Last week we were excited to attend a guided tour of an ‘all-digital’ location of the SilverCity CrossIron Mills Cinemas and XSCAPE Entertainment Centre just outside Calgary (Rockyview, AB) – the first of Cineplex Entertainment’s all digital concept locations and here is what we saw…
- The new facility is equipped with a full digital cinema projector system, larger screen in the UltraAVX auditorium, multiple video walls and Cineplex’ first all-digital menu board and movie poster network. The entire signage system runs on BroadSign and is largely hands-off for the local management team.
- The digital experience starts outside the theatre with an ultra-thin bezel video wall greeting visitors. In the vestibule, a similar medium-bezel 4×4 video wall expands the big screen feel. Both video walls are playing promotional trailer content and cause ample rubber-necking from the passing public.
- Next most prominent component is the digital menu-board system at concessions. Portrait-mode 46” LG screens span the length of the concession with landscape feature screens dispersed approximately every 4-5 screens. Using a larger 55″ or 65” display for the feature screen would have created a cleaner look, but I’m sure budget constraints were to blame; the set-up looks clean regardless. Menu content was visually appealing and well laid-out. Even small nuances, like system fonts were well thought-out. Transitions between content were smooth and showed no excessive flickering, sometimes characteristic of some menu-board software or overloaded hardware. We were told that the menu items and specials get updated automatically, with no intervention from the local staff.
- Finally, the technical jewel of the network we were told was the theatre poster network. Each theatre entrance was equipped with a screen announcing the movie playing, the film classification (PG, R, AA, etc) and a brief trailer. The back-end interfaced BroadSign CMS and Vista, Cineplex’s internal show-time management/scheduling tool. Entirely automated, the system controlled the content on the screens by pulling scheduling info from Vista, cross-referencing with the media asset database in BroadSign CMS and deploying content automatically. The theatre staff only had to update their schedules in Vista (on par with routine task as in any theatre) and the changes took effect on the digital network immediately.
The general manager, and our host, seemed extremely pleased with the system saying that it reduced workload off her staff that would otherwise manually hang and re-hang the posters to reflect any changes in show time and cinema changes.
Guest services desk also included 6 digital displays (4 landscape and 2 portrait) running a loop of promotional concession offers and movie teasers.
Almost entirely digital, the cinema used just 8-10 classic static posters, for upcoming movies. It was hinted that there were plans to replace these as well, but at a later date.
Concluding our visit, Cineplex indicated that they expect to begin rolling out digital signage technology the rest of their properties commencing in early 2011.
Coupled with Cineplex’s new UltraAVX premium theatre concept (larger screen, reserved seating, leather reclining seats and premium sound system) the entire facility looks stunning. Great job and hats off to both Cineplex and BroadSign for recognizing the value and promise of digital for the theatre industry. Our wish list would include some local messaging control (perhaps via BroadSign Creator application) to the local staff for promoting local events, but that is a policy not a technical issue and may come at a later date.