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Theresa English

Exploring the Latest Trends in Entertainment – Chapter 4

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May 2024

by Theresa English, Principal

Not your Grandpa’s Bowling Alley

We started this series with a broad overview of why entertainment centers are important (LINK).  Chapter 2 brought you insights from the structural aspects (LINK) and Chapter 3 followed up with factors to consider from the MEP Engineering perspective (LINK).  Now I want to bring this series to a close with the thread that ties all the components together—learning and networking through entertainment focused trade shows. 

TK Architects has been designing entertainment complexes since our founder’s early days as a solo practitioner.  In fact, indications amongst exhibitors predicting entertainment’s relevance in the evolution of cinemas started long before Covid.  A worldwide pandemic crystalized the need for change to maintain the longevity of cinemas and to provide exhibitors a chance for income independent of the studio’s content supply stream.  The time is here, and more and more exhibitors are seeing the benefits and rewards of adding entertainment to their mix.

Bowl Expo

In recent years, the variety of amenities available for exhibitors/operators have significantly expanded. The appeal to clients is as diverse as the amenities.  By participating in Bowl Expo, we were able to see clients’ reactions in real time. I was not prepared to walk into the trade show hall and discover full bowling lanes set up as part of a trade show booth (little did I know what was in store for me later in the year). Numerous booths interspersed throughout showcased everything needed to run an entertainment center. There was ample networking and idea-sharing about the future of entertainment.  Surprisingly, there were fewer Food & Beverage booths than I expected. Overall, it is a great show I would recommend to anyone interested in bowling and entertainment.

IAAPA

Last Fall I went to IAAPA in Florida.  IAAPA encompasses a wide range of attractions, including entertainment centers, water parks, amusement parks, haunted houses, and arcades.  Walking in was quite an experience; imagine the size of six CinemaCon trade show floors combined into one room. Despite the expansive floor plan laid out before me, I still had to zoom in with my phone to read the names of individual vendors in each booth (thank you, guys, for color-coding the floor plan and the carpet).

There’s even an outdoor component featuring amusement rides, but the continuous rain throughout the week, unlike the typical 20-minute Florida afternoon showers, made viewing them a challenge. Some of the smaller rides are indoors, and the arcade games are set up free to play.  We got to check out some of the latest arcade attractions and hot new games.  Operators made sure to bring their official game testers –the kids!

With a couple days to explore I was able to see different aspects of the show:

  • Racing sims were a pretty hot topic this year and the variety of sizes and types of screens they come with equally varied. 
  • I witnessed a captivating water and laser show that could potentially be used for queuing purposes.
  • Complete bowling and duckpin lanes, including demonstrations of how hard it is to really tangle the string setters.
  • Roller coaster cars being unveiled.
  • Flying sims require fans and some crazy looking gear.
  • Arcade games both coin and redemption of all types and styles for every age.  Even a claw game for mini-booze.
  • Baseball, golf, soccer, cycling and football virtual reality or sims if your guests are looking for something more active.
  • I got to go on my first dark ride, an immersive 3D experience with motion seats and gaming interaction.  The motion seats were powered by a familiar name from the cinema world—DBox.

Networking

Familiar faces at booths of vendors we already work with both in cinema and entertainment were a pleasure to encounter.  Seeing new products and discussing potential use was thought-provoking.  Walking with clients to see what was intriguing to them and hearing why they wanted to know more about a particular amenity or attraction was illuminating.  Experiencing the massive trade show that is IAAPA should be on everyone’s entertainment bucket list but be sure to pack your most comfortable shoes!

Dine-In Cinema Summit

As we reflect on the past year, it’s evident that TKA cultivated an exceptional journey filled with new experiences in the entertainment sector.  We have witnessed the continuous growth and integration of the entertainment side of the business.  We anticipate this integration to expand steadily, merging with other aspects of cinema experience. In fact, Dine-in Cinema Summit has added a day designated to discussing entertainment centers!  I had the opportunity to share with fellow architects and general contractors some of the construction costs associated with entertainment centers at Dine-In. 

