Internet and telephone booking may have been heralded as a glorious new dawn for ticket sales, but delegates at Cinema Expo conference in Amsterdam were this week warned about its impact on concessions.
Barry Jones, business development manager for Coca-Cola Greater Europe, pointed out that 40% of Swedish tickets are sold prior to the box office on the internet or the telephone. "The good news is that there's a very efficient ticketing process," Jones said. "The bad news is that 40% of people are turning up later for the movie, which means less selling time."
Adding to the pressure on concessions, a growing focus on linking cinemas to complementary leisure facilities - such as shopping malls and restaurants - means that the pattern of munching popcorn with a movie may be affected, as customers choose to eat out before visiting the cinema.
Jones calculates that concessions stands typically generate between 45% and 65% of a theatre's profitability, but receive only around 10% of management time. "You each wear two hats," he told exhibitors. "One as a seller of movie tickets, one as a food and beverage retailer."
Exhibitors were urged to develop a greater understanding of consumer behaviour at the concessions stand and identify the so-called low hanging fruit in order to increase retail spend in cinemas. "They come and buy a ticket," said retail marketing consultant Mike Claud, "and from there they've got a choice - go to their seats or visit the concession stand." In western Europe, around 40% of ticket-buying customers plump for the concession stand.
Duncan Reynolds, head of retail at UCI, warned that a culture of protest in the UK against "rip-off Britain" meant simply hiking prices was not the answer.
"There's been a culture in cinema business that every time it gets tough for retail, we put our prices up to try and increase our revenues," Duncan Reynolds, head of retail at UCI told a seminar at the European exhibition conference, which runs until Thursday. "That kind of strategy goes against what's happening in the general UK market now, where there's a culture of [protest against] 'rip-off Britain'. As our ticket price comes under threat, concessions become more important."