Could cinemas learn something from Uber?

I tried out a new app on my phone the other day, something I had heard a lot about and that is fairly new here. Uber downloaded and set up very easily, and then I used it for its intended purpose — and ‘Uber-ed’! It was so easy — and it got me thinking; why can’t going to the cinema be this easy?

When I go to the cinema, what I want is simplicity. I usually know what movie I want to see, the location I’m likely to visit, what time period I want to be there, what concessions I’m going to purchase, and how I’m going to pay. So why make it so hard?

Firstly, by storing my payment details, Uber makes transactions super easy. For my cinema visit, surely I should be able to register for a payment process that allows me to pay for tickets booked from a website, smartphone, or cinema without taking my wallet out of my pocket. In fact, why do I need to take my wallet at all as long as I have my phone and there is some sort of simple verification process?

Uber Opinion Piece

Next, ordering a vehicle via Uber is seamless. I can see what cars are nearby, what their arrival time will be, and how they are rated. So why can’t the fancy mobile app the cinema uses ask a couple of questions and tell me what my options are? If I happen to be standing in the cinema foyer it should be even easier; one question, “What do you want to see?” followed by “Do you want your usual concessions order?” Once the transaction has been made (without taking out my wallet) the ticket should arrive on my smartphone and my concessions should be available for pickup in 90 seconds.

Maybe life is a bit more complicated and I want to share a ride? Uber is smart and it delivers. Let’s apply that to the cinema. Maybe a few friends and I want to go to see a movie but we’re not sure yet what we want to see. If the cinema isn’t busy, why wouldn’t they provide me with a menu and let me select a movie – movie on demand? Okay, in the long term, that may require smaller auditoriums. But it could be quite fun, especially if you built in some sort of bidding process where others could either compete with you or join in to your selected movie (which might only show if a certain minimum uptake was achieved).

With all the competing offerings available today, cinema is only going to survive by providing an outstanding experience that differentiates it from other activities, and a big part of that experience is the purchasing process.

One of the interesting things about my experience with Uber so far is that while the cars themselves are okay (but nothing special), my feeling about the ride was very positive. This is entirely down to the ease of use. Cinemas must realize that things don’t have to be done in a certain way just because that’s the way it’s always been; that lines are required for efficiency, payment has to be cash or card, movies have to be scheduled... It is time to think outside the box about the process. Uber is a good example of that thinking.

Figure out how can you make it easier – not only for your moviegoers but for you. Commission the right technology, use it and do it.


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