CinemaCon

The conversation continued at CinemaCon this year where I was able to participate in a panel hosted by the International Cinema Technology Association.  Each panelist shared different pieces of the puzzle of what it means to put an entertainment center together. Whether for new construction or renovation projects, participants shared wonderful information for the attendees.

Conclusion

We are so excited to engage with an increasing number of owners on the intersection of cinema and entertainment.  Exploring the potential for designing distinctive and personalized experiences at that intersection is thrilling. Additionally, we are delving back into what standalone entertainment entails. Whether, you are just starting your entertainment journey or refining your path, we encourage you to reach out to us!

What’s next?

We are looking forward to another Bowl Expo coming up in July, this year in Denver Colorado.  Conference is June 29-July 3rd, Trade Show is July 1st and 2nd.  This time we will be sharing a booth with our vendor friends from Proctor Company, booth #907 .  If you plan to attend, we would love to schedule a meeting.  Please stop by and say hello when you are there. 

Check out the article in the Cinema Technology Magazine from last winter (ARTICLE)!

Theresa English, Principal

Reflection and Recap

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by Theresa English, Principal

February, 20 2023

For TK Architects, the gift of 2022 was growth.  After two very difficult years, we saw our efforts pay off with work from new clients.  We added a new Principal, Trevor Ruhnke, which is very exciting.  Leading the next generation of owners will be an architect, a Structural Engineer and a MEP Engineer.  We also doubled our staff including  some fantastic interns.  The talent that has joined us is so exciting and fresh.  We are seeing their growth daily. 

Cinema projects have started to reappear on our drawing boards (okay, monitors but that isn’t quite as elegant of an image).  Entertainment is showing growth too.  Renovation to update and augment amenities is widespread and growing.

Our F& B clients are kicking off national growth programs and expanding their franchisee rosters.  We’ve been working with them to develop their prototypes to allow this growth to be efficient and cost effective while offering the best guest experience.  I was able to attend the Food Service Equipment and Design Thought Leadership Summit conference in Chicago for the first time.  It was great to spend a couple days thinking about what the customer experience of the future restaurant will be.

We have further expanded our project types to include convenience stores.  These clients growth was being hampered by not being able to roll out drawings fast enough.  We were able to help them accelerate and increase their growth and surpass their desired location count by end of this year.

We are happy to leave the early 2020’s in the past.  In 2023, we look forward to adding new clients and more staff to help them achieve their goals.  Stay tuned for further developments!

Theresa English, Principal

Restaurants of the Future: Experience and Technology

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by Theresa English, Principal

February 23, 2022

Restauranteurs and designers are rethinking how they will be designing in the future. Some of the trends you see now started prior to the Pandemic.  Self-ordering, kiosks, and grab and go were a few but some, like AI-assisted ordering, were accelerated by technology developments that happened during the Pandemic.  The typical time frame for technology development was greatly compressed by the need for innovation created by the Pandemic.   The events of the last couple of years are leading the way for these changes. Curbside is here to stay. Drawing people into a physical restaurant becomes more of a challenge.  Combining automation with the dining experience makes a new experience to pull customers away from their couch and the drive-thru.

Creating the experience: Customers want to be entertained. Food prep is one source of great entertainment. My nieces and nephews favorite restaurant was an open kitchen wood-fired pizza place. They would drag chairs over and press their noses against the sneeze guard. When they were watching, instead of pressing the dough into the pan, staff would toss it in the air and the kids would go wild. They were amazing and patient and would answer questions and chat with their audience. That kindness kept us coming back.  Panera announced their “Bakery Theater Experience” earlier this year.  The Krispy Kreme in Times Square includes an amphitheater.  The flagship Starbucks in Chicago includes roasting that patrons can see.  These restaurants create an allure for guests that can keep them coming back.

Automation:  The pandemic has already advanced apps, artificial intelligence, and online ordering, the next innovations will be staff efficiency. The push for increasing food industry wages has been exacerbated by the shortage being seen now.  The staff shortage contributes to the need for efficiency.  Automation is key for the future. Automation development has accelerated and now there are more options for preparing any type of food. Whether it is artisanal coffee or a full meal with sauces and a variety of ingredients. And do not forget the alcohol. One of the benefits of automating alcohol-related services is widening the pool of potential hires because you no longer need staff to be older.  Japan has probably the most extensive existing automation in restaurants, including arcades that are all claw machines for food.  The intrigue of seeing automation at work ties directly into the new experiences restaurants are looking to create.

