Cinema Automation: Saving Time & Making Money
It’s no secret that, especially these days coming out of the grip of the pandemic, that strengthening and streamlining current operations and finding and utilizing additional revenue streams have become a necessity for most owners and managers to bolster a cinema’s bottom line. Turning to automation has become a critical choice when planning on how to get more people in seats and controlling a theatre’s overall budgetary expenses.
We must first understand that movie theatre automation is nothing new. It has been around since the 35mm film era, but with some obvious limitations. When digital cinema took root about 16 years ago, automation systems became increasingly more necessary. Then, about eight years ago when the majority of auditoriums had been converted to digital, automation became even more important due to letting go of past restrictions and opening up new areas of possible profit.
“In the digital era, automation begins with the TMS (Theatrical Management System) where you can load content (i.e. movies, ads, trailers, etc), you can build the SPL (show playlists), schedule show playlists per auditorium based on the POS (point of sales) schedules, and then transfer those packages to the servers located at each auditorium of the theatre,” explained Juan Carlos Brea, CES+ Cinema Services Engineer. “You can even control the TMS of the entire theatre chain from a central office.”
Brea, who has been with CES+ for nearly 22 years, continued, “You need a device or devices to play the content (server) and also a device to receive commands from the server and execute orders such as ceiling lighting control, wall lighting control, janitor lighting control, fire alarm script execution, turn on / off AC power on the different equipment to save energy, get temperature readings and send commands to turn off equipment when needed, etc. Also, with automation you can control the audio processor macros, volume, control projector macros, server macros, etc.”
In the end, all of this allows for cost savings due to less required manpower since most of the operational components are running automatically. For example, in the U.S., the majority of the theatres now only operate with a shift manager and ticket sales, concession and janitorial personnel. There’s no need to staff projection, audio, or TMS equipment personnel.
Then there’s energy savings that come with controlling the ON/OFF of certain equipment at the beginning/end of the shows or days of use. “An automated theatre is also able to be remotely controlled, which allows support teams to troubleshoot and even fix equipment without the need to send a technician to the site, thus saving a lot of time and related expenses, such as travel and overtime,” said Brea. “Customers will also enjoy the moviegoing experience even more as there will be far less issues since everything is usually programmed in advance and tested on a weekly basis, so there are less technicians messing with the equipment on a daily basis and most issues can be handled beforehand.”
In addition and possibly most important, in U.S., for instance, if you don't have an automation system installed, most likely you won't be able to run the fire alarm script which is a requirement of the Fire Marshall inspection for the theatres to get the certificate of occupancy.
No occupancy, no business.
Then there are also additional revenue streams that come with automating a cinema complex. “With an automated theatre, managers can also provide auditoriums with the ability to be rented for presentations, live events, etc. by showing content from media components such as a Blu-Ray players, laptops, satellite TV boxes, media servers, etc.,” Brea explained. “It can also enable PA microphones for the presenters, so you can also show live sports and other events.”
All of this is where CES+ comes in to help make the most of your cinema’s capabilities.
As an example, CES+ recently partnered with Ecuador’s innovation-centric movie theatre chain CINEXT. CES+ installed remote services as well as equipped the cinemas with the latest digital cinema technologies at CINEXT’s theatres in Manta and Quito.
“At CINEXT theatres, we aim to provide a premium experience, especially during the current pandemic as well as transitioning into the post-pandemic world,” explained CINEXT representative Adriell Deller. “We needed remote services so we could continue to operate no matter the issue, and CES+ was able to provide that for us. Our cinemas are state-of-the art facilities with luxury reclining seats, delicious food, a fresh and modern design and, of course, the latest technologies which drive our customer-led mission. We’re extremely happy with the installs that CES+ provided as these were an essential component to our theatres’ overall experience.”
CES+ installed CIELO and NOC services at Cinext theatres. CIELO is a powerful platform that will increase technician productivity by 25 percent, enabling Cinext to do more with less and reduce spare part management by 30 percent…real savings when they matter most. The NOC services are CES+’s technical support center for troubleshooting, managing RMA’s, and implementing the updates that Cinext require with immediate availability.
“CES+ is able not only to provide the hardware needed to automate a theatre, our team also provides remote services to our customers in which the automation itself has a very important roll, thus saving a lot of money to the theatre chains,” concluded Alex Younger, CES+ CEO.