Inside the Atom: Interview with Atom Tickets CEO Ameesh Paleja

How did the idea for Atom come about, and who have you partnered with to launch it?

We’re movie fans, and we were frustrated with the experience of coordinating a night out at the movies with friends. Between planning the group and picking the movie, the theater, and the show time, plans often fall apart. We wanted to create a social mobile app to make the process more convenient and enjoyable. Our goal is to make the process of purchasing your tickets and concessions, rallying your friends, and gliding through the theater lobby a process that is modern, using the best technology. We want to be the place where you coordinate plans with friends easily, and when you get to the theater we reduce wait time by having you scan your phone and skip the lines. We have emerged as a society of ease and convenience due to technology, and we’re bringing that power to theatrical exhibitors.

While we continue to actively engage with additional national, regional, and international partners to bring them onto the Atom Tickets platform, we are currently partnered with several theater chains, including Regal Entertainment, Carmike Theatres, and Landmark Cinemas of Canada. We also recently announced partnership with several studios, including the Walt Disney Company, 20th Century Fox, and Lionsgate Entertainment.

What are some of the first locations where Atom is available?

Our first launch markets were Knoxville and Cookeville, Tennessee, and Lima, Ohio, and we’ve just launched in Calgary, Alberta. We plan to roll out the service nationwide later this year in both Canada and the U.S.

Why decide to focus on a mobile app as the best platform for your service?

We rely on our phones to deliver us information many times per day. The phone is the primary computing device for everyone in the world. People love to go to the movies, and previously there wasn’t a convenient way to coordinate plans and buy tickets and concessions on one’s phone. As a mobile app, Atom provides moviegoers with an easy way to plan and go to the movies, no matter where they are. And there’s no need to print tickets at home or in the theater; it’s all handled right on the phone. Consumers expect that level of mobile sophistication, and we’re bringing it to movie theaters.

There are several social features, like polling and the ability to split ticket cost among a group. How did that focus on interactivity come about?

Going to the movies is a social experience. Atom Tickets extends the social aspect of going to the movies to the entire experience—from the moment a person decides that he or she wants to see a movie, to the social interaction with friends and family that happens after the movie. We also know how expensive it can be to pay for everyone’s ticket, and not everyone has the luxury or desire to do so. We wanted to create a way to invite friends, without having to pay for them, while still facilitating the in-app social experience. We see lots of consumers using our Rally feature to plan their nights out.

The variable pricing feature is very compelling. Can you tell us more about that concept?

Variable pricing, which uses algorithms to measure demand and price sensitivity for a particular movie and show time, has been shown to grow revenue in many industries. We developed the technology and used it in our early test markets to gather data. Customers have responded very favorably to this feature, and we have shown significant revenue growth. However, it is up to each exhibitor to price its movies alongside the agreements that they have with the studio. They are in control of how variable pricing gets used by Atom in the future.

Concessions purchases are another interesting feature–especially as theaters ramp up their options. Can you tell us more about that?

We wanted to make the entire moviegoing experience as easy and convenient as possible, and that includes the ability to purchase concessions through the app and use the Atom express pickup line. Concessions have always been a part of the movie experience, and now Atom has made a feature within the app where the full movie experience can easily be achieved with just a few taps, and the customer can bypass the lines at the theater. We believe it will lead to greater concessions sales.

What trends in ticket do you anticipate coming in the future? 

We see Atom as an evolving platform for revenue maximization for exhibitors (and fun maximization for consumers). Alongside our partners, we foster the idea to be flexible and test many features. The ones that work will be incorporated into our platform on a wider scale.

Currently, our robust technology can support reserved seating, dine-in, group sales, concessions sales and bundles, robust recommendations engine, targeted promotional-campaign management, and variable pricing. All of these features can be enabled at the election of our exhibition partners. They are not all tied together, because different circuits have different needs. We want to work with all of them, find the features that work best, and help grow the theatrical movie business.

What makes Atom different than other movie-ticketing apps?

Atom understands the content customers want to see based on all of their activity, including the trailers they watch, reviews they make, and their past purchases. We want to provide personalized recommendations to users based on their interests and let them know about promotions to movies they want to see. We want to deliver content that will resonate with them. We believe that with better technology that makes the moviegoing experience more convenient, we can encourage people to go to more movies. Atom wants the in-app experience to be just as impactful as the movie they see on the big screen.