The combination of curbside and automation makes for a great kitchen theater for those patrons dining in. Curbside makes for more food being prepared which provides more activity during a guest visit. Making the process visible provides something for guests to watch and enjoy.  Adding in automation imbues it with curiosity and allows staff to be more customer-oriented.  The patron experience will continue to expand. Design is the thread that will allow the multiple aspects to be woven together.

Have more questions about the future of the restaurant experience? Ask! Email me at tenglish@tkarch.com

Theresa English, Principal

Resiliency for Cinemas to Rebound and Thrive

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DECEMBER 8, 2020

Resiliency is not a new term for the Cinema Industry.  The industry has faced adversity in the past but economically has always been the Teflon industry.  Cinema has survived TV as noted by Greg Marcus:

“My grandfather, I know one of the ways he built the business after TV came along — so let’s talk about the fact that this industry does endure some significant shocks. And it endures. The keyword being endure. He went around to people who were getting theaters back and said, ‘Look, we’re going to partner. Because it’s going to come back at some level.’ And he was right. So I think there could be opportunities like that as we look forward.”

Greg Marcus

Marcus Theatres CEO Says Biz Endured “Significant Shocks” Before — Q3 Earnings – Deadline

After TV, cinema has survived the rise of VCRs, DVDs, and streaming.  At TK Architects, a nearly 40-year-old firm that has specialized in Cinema, Entertainment, and F&B since its inception, we believe cinema will survive the pandemic and can thrive again.  Building on our expertise, we challenge our architectural and engineering staff to develop dozens of concepts for cinema business post-pandemic.  We have also seen our vendor partners with longer histories than us pivot and provide creative solutions that are helping cinemas (and other industries) meet their immediate needs during the pandemic.  To move beyond surviving and back to thriving the question needs to be what is next for cinemas?

Converting to recliners and elevating food offerings implementation continues to be key improvements for re-inventing the industry.

Examining what is next for cinema is something TK thinks about every year since our creation but in a formalized way for the last 9 years.  Provoking a conversation tailored to a client’s individual needs while thinking about those needs differently is what we strive to accomplish with these concepts.  Sometimes the ideas push the envelope with a dreamer’s surrealism and other times they are perceived as achievable with some additional creativity. One of my favorite activities has been showing them to various clients and hearing their responses.  Clients can visualize them for their own brands.  Deciding the factors that go into the path to resiliency are unique to each location.

Covered speaker concept that was later executed by a client.
Urban outdoor cinema concept.

Right-sizing for new construction and re-demising for renovation are parallel paths that clients have taken and both remain relevant.  Reducing screen count is one approach.  This can provide negotiation options for discussion with the Landlord by giving back space.  Another approach we see as viable is repurposing the extra space for new entertainment uses.  Reuse ideas can include an expanded bar or a kitchen to convert the facility to dine-in.  Bowling, arcade, or trampoline are also repurposing options.

Re-demised cinema that reduced screens from 24 to 14.

Concept for repurposing an auditorium as a bar adjacent to the Lobby.

Repurposing for event cinema, e-sports and gaming or other experiential cinema helps to diversify revenue streams making a location less dependent on Hollywood (or local content as the location may dictate). All of these alternatives can draw audiences to a facility at varied times beyond the prime Friday and Saturday night slots.  Finding the right mix for your facility requires research and testing.

Capitalizing on the information and data that an exhibitor has access to from their loyalty programs can factor into additional amenity research.  As cinemas diversify their offerings, avoiding the struggle cinemas experienced when first managing kitchens for dine-in by adding people knowledgeable in these different areas will help the ventures succeed.  The road to rebounding and thriving will be paved with combinations of the elements mentioned here.  We look forward to helping to steer clients to the road that works for them.

Theresa English