Theater operational questions

posted by popcornn on February 21, 2007 at 7:34 am

I have some concerns about the operations of a theater and was wondering if anyone had some input.

Has anyone had any experience in adding ‘dancing lights’ to the exterior of their theater or to their marquee? If so, what equipment is required? I’m assuming there’s a main ‘brain’ to control the lights, or are they just a special type of bulb?

What is the biggest holdup in a concession line when trying to get the line through? Is it the bagging of popcorn or pouring of fountain drinks? Lack of decision makers in the line up? Would it be a good idea to turn the soda fountain machine around to allow customers to pour their own drinks once they ‘buy’ their cup from you?

Is there anyone here who knows a little about the in’s and out’s of quonset hut theatres? Are there any tricks or tips with them since they are a sheet metal building in the shape of a cut-in-half tin can? Are there any issues with heating and cooling? Ventilation? Panel repairs?

So what’s the most efficient way of heating a typical theater, of course assuming the basics (insulation, doors and windows) are normal. Are you better with forced air, or in slab heating? Oil, natural gas, or electric?

Comments (13)

longislandmovies
longislandmovies on February 21, 2007 at 8:20 am

The problem with chaser lights is that most citys hate them and dont want them…………They operate from a main brain ………..what state are you in that will help with the other questions …..

longislandmovies
longislandmovies on February 21, 2007 at 8:23 am

Soda takes the longest ………but is also the money maker in any theater….Never turn to self serve as it will kill your yields and give no reason to buy a LARGE!

KenLayton
KenLayton on February 21, 2007 at 8:37 am

The type of marquee/building lights you describe are called “chaser lights”. They are ordinary light bulbs arranged & wired to appear they are ‘chasing’ each other. Many times they are mounted in a sheet metal channel around the copyboard of a marquee (then they’re called “border chasers”). Chaser lights are all controlled from a device called a chaser controller. For most sign applications (and for reliability) these are electromechanical units consisting of a motor, cams, and a stack of switches activated by the opening/closing action of the cams. There are electronic versions of these, but they are not that good for outdoor use because of temperature extremes, moisture, and corrosion. In many jurisdictions the laws state the controler must be mounted within the sign itself or attached to the sign. However, before you decide to put chasers on a sign or building you better check ALL your local and state building & sign codes. Many jurisdictions have banned the use of chaser lights. Nothing wrong with chasers in my opinion, it’s just that some jurisdictions get a wild hair up their butt and pass laws banning them.

To get better and more answers to your questions, I suggest you join the forums at www.bigscreenbiz.com and check out the FAQ’s there too as many questions have already been answered.

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on February 21, 2007 at 9:00 am

I think the decision making process effects the transaction time at the Concession stand. Used to be small and large, popcorn, drink, and a candy bar. The chains try to put together package deals like McDonalds, so people have to stand there and think about all the choices they see on the menu board. Food at the movies used to be a snack, and theatre marketing departments think of it as a meal. The efforts to increase per persons have made the process more interesting though.

jnjeisen
jnjeisen on February 21, 2007 at 10:33 am

In a typical theatre you have a 30 minute window to sell concession items and you need to do this as efficiently as possible. Think about this as a customer would…You buy a ticket on a crowded night and go by the concession stand and see it is about 4 or 5 deep. You know that you will wait about 5to10 minutes to get your treats. You must make a decision, do I sacrifice good seat selection for concessions? You decide to get seats and then come back out. You find prime seats…right in the middle. You sit down and get settled and before you know it people have taken the empty seats to your left and right and you decide that you don’t want to stick your butt in their face getting in and out so you decide to not get concessions this time around. Who loses? Everybody. The patron can’t snack during the movie and the theatre loses a portion of the most profitable area of their business.
You need to study the work station patterns of your employees. Do employees cross paths getting popcorn? Is the popcorn machine more than three steps away? If your employees fill soda’s , are they multitasking by asking the customer for the next part of their order? Are your soda machines portion controlled so the employee can continue the order and not watch the drink fill up? I am a strong advocate of self-serve drinks. Yes, you do put your yield in jeapordy by allowing patrons to fill their own drinks, but I believe you are far better off sacrificing yield in favor of the increased volume and the potential savings on payroll. A well positioned drink station, along with adequate supervision, can be a very positive thing for a theatre. Over the past ten years Convenience stores and Fast food restaurants have trained people how to do their own drinks and I actually believe they prefer it that way. A well positioned and obvious security camera will help stop the unauthorized free refill. Yes, some will steal but I think you need to look at the overall big picture and not base your business decisions on a few who would steal from you.
Candy can be a problem. If you offer too large a selection, it can slow the decision time. Try only to offer the basics and make them big so it is worthwhile.

