A New Lobby Experience: Interview with Keith Yanke, Senior Director of Product Marketing, NEC Display Solutions

Every time Carmike Cinemas wanted to roll out a special concessions promotion, the fourth-largest exhibition chain in North America faced a logistical challenge. The chain had to notify individual managers across its 280 theaters, and then send the appropriate materials ahead of time. With NEC’s digital display boards, Carmike could make subtle but important updates-introduce a new product or change a price-seamlessly and efficiently throughout its theaters. In addition, Carmike was able to transform the concession stands in its circuit to deliver a more visually engaging presentation to its patrons. NEC’s digital-display business has reached many other leading exhibitors in the United States as well, including AMC, Fridley Theatres, Santikos Theatres and Wehrenberg. 

BoxOffice spoke with NEC Display Solutions senior director of product marketing, Keith Yanke, to learn more about how the company is making an impression in the digital-signage sector of the business. 

NEC might be best known as a leader in digital projection, but the company offers exhibitors much more than that. Could you describe your product line for exhibitors?  

NEC is an industry-leading manufacturer of commercial- and professional-grade, large-format LCD displays (32″-98″) that are designed for digital-signage applications. Within the exhibitor vertical, these equate to ideal products for digital menu boards, auditorium signage, electronic movie posters (both indoor and outdoor) and box office displays.We also have a special financing program to help the remaining 1,000 screens at movie theaters across America make the conversion to digital cinema. It’s called “Ticket to Digital.” It’s an affordable monthly payment for a complete digital projector system. The Ticket to digital include the complete projector system and installation.

The marquee, lobby cards-they’re a staple of the cinema experience. How has digital signage transformed that experience for consumers?  

Consumers are now immersed in a more interactive, sense-compelling experience with Full HD movie trailers, videos of melted butter poured over a fresh bag of popcorn, and touch-screen kiosks for pre-ordered ticket printout. Digital displays also provide for a more tech-savvy look and appeal for the theater itself. The benefits for the exhibitor are numerous. These include promotion and price flexibility, compliancy, both from a corporate marketing perspective in addition to forthcoming FDA nutritional laws, advertising revenue streams, reduction in print/static sign production and distribution costs, and regional segmentation efforts.   

NEC can put on the hat of a general contractor and assist in supplying all components that are necessary for a successful deployment. This includes PCs/media players, content management software, cabling, video distribution, mounting and power suppression along with installation and logistical services. Our full turnkey approach even offers design from a content perspective (videos, images, copy writing, storyboard development).   

Are these offerings better suited for multiplexes, or can they also transform community cinemas with smaller screen counts? 

The key benefit to digital signage is that it offers scalability and control from one to thousands of screens and locations either via cloud-based or LAN/WLAN networks.   

We hear a lot about new innovations that help filmgoers get off the couch and keep coming back to the theater-from new digital projectors to luxury seating and enhanced dining options. Do you consider these NEC products to be part of this larger trend toward giving filmgoers a more valuable experience at the movies?  

Whether it is receiving your movie ticket from an interactive kiosk, reviewing up-to-date nutritional information from a digital menu board, or viewing the latest movie releases via a digital cinema projector, NEC is an integral part of the larger trend toward giving filmgoers a value-add experience.

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