Comprehensive digital signage design, installation and management services.
Comprehensive digital signage design, installation and management services.

Where And Why Cinemas Should Use Digital Signage

Self-service freestanding ticket kiosks at a UK cinema

We’re often asked questions like “Why use digital signage for cinemas?”, “What are the best digital signage solutions for cinemas?” and “Where are the best places to use digital signage in cinemas?” As with most things, the accurate answer to these questions is “It depends”. But that’s rather unhelpful, so we’ve tried to give the pros and cons and buying factors for a range of cinema digital signage solutions below. 


From the moment a customer arrives in the foyer to the time they leave, there’s only a brief window of opportunity to maximise your average customer spend, and to encourage them to return to your cinema.

Digital signage vastly increases the number of marketing messages you can display to customers within that short time window. It can also help to make customer’s visits more fun and avoid issues.

However, digital signage can involve a significant initial spend and ongoing costs. So, what are the best ways to use it and where, and what are the cost implications?


Digital menu boards

Cinema menu boards showcasing food and drink offers

Whether your foyer is large or small, digital menu boards positioned around your concessions counter is the best place to start when it comes to cinema digital signage. Why? Because they’ll draw attention to the counter and to the food/drinks options you have available. You’ll also have a captive audience whilst people queue for their food/drink order, that may be persuaded to upgrade their order and spend significantly more.

The flexibility that digital menu boards offer means that you can achieve lots with a fairly minimal spend on hardware. You can show a basic concessions menu, plus enticing video promotions of your most profitable products – which some brands make available for displaying on menu boards.

You can show off your product promotions and use enticing video footage or animation to draw attention to them. You can show box office availability, trailers for forthcoming films, adverts for annual passes and gift cards, and promote forthcoming event cinema shows they might want to attend, all on the same screens.

Ideally this would be done across a minimum of three screens to ensure that the text on screens is easily legible and visual details easy to see. However, for smaller cinemas with limited space, it is possible to split your screen displays so that your concessions menu, and other promotional information can also be shown on the same screen alongside each other.

Purchase cost: £-££

Ongoing costs (energy, maintenance): £

Exterior/window displays

Whether your cinema is large or small, if you have a high footfall outside of your premises, you should be considering a digital window display or outdoor display. Whether the passers-by are regular cinema-goers or more occasional visitors, if they are seeing trailers for the latest films, and adverts for ticket promotions, special showings, and events, it makes your cinema more visible and gives people multiple reason to visit regularly.

Whilst window/outdoor displays are more expensive than menu board screens, there are many different hardware options available. The type and cost of hardware required will depend on multiple factors. One of the most important is whether the footfall comes from pedestrians or motorists, as this will determine how large a display is needed and the angle it must be positioned at. Other considerations are:

  • Whether the display will be in full sun
  • How much window space is available (if any)
  • Whether an external enclosure is required

Window displays tend to be cheaper than outdoor displays because often only a mount is required to securely affix it to the window area. Outdoor displays require water-proof enclosures to protect the screen. They also need special high-bright screens that are designed to withstand different temperature ranges, which tend to be more expensive.

Purchase cost: ££-££££

Ongoing costs (energy, maintenance): £££


Corridor displays

Whatever film that cinema goers watch, when it ends, they’ll undoubtedly have been on an interesting emotional journey. If they leave a screening having enjoyed it, they’ll be in the right mindset to look for another similar film to watch.

Trailers and/or ticket promotions showing in cinema corridors and/or outside toilets can be a great way to capture someone’s attention before they leave and encourage them to return sooner rather than later. Corridor digital signage can also be used to display QR codes for trailers or events that people can check out whilst on their way home.

It is now possible to purchase special recessed enclosures that position screens so that they are positioned within a wall cavity/stud wall. These have a protective glass finish which covers the front of the screen and only projects two centimetres from the wall so the screen is much less likely to get damaged as people brush past them at busy times.

Using the split-screen function, you could also make these displays multi-use and show wayfinding information, such as the direction of toilets, bar/concessions counter, if appropriate.

Purchase cost: £-££

Ongoing costs (energy, maintenance): £

Box Office

Whilst many people now buy their tickets online before arriving at the cinema, there will always be customers who make unplanned trips, or simply prefer to buy tickets when they arrive.

These customers need to be able to see what showings there are and whether any seats are available. All too often customers arrive at the front of the ticket queue, only to be told that their preferred showing has no seats available. This causes disappointment and lengthens queues whilst these customers decide whether to see a different film or leave the cinema entirely.

Ideally there should be a display visible from the end of the queue with live data showing the availability for all forthcoming screenings. This will enable customers to plan ahead if tickets are running out and pick another showing that they’re interested in, avoiding any disappointment.

Purchase cost: £-££

Ongoing costs (energy, maintenance): £

Self-service ticket kiosks

Whilst it depends on the size and popularity of your cinema, it’s generally expensive to pay staff to sit in a box office, especially when there aren’t customers buying tickets. Self-service ticket kiosks take the pressure off staff at busy times, and avoid a staffing requirement when it’s quiet.

They can be used to prompt customers to sign up for email newsletters to get news on the latest film releases. They can also be used to up-sell luxury seats or promote food/drink offers and/or cross-sell discounts on subsequent additional ticket purchases.

These can be wall-mounted or freestanding and come in a range of different formats. They will require a touchscreen display, payment and ticket dispensary facility. They will also require a software user interface, which can be expensive to produce for just one or two kiosks, but even then will pay for themselves over time in reduced staffing costs.

Purchase cost: ££

Ongoing costs (energy, maintenance): £


Video wall/LED wall

Large format digital signage screen in a cinema showing trailers

As more and more new film releases are available to stream over the internet, the cinema ‘experience’ becomes more important than ever. Customers want to feel like they’re having a broader experience than just watching a film.

One of the best ways to do this is by showing trailers for the imminent showings on a large video wall or LED wall in your foyer. This creates a wow-factor upon arrival and, with the accompanying audio and the smell of fresh popcorn, stimulates multiple senses creating excitement and anticipation.

Video walls are the cheaper of the two with regards to hardware purchase, but LED walls are now becoming more affordable and are only slightly more expensive to purchase. They are also more cost-effective to run and have double the lifespan.

Purchase cost: £££

Ongoing costs (energy, maintenance): £££


Whatever the size and ambiance of your cinema, and the budget you have available, there are opportunities to improve your profitability through using digital signage. The difficulty is knowing what to spend your budget on to deliver long-term benefits, and where to buy it.

As a digital signage consultancy with 20 years’ experience in the cinema industry, we know that one size/type of screen doesn’t fit all. Different cinemas have different layouts, operational issues and priorities, and that’s why it’s important to get advice from an experienced digital signage consultant.

They’ll be able to identify the best places to use digital signage, which hardware is appropriate and give you very specific reasons for why they’ve specified what they have. They may also be able to suggest cost savings or offer package deals.

If the digital signage professional you’re speaking to isn’t interested in visiting your site (or seeing photos of it) and/or can’t explain why they’ve specified the hardware that they have, this should be a red flag to avoid using them.

Get in touch with Saturn Visual for advice on digital signage for your cinema or if you’re interested in our suite of services for cinemas or packages for small and independent cinemas.

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