Operator Spotlight: How Martin Øsmundset took a local cinema from 5k to 17.5k visitors per year

May 29, 2023
The DX Team
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Cinema: Ås Kino

Location: Ås, Norway

Cinema Operator: Martin Øsmundset

Number of weekly screenings: 6 or 7 

Yearly admissions: From 5.000 in 2015 to 17.500 in 2019 

Started using DX in: 2015

Favorite part of working with DX: “I felt like DX was always one step ahead of the game, anticipating my needs before I could think of them myself.”

We had the pleasure of talking to Martin recently about his experience as a small cinema operator in Norway. Although he’s not an operator anymore, he was happy to share his experience with us to help other small cinema managers achieve big results. 

Martin is a copywriter turned small cinema manager. For him, text and film have always been intertwined, complementing each other in the art of storytelling. 

Armed with a master's degree in Film Theory from Lillehammer University College, he worked at the Norwegian film festival in Haugesund - first as catalog editor and then as assistant program manager. 

This led him to embrace the role of cinema manager for a small cinema in a Norwegian town that welcomed around 5,000 visitors each year at the time (it was the year 2015). He made it his mission to transform the cinema into a vibrant cultural hotspot in the town of Ås.

From 2015 to 2021, Martin's innovative approach to marketing and cinema management took Ås cinema's attendance to soaring heights - from 5,000 yearly visitors in 2015 to 17,500 in its triumphant peak year of 2019. A trajectory of success that promised further growth, only to be driven to an unexpected halt by the outburst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One thing is clear: Martin's success isn't a strike of luck. We’re here to share the story of how he went against the tide by thinking outside of the box and implementing crucial shifts in the way things were done with the help of DX. 

Optimising the cinema management process with DX 

Starting out, a lot of Martin’s job as a cinema operator consisted of typing repetitive information into the cinema computer. It was a manual nightmare that ate up much of his time, leaving him little room to implement ideas that could help the cinema grow. 

"I had to type a lot of information about the films into the computer. The same repetitive information everywhere. It's hard to comprehend why every cinema manager had to spend time doing that," Martin recalls. 

Being the manager of a small cinema with 6-7 screenings per week, he was responