make sure it offers secure payment modes, a user-friendly admin page where you can introduce all necessary changes, purchase confirmations, etc. Remember to ask for references and proof that demonstrates the software can cope with peaks in demand: when tickets for Avengers End Game went on sale, many established and state-of-the-art booking solutions crashed due to the huge transactional traffic. Another important factor is data ownership, can your future supplier ensure your customers’ data will only be available to your cinema? One can easily argue that this data is more valuable to your cinema in the long term than the booking fee you charge today. Finally are you sure the software will meet all your customer’s future expectations? Will they be able to buy concessions as well as tickets? Redeem their vouchers or gift cards? Ensure your brand is promoted and visible? When you find the perfect system, don’t forget to check how much it costs and if the amount you pay for the system is constant or if it varies depending on the number of tickets purchased by your clients, the volume of concession they buy, or how many vouchers/gift cards you sell.

Fixed-rate

In the case of fixed-rate ticket booking system, the amount of money you pay for the software is constant. It means that you always know exactly what are the costs of the system. Even if sales boost, you don’t have to pay more and if you decide to charge a booking fee, this becomes revenue and not a cost!

Rate based on sales volume

Some software providers base the cost of their software on the volume of online tickets sold and on your online concession turnover. The amount to pay to the service provider depends on the number of tickets you sell using their system. The more tickets your clients buy, the bigger your costs end up. Some of these costs can be offset by charging your customers an online ticket booking fee, however, there is a growing trend to remove any booking fee and some cinemas are even offering incentives to customers who book online.

Which type of ticket booking system is better?

The choice of ticket booking system should always be well-thought-out since it will probably serve you for many years. Although systems offering rates based on sales volume may seem to be a great option for a start they are rarely profitable in the long run. Outsourcing your online sales to a third party will not only be more expensive but also in most cases result in loss of precious customer data. Keep in mind that cinemas are only now reopening after a long lockdown period and restrictions, the number of clients booking movie tickets online is expected to significantly grow in the upcoming years, so if you want to maximize your revenue, streamline your F&B operations, use your customer’s online transaction history to drive new business and optimize your overall costs, carefully select your future software product and prefer those that deliver all the functionality through a single solution, relying on multiple integrations will inevitably lead to performance issues and increase risk.

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