JodarMovieFan
JodarMovieFan on February 21, 2007 at 11:39 am

As just a regular but frequent moviegoer, I’ve always been confounded as to why movie theaters cannot be more efficient in selling their concessions. My local Regal plex used to have a section where the more popular items were already stocked; various popcorn and soda sizes, nachos, large candy items, etc. Everything is there for you to get, no waiting. To echo and use a phrase that the comedian John Pinette says..“just grab and go” people! Grab your popcorn, soda and proceed to the cashier, pay and go quickly to your seat! Nowadays, there’s a snaked line of about 25-30 people who are individually served their popcorn and soda, while everyone twiddles their thumbs or bites their fingernails hoping to get their goodies before the show starts.

So butternut73, speaking from the other side, if you can get your customers to get the frequently asked for items ready for them to grab and go, you serve them more efficiently and quickly and earn faster $.

Mindhunter55
Mindhunter55 on February 21, 2007 at 3:41 pm

I am a former theatre manager and I would say there are several factors that cause slow concession lines. Proper staffing is important. If you expect to be busy make sure you have scheduled accordingly. People not being able to make up their mind is a factor, but there is little you can do about that. A huge factor is having you stand prepped. Pre-bag your popcorn and keep the bags in a warmer. Make sure whatever size popcorn you sell the most of has the most premade bags. Also, make sure the items you sell are in a close proximity to your registers. Your cashier should not have move very far to get popcorn, candy, soda, etc. Finally on the issue of soda don’t turn it around and let customers fill the cups themselves. It will cause congestion, be very messy, and lead to waste and higher costs. If you have the soda towers with censors I suggest that you have your cashier fill the soda while they are retrieving the rest of the customers order. That way after they have gotten the popcorn and candy all they have to do is put a lid on the soda. If you have any other questions I would be happy to share my knowledge of the business.

Mindhunter55
Mindhunter55 on February 21, 2007 at 3:41 pm

I am a former theatre manager and I would say there are several factors that cause slow concession lines. Proper staffing is important. If you expect to be busy make sure you have scheduled accordingly. People not being able to make up their mind is a factor, but there is little you can do about that. A huge factor is having you stand prepped. Pre-bag your popcorn and keep the bags in a warmer. Make sure whatever size popcorn you sell the most of has the most premade bags. Also, make sure the items you sell are in a close proximity to your registers. Your cashier should not have move very far to get popcorn, candy, soda, etc. Finally on the issue of soda don’t turn it around and let customers fill the cups themselves. It will cause congestion, be very messy, and lead to waste and higher costs. If you have the soda towers with censors I suggest that you have your cashier fill the soda while they are retrieving the rest of the customers order. That way after they have gotten the popcorn and candy all they have to do is put a lid on the soda. If you have any other questions I would be happy to share my knowledge of the business.

popcornn
popcornn on February 21, 2007 at 4:54 pm

Thanks for the suggestions. Looks like the webmaster mushed my 3 posts in to one big post.

Would the idea of a concession cart be a feasible venture for a 350 seat theatre for certain shows, or are concession carts best left to the airline industry?

Mindhunter55
Mindhunter55 on February 21, 2007 at 6:04 pm

A concession cart is a great idea. We used it at the theatre that I worked at. We sold popcorn,soda, & candy. We would bring the cart to one of our busier movies about 15 minutes prior to showtime. Customers who may not have wanted to wait in the concession lines could now by snacks without leaving the theatre, and there were those who made impulse purchases. It will not only increase your profits, but it will make your customers happy.

IanJudge
IanJudge on February 21, 2007 at 11:22 pm

I also manage theaters and I cannot stand pre-bagged popcorn. It may make for an easier and faster transaction, but customers like seeing that popcorn comes from a popper – not that it has the potential to sit in a bag all day. I can’t even believe that some theaters do not pop their corn in the lobby – there is nothing like that smell and the sound of if popping to make people buy!

But it all depends on your priorities. To me, it comes down to staffing. If you want your lines to move, you need more people selling. It is that simple. You may not want to have that many staff on, but you also need to utilize effective scheduling – use your managers and ushers to help at busy times. Do you just want to sell people whatever stuff is cheapest/easiest, or do you want them to have a great experience and come back again?

norskinelson
norskinelson on February 22, 2007 at 7:25 pm

We restored our marquee of 1400 lights, most doing chasing scenes. Original controlling equipment was shot. So we installed new controllers. You may email me back with some questions…

DBrigode
DBrigode on February 27, 2007 at 8:54 pm

When it comes down to it, your staffing is crucial. Along with a game plan to utilize effective movements allowing for accuracy and speed. And still it all depends on the customer. A way to face this is with different combo specials. It narrows the decision making process and your employees will not have to remember as much. As for self-serve soda, you would lose so much money and patrons would buy smaller sizes. To sum it up, offer them a bargain, quality, and various preset combinations and that should speed up the lines. Also it is always wise to have your popper going when shows are seating. It is a very good use of stimulants and increases their desire to purchase from the stand.

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