02 Working in commercial film exhibition
In addition to careers in independent cinema, there are many interesting and challenging roles available in the UK's commercial cinema sector, which may be located at a central head office as well as on-site. Here are the main working areas available in commercial exhibition.
Head Office: Film Booker
Similar to the role of a Film Programmer in independent cinemas, a Film Booker is responsible for booking films in sites throughout the circuit and negotiating terms and deals with films’ distributors. Some Film Bookers will consult on-site cinema management teams as to film choices and film scheduling, as well as trailer running orders and marketing materials; others will do this centrally without consultation.
The Bookers tend to dictate how many screenings of each film the cinema will need to fit in per day – this is 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 will analyse takings data for each film that played that weekend and make a decision in negotiation with each film’s distributor whether to ‘hold over’ their film, which basically means that they decide whether to play the film for another week or to take it off, depending on how well it has performed.
Head Office: Marketing
All marketing – including online and website development – is done centrally and will usually be done for the entire circuit. Most Marketing departments will produce weekly print for their cinemas, advertising the films and times. Sometimes commercial exhibitors will 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 allocated region to support the cinema teams) and a Cinema/Operations Manager who is 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.
They will be responsible for a Front of House team consisting of box office/concession sales/bar/café/usher staff and the projection team. Ultimately the job of a Projectionist in a commercial cinema and independent cinema are the same – to project films – but the Projection team in a commercial cinema tends to project all of their films from DCP (Digital Cinema Package). However, in some specialist branches of commercial cinema chains, they may also be called upon to screen from 35mm film, 70mm film or IMAX.
Product and Concessions
Virtually every commercial cinema has a concessions area selling ice cream, sweets and popcorn. Some will also have a café bar. For many venues across the country, these secondary sales are one of their biggest income streams. There is usually a team based at Head Office to select products the cinemas will stock and negotiate circuit-wide deals with the suppliers to get the best possible prices. This team will look closely at takings in concessions areas and will set income targets for individual sites.
Estates and Development
This department manages the circuit’s physical cinema buildings. They are responsible for any expansion or other development, notably the building of new cinemas, and will be instrumental in any new design elements in existing cinemas. They will also be responsible for the upkeep of cinemas and will work closely with the cinema’s Manager, who will feed back any repairs and building issues.
Responsible for ensuring that all the cinemas’ box office booking systems, tills and concession systems, as well as email, are fully operational. This is a key data collection area with most data being collected and distributed at Head Office.
Responsible for staff recruitment (although in some instances, cinema staff may be recruited by Cinema Managers and Regional Managers), terms of employment, staff training and development, disciplinary and promotional issues.
The Finance department is responsible for all financial planning and the overall running of the business, although there is often a CEO who will oversee 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 definitely, they will be 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.