Why Movie Theaters Need to be Audited

By Naomi Balagot

empty movie theater

“I’ll just wait for it to come out on Netflix or Redbox.” Those are the dreaded words for movie theaters, which continue to struggle in foot traffic. The overall box office plunged 5.2 percent in 2014 as attendance dropped approximately 6 percent to 1.26 billion.

It makes sense when everyone has their own silver screen right in the palm of their hand! There has to be a more concerted effort at the corporate level than simply hoping the blockbuster releases are well-timed.

Movie theater operations should revolve around a single goal: To ensure that the movie-going experience meets — and hopefully exceeds — customer expectations for an enjoyable experience. Basically, theaters need to convince people to leave home.

This is why it’s crucial to regularly audit each aspect of the movie-goer’s experience, from the moment they enter the door to the time they leave. Here are three key areas of auditing a movie theater and sample form questions.

I. Promotional

  • Are the correct movie titles and showtimes displayed on the marquis outside?
  • Is the marquis well lit at night?
  • Does the board at the point-of-sale accurately display the latest releases and showtimes?
  • Are the correct promotional trailers running before each showing?
  • Are the latest promotional materials displayed for new and upcoming releases?

These may include:

  • posters
  • ceiling hangers
  • cardboard standups
  • digital signs

II. Concessions

  • Are all concession machines and condiment dispensers working?
  • Are the self-serve areas clean and organized (popcorn butter machine, straws, napkins, ketchup)
  • Are surfaces clean?
  • How are inventory levels? (You don’t want to run out of candy on a Friday night!)
  • Food safety: What is the temperature of the refrigerator for prepared foods (hot dogs, chicken tenders, pizza)?

III. The Experience

  • Safety first: Are emergency exits functional?
  • Is there adequate lighting?
  • What is the temperature of the theater?
  • Are projectors checked and serviced regularly?
  • Are films properly stored?
  • Is the cleaning schedule upheld?
  • Are theater floors swept and debris cleared after each showing?

Other operational aspects to keep in mind:

  • Audit the cash handling system.
  • Check registers, not only at the concession stand but also at the ticket booth.
  • Audit self-serve ticket machines.
  • If appropriate, regular audit your website’s ticket ordering system to ensure that it’s working properly. Accidentally overselling a show is a fast way to anger customers!
  • Check that restrooms are clean. This is crucial anywhere food is served.

Also keep an eye on staffing levels. For instance, more help may be needed ushering or selling tickets than behind the concession stand. Managers need the ability to respond to challenges in real time in order to cater to today’s average customer who wants everything on demand.

Remember: It’s important to stay positive and nimble in a challenging, multi-faceted operation.

“I remain very optimistic about our business and the future of our business, but everybody has to be smart and nimble and open to change,” said Sue Kroll, president of worldwide marketing and international distribution at Warner Bros. “It’s definitely a different climate out there, but the movies are the movies, and there will always be a place for moviegoing.”

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