Movie theaters are not just for movies anymore: They are now upscale venues offering the flair of Hollywood for all kinds of business and family events. Several multiplex cinema chains have renovated their facilities to provide the latest technologies in the theaters, as well as in the lobby and other areas. Trailers for upcoming releases and ads previously projected on the big screen before the main feature are also played on large flatpanel displays in the lobby and hallways. Signage at cinema houses now extends to ticketing, concessions, restaurants and even bowling lanes. The revitalization of this segment of DOOH signage is creating both opportunities and increased competition.
Christie recently announced that Christie Experiential Network (CEN) has started to deploy its new cinema lobby concept with major cinema chains in the US and will have 200 locations deployed by the end of 2015. The company is offering cinema owners a digital media program that strengthens the guest experience and creates new revenue opportunities. The program is based on a unique business model that provides a fully integrated digital delivery, including media sales, digital strategy, content creation, interactive programming and network management.
During CinemaCon 2015, Barco announced that its turnkey Lobby Domination solutions will be deployed at Texas-based ShowBiz Cinemas to create interactive lobby experiences. Barco will manage digital signage, including content creation, distribution and display, and hopes to turn many cinema lobbies into revenue-generating entertainment centers.
Amidst the introduction of new turnkey signage solutions, it may be difficult to see where specific opportunities might exist for your company in product installation, systems integration, maintenance, managed services or even content creation. To gain some insight on this burgeoning and complex environment, let’s take a look at Christie’s flagship CEN deployment at Michigan-based Emagine Macomb Theater. The building, which once housed a grocery store, has been converted into a luxury multiplex theater. The renovated facility features nine auditoriums, including one with E-Max floor-to-ceiling screen and Dolby Atmos sound. Amenities include reserved luxury seating in power recliners, express ticketing, a full-service bar, Plymouth’s Ironwood Grill with made-to-order dishes and a frozen-dessert bar.
Christie used videowalls, mobile interactivity, gamification, ambient digital art and augmented content apps to create immersive and engaging experiences at the Macomb theater. A videowall of 16 Samsung DM Series 48-inch displays arranged in herringbone configuration on Crimson AV mounts is served content from a purpose-built PC. Additionally, the theater features a “video stripe” of eight 40-inch Samsung displays in landscape mode and four 48-inch Samsung displays in portrait mode to the left of the bar, which also has five screens, three of which are digital menu boards. There are 11 concession menu signs, five displays around the Coke Freestyle service area, two interactive kiosks, two box office digital signs and seven digital “poster cases.” Premier Mounts were used with most of the displays, and Brix PCs as media players.
With more than 50 digital displays, the engaging and entertaining experience in this theater is designed to impress even tech-savvy patrons. “Luxury seating, interactive kiosks, bars and full-menu restaurants are the new norm for cinema theaters,” said Paul Glantz, Founder/Chairman, Emagine Entertainment. “We wanted to complement the upscale design with a dramatic videowall and interactive displays. All this new technology has definitely enhanced our guests’ enjoyment and drawn moviegoers to this theater in numbers that far exceed our forecasts. We have plans to roll it out in eight additional locations,” noted Glantz.
But it is not just the number of displays that makes this theater an excellent model for “experiential entertainment” in all types of locations. Interactive gamification and augmented reality contribute to add more depth to the digital signage strategy. For example, using a 65-inch LCD interactive screen, guests can trigger “hidden” augmented reality experiences from digital posters and access exclusive content, such as behind-the-scenes videos, on their smartphones, via the Layar app. Christie produces and manages all the content, including advertisements, from its offices.
“Christie’s approach to digital signage in the cinema lobby is fundamentally about two aspects: bringing value from a guest experience perspective and generating new revenue opportunities for the exhibitors,” said Kevin Romano, Senior Director, Global Media, at Christie. “That’s why we put a lot of emphasis on content strategy, innovation and experience design. Our objective is to develop networks that showcase a certain level of depth, and the Macomb installation is such a great example on that level,” he noted.
Further explaining Christie’s concept, Denys Lavigne, Senior Director, Experience Strategy and Creative at Christie, said, “Within this installation you have a variety of digital applications that each have a distinct role and that all come together to create a complete digital experience. This theater features digital posters, interactive stations, high-impact hero walls, ambient and promotional displays, as well as the more standard box-office and concession screens. Digital signage is a context-centric medium, and we are trying to optimize the use and value of the media related to the specific marketing and business opportunities observed in the exhibitor environment.”
Christie pulled together and managed an exceptional team of professionals for the Macomb theater project. The company’s technical team worked with two systems integrators on the Macomb theater installation. Alltronics Systems, Ltd., was brought in on the recommendation of its client, Plymouth’s Ironwood Grill. Alltronics installed the videowall, video stripe and the displays next to the bar that were part of the signage system.
Opportunity and challenge best describe what Alltronics encountered on the Macomb project. “Although experienced with videowall installation, we had never been tasked with the herringbone pattern on that large of a scale,” admitted Dan Savino, Senior Field Technician, Alltronics Systems, Ltd. “From overcoming the limitations of display mounts not specifically designed for angled installation to discreetly concealing the Black Box DVI splitters, the project was a formidable challenge. It was a very professionally satisfying moment when the content creation contractors successfully displayed their first test media on the videowall,” he explained.
A job well done usually leads to others, and learning from every experience goes a long way in building expertise. Alltronics parleyed its recommendation from the Ironwood Grill into a major role in the Macomb install, and has since completed installation of cabling, projector, CCTV and security systems at other Emagine theater locations.
Staying current with the latest technical and stylistic trends can certainly help signage pros capture more sales but, ultimately, heartfelt recommendations from satisfied customers usually get the Oscar for business development.