Movies aren’t Cineplex Entertainment’s only business

Digital menu displays probably aren’t the first product that comes to mind when you think of Canadian film exhibitor Cineplex Entertainment Inc. – or the second, or third.

Yet for more than a decade the company’s Cineplex Digital Media division has been quietly building an empire, providing digital signage technology and services for such clients as Ontario’s Beer Store, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), ScotiaBank, Bank of Montreal, Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, Walmart, and most recently, A&W and Dairy Queen, across the country.

Cineplex Digital Media president Nick Prigioniero
Cineplex Digital Media president Nick Prigioniero has been a leader in the digital signage business for more than 15 years.

“We basically tie everything back to strategy,” Cineplex Digital Media president Nick Prigioniero tells when asked for the company’s secret to amassing such an impressive list of clients.

“We have a proprietary platform which has been very, very successful in managing large, complex networks, but we start by talking about our clients’ business objectives first, and how we can best help execute them,” he says.

It helps that Prigioniero has had nearly 16 years to hone his skills: he joined Cineplex three years ago after more than 12 years as president and CEO of London, Ontario-based digital signage firm EK3, which the theatre chain acquired in 2013.

Operating as an independent division of its parent company, Cineplex Digital Media offers clients a full-service digital solution that includes hardware installation; enterprise-class software that can be adapted to a variety of platforms, including mobile devices; networking and security services; content management systems; app development; point-of-sale integration; and creative application support.

“It goes beyond technology – it’s really about looking at a client’s needs and being able to execute their vision,” Prigioniero says. “That’s what we were able to do for the Beer Store – go in with a fresh look that was able to address a particular problem, and scalable enough to fit any type of footprint.”

A sampling of Cineplex Digital Media's clients. (Courtesy Cineplex)
A sampling of Cineplex Digital Media’s clients. (Courtesy Cineplex)

While Cineplex’s film exhibition business remains front and centre in the consumer consciousness, the company has been making a concerted effort to offer a broader range of experiences in recent years, communications director Sarah Van Lange tells in addition to theatre chains such as SilverCity, Galaxy Cinemas, and Cineplex VIP, the company owns and operates the UltraAVX digital display platform, Xscape Entertainment Centres, restaurant brands such as OutTakes and Poptopia, and advertising arm Cineplex Media.

Van Lange says that while the company’s signature film exhibition business is thriving, welcoming around 77 million guests last year – its most successful yet, she notes – the company has taken steps in recent years to diversify its business in order to encourage growth, and one of those was its 2013 purchase of EK3, along with Waterloo-based Digital Display & Communications Inc. in 2010.

In fact, many of the division’s higher-profile clients are legacy customers of EK3, including Tim Hortons, McDonalds, Walmart, Bank of Montreal and RBC, which relies on Cineplex Digital Media to provide and manage the digital screens that appear in both its physical branches and across its ATM network.

Prigioniero still remembers his company’s first brush with RBC: “At first, they were just looking for a digital signage solution,” he says. “We were able to work with them on a renovation project that saw them redesign their branches in a way that allowed them to communicate better with their clients.”

“They wanted to communicate with people in Labrador as well as they could communicate with a neighbourhood in Toronto,” he explains.

Starting in 2004, EK3 – and later, Cineplex Digital Media – began developing and providing RBC managers with software that lets them adjust the messages that appear at each branch, choosing from a “playlist” of around 50 and selecting each message’s time of display so that residents see targeted messages based not only on where they live, but when they’re visiting.

“Folks that walk into the branch early in the morning will have different needs from folks who come in at lunchtime or at the end of the day,” says RBC vice president of marketing Alan Depencier, who has been with RBC long enough to remember the company’s pre-digital marketing days.

“You had posters, you had brochures… and there were a lot of limitations,” he says. “You had to produce everything, you had a warehouse you had to ship it from, and there were costs associated with that.”

Another challenge in the pre-digital era was that replacing messages could often take weeks, whereas today, ads or messages can be updated in minutes, Depencier says.

“We did a pre- and post-test with digital, and saw that our overall client experience showed double-digit increases,” he says.

RBC’s WaterPark Place branch in Toronto, designed with support from Cineplex Digital Media. (Courtesy Cineplex/RBC)

Prigioniero says that if Cineplex does have a secret to finding new clients, it lies with the service it provides to existing ones.

“Our clients are our biggest advocates,” he says. “The reason we keep winning new contracts is our clients keep giving us such great referrals.”

RBC’s Depencier, at least, proves him correct, calling Cineplex Digital Media “a true Canadian success story” without any prompting.

“Within their niche they are an emerging leader which has been built on great customer service, leading-edge technology, and strong partnerships with some really great Canadian brands,” he says.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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