Working in film exhibition

02 Working in commercial film exhibition

In addition to careers in independent exhibition, there are many interesting and challenging roles available in the UK's commercial cinema sector, whether located at a central head office or on-site.

Head Office: Film Booker

Like a programmer in independent cinemas, a film booker is responsible for booking films for sites throughout a commercial circuit and negotiating terms and deals with film distributors.

Some film bookers consult on-site cinema management teams on film choices and scheduling, as well as trailer running orders and marketing materials; others do this centrally without consultation.

Film bookers tend to dictate how many screenings of each film a cinema must play per day, often because they have an existing agreement with each film’s distributor for a certain number of screenings per week or per day. The number of screenings will also be based on maximising profit.

Mondays are a film booker’s busiest day – on a Monday morning, they analyse each film’s weekend box office data and decide, in negotiation with its distributor, whether to ‘hold over’ the film. This basically means deciding whether to play the film for another week or take it off, depending on how well it has performed.

Head Office: Marketing

All marketing – including online and website development – is done centrally, usually for the entire circuit. Most marketing departments produce weekly print for their cinemas, advertising the films and times.

Sometimes commercial exhibitors do marketing deals with specific suppliers on certain titles – for example, a big kids’ summer release might be sponsored by a food manufacturer and any cinema marketing material will promote the sponsor. This is often done in conjunction with the film’s distributor.

On-site cinema team

An on-site team in a commercial cinema is quite similar to the independent model and is usually made up of a regional manager (who actually isn’t on-site that much, but travels around their region to support the cinema teams) and a cinema/operations manager, responsible for the day-to-day running of the cinema, achieving targets and driving sales, staff training and management and all aspects of customer care and safety.

The cinema/operations manager is responsible for a front of house team consisting of box office/concession sales/bar/café/usher staff and the projection team.


The projection team in a commercial cinema tends to project almost all films from DCP (Digital Cinema Package) though in some specialist branches of commercial cinema chains, they may occasionally be called upon to screen from 35mm, 70mm or IMAX.

Product and concessions

Virtually every commercial cinema has a concessions area selling ice cream, sweets and popcorn. Some also have a café bar. For many venues, these secondary sales are one of their biggest income streams.

A team based at head office will usually select the products the cinema stocks, negotiating circuit-wide deals with suppliers to get the best prices. This team will look closely at concessions takings, setting income targets for individual sites.

Estates and development

This department manages a circuit’s physical cinema buildings. They are responsible for expansions or any other developments, notably the building of new sites, and instrumental in any new design elements in existing cinemas. They are also responsible for cinema upkeep and will work closely with cinema managers on needs for repairs and any other building issues.


The IT team are responsible for ensuring that all the cinemas’ box office booking systems, tills and concession systems (as well as their email and computer systems) are fully operational. This is a key data collection area, with the information collected distributed at the head office.

Human resources

Responsible for staff recruitment (although in some instances, cinema staff may be recruited by cinema or regional managers), terms of employment, staff training and development, disciplinary issues and promotions.


The finance department is responsible for all financial planning and the overall running of the business, although there is often a CEO overseeing this and other departments. The role is very similar to that of the head of finance in an independent cinema but on a much larger scale, often managing the finances of a multi-million pound organisation.

Almost always, they are supported by an administrative team covering raising invoices, collating figures, paying invoices from distributors and other suppliers, banking, paying salaries and reporting income streams from various different areas of the business.

Subscribe to our mailing list

What would you like to receive emails about? *
* indicates required