When Vista Film Programming was first launched around 2004, the Vista landscape was very different. There was no Vista Group then; we were Vista Entertainment Solutions only and our customers were exhibitors.
Today, Vista is quite different; a group of companies, all of which provide technology solutions to the global film industry. The landscape that our software needs to navigate has changed substantially in the years since our founding business was established and today there is an ecosystem of products to help our customers through that same terrain.
In a previous article we discussed our process of transforming Film Programming, beginning with Film Manager, our new web-based film programming software. Part of that journey was the discovery of the need to improve the way our integrations work with other Vista Group product offers.
The reason is obvious: if you are running Vista software, you should be able to make the most out of that software, and the ability to do that is significantly elevated if that application integrates seamlessly with another application with complementary features and benefits.
Enter Cinema Intelligence (‘CI’), which has been part of Vista Group since 2016. CI is a collection of business intelligence solutions that use machine learning and sophisticated algorithms to optimize planning and scheduling of movies, enabling film programmers to derive maximum returns.
Vista Film Programming already integrates with CI; however, a user must jump between the two different applications and it was this less than ideal situation that we set out to resolve.
Some actions are first performed in Film Programming – then feed into CI; later, the user must open CI and continue their work there. That stage of work in turn flows back into Film Programming, and the user must finish the job there… The integration is there, but it is a cumbersome user experience.
"Users of both Film Programming and CI should feel as if they are only working in one application not knowing (or needing to), where one application ends and another one starts."
Integrating two applications in this way is complex, with CI a cloud-based service and Film Manager an on-premises hosted web application. So when the Vista Film Programming team joined forces with CI, it was a learning experience for everyone.
For instance, from a technical perspective, the fact that Film Manager, like CI, is web-based, meant that opportunities that were previously unavailable presented themselves. Early on, we agreed to embed the CI forecasting module within the Film Manager application. Several options on how to embed were discussed, and they ranged from Vista owning the UI and CI providing the API only, to CI owning the UI completely, and having it surface within Film Manager. The end result was a combination of the two, where some parts are owned and controlled by CI, and some parts are handled through an API. This approach provided the flexibility needed.
The first outcome of this work is set to be released in Film Manager 5.0.2. CI users will be able to forecast films before their first week of play, then have the forecasted numbers guide them when they make booking decisions, all within Film Manager.
Because we had already made considerable effort making sure that the processes of Film Manager and CI were compatible, the forecasting steps fit neatly into the Film Manager process flow, which takes the user from booking a new release, to planning the upcoming week, to scheduling sessions. Forecasting before you book the first week of play, the forecast informs your decision of how best to play the film during its opening and subsequent weeks. You can be confident that your plan and schedule is the best it can be for your moviegoers and so for your business.
Vista Film Programming has come a long way since 2004 – and you would expect no less; neither do we. The new ecosystem of products that comprises Vista Group today, in parallel with our continued determination to take advantage of ever-evolving technology, offers plenty of opportunity to integrate deeply, ensuring that our customers can reap the full and added benefits of a collection of products that offer different but related solutions. This is our vision and the integration between Film Manager and Cinema Intelligence is a big step in that direction. You should try it, it’s totally liberating.