JACK ROE  has been providing custom IT systems since the 1980s and has seen pretty much every question that can be asked relating to installing cinema ticketing systems. This page is dedicated to helping to answer Frequently Asked Questions for newcomers to cinema ticketing and PoS in the cinema industry.

Can I reuse existing equipment?

Yes. Most equipment is very similar, even though it is branded under different manufacturers. However, computer terminals that older than 5-7 years old are generally not worth trying to salvage. Computer speeds are increasing all the time, and cinemas need equipment that is new enough that it can be relied upon. For this reason equipment that is less than 3 years old is fine, between 3 and 5 years is ok if on a tight budget, but beyond 5 years it is seriously worth considering replacing the terminals.

Can I sell both tickets and concessions?

Yes. All modern cinema ticketing systems allow operators to sell both cinema tickets and concessions (candy, popcorn, drinks etc) and almost all of them allow operators to sell both concessions and tickets from the same terminal, as part of a single transaction.

Will I have reports for ticket, concessions and studio returns?

Yes. All modern cinema ticketing systems offer a full range of reports, including both printouts for the studios and automated reporting that ties back to a 3rd party studio gross company, like Rentrak.

Can I process credit/debit cards?

Yes. All cinema ticketing systems feature credit/debit card transactions. However, it is not generally possible to pick any credit/debit card provider. This is because different providers have different interfaces and it is not possible for every PoS company to work with every PoS provider. There are workarounds - for example it is possible to have a custom from your PoS company (software is written specifically for interfacing with your credit card processor) but this adds to the cost of the system. Alternatively it is possible to use a third party gateway that is designed to access more than one credit/debit card company, but the gateway itself costs money and so generally offsets any potential savings.

What will my tickets look like?

Traditionally cinema PoS systems would print out card stock tickets.  However, with the proliferation of much more cost-effective 'clamshell' style receipt printers cinemas have increasingly been installing these less expensive ticket printers.  Also, as cinemas increasingly focus on their ongoing costs the 90% saving in paper (approx 0.1c/ticket) versus card stock (approx 1c/ticket) can becomes a significant factor.  In some cases cinemas with card stock printers have been replacing their existing printers with the receipt-style ones.  While the card stock printers are still installed by some art-house venues and also some of the higher-dollar multiplexes, both looking for the 'card feel', by far the most common printers are now the receipt-style ones (such as the Epson TM88, or compatible equivalent).

Will I have full inventory and stock control?

Yes - all major cinema ticketing systems include stock control modules so that stock can be moved in, solde, adjusted and audited.  Most systems also support multiple stock locations and also recipes (where a recipe might mean that a 'large soda' consists of a large cup, large lid, large straw and volume of soda, all taken from stock at the same time when a large drink is sold).

Will I have internet ticketing?

Yes - all major ticketing systems support native internet ticketing.  It is therefore possible to sell tickets for your cinema online without the need for connecting to third-party sites and additional services.

Can I sell gift cards?

Yes - all cinema ticketing systems support gift cards, so that a cinema can sell gift cards for graduation, holidays, birthdays etc and they can be given as gifts to friends and family.  Equally, parents can give gift cards to their children in order to make sure that the money is being spent at the cineme.  Gift cards are very popular also as corporate gifts, and so it is possible to make large corporate sales of many gift cards to a single large customer.

What is a membership system?

Membership systems provide cinemas with the functionality to provide a card to a customer (often at a cost) that then provides a discount on purchases.  For example a cinema might sell a Membership Card for $30 and then provide $2 off every movie ticket and $1 off a popcorn.  However, some cinemas might sell the cards at a much higher price (for example $50/month) and then provide free tickets (essentially paying for the film rental using the monthly fee, as the film rental for each customer must still be paid).

What is film rental?

Film rental is the money that must be paid to the studios for the rights to show a movie.  In most cases this is based on a percentage of the ticket price.  However, there are variations on this formula including using a proxy for the average ticket price as well as using a percentage that is based on the nationwide ticket sales of the movie.

How far back does my data go?

Most ticketing systems store data for the lifetime of the PoS.  It is therefore possible to look at reports going back many years and even over a decade depending on how long the PoS system has been in place.

Do I require a dedicated server?

Approximately half of today's cinema ticketing systems recommend some form of dedicated server at a cinema.  The theory is that by having a single dedicated server that stores all of the core data then the cinema is better protected against problems that might unintentionally be introduced by user error onsite including viruses or other changes that impact the PoS.  The benefit of not having a dedicated server is that systems are cheaper as there is less hardware.  Some systems will recommend a dedicated server but provide the customer with the option of opting not to have one if there is not room for one in the budget.

How do my showtimes get on to my website?

All cinema ticketing systems output data in a variety of different formats including xml and bload file (fixed length text format).  It is possible to write a script for a website that automatically imports this data and show it on the cinema website, along with posters, movie synopses etc.  However, some cinemas are not set up in this way and so manually change their website every week.