Cinema sees phone bookings as solution to movie queues
(Dominion NZ; 03/22/99)
VILLAGE Force Cinemas is launching a phone ticketing service to eliminate
queues at picture theatres.
Dubbed "Cine-Line", the service is expected to launch within two weeks at
Village branches in Auckland and Hamilton, after tests at its Newmarket cinema.
Customers will be able to purchase tickets and "combo" snack food packages
using a touch-tone phone and their credit card. A charge of $1 per transaction
is added unless tickets and food are purchased together.
When customers arrive at the cinema they enter a "speed queue", which lets
them swipe the credit card to print the tickets.
Village Force operations manager Rick Poole says it wants 15-20 per cent of
tickets sold through the system by the end of this year. It sells about 4
million tickets a year, he says.
Even if electronic ticketing becomes very popular, Village has no plans to
shed staff, he says.
"We're at a good staff number. We're doing this as a service initiative, not
a staffing initiative."
Mr Poole says electronic ticketing helps the company through "burst"
periods, when some cinemas process up to 2000 tickets in 20 minutes.
Village Force also operates six ticketing kiosks in Auckland, which let
customers pay for seats using an automated Eftpos system. Another six kiosks
are due by the end of May when the company opens a new Auckland cinema.
Competitor Hoyts will have its own electronic phone ticketing by mid-year,
says operations manager Chris Rawlings. It is still looking at options, he
says, and will launch in Wellington first.
Some independent cinemas, such as Wellington's Penthouse, let customers
manually reserve tickets over the phone, then pay on arrival.
The Village system will use "V-Codes", similar to television G- Codes, to
speed the phone booking process.
If customers have the V-Code for a movie they can automatically identify
film, time and venue. If no V-Code is available customers, can pick from movie
Cine-Line will be available to Village Force's Wellington and Christchurch
Rialto customers by the end of the year, when upgraded software is installed to
beat a Y2K problem.
The system has been developed with Auckland-based Madison Group, which
originally developed Village's "Vista" cinema ticketing software. Computer
telephony firm Powercall NZ is also working on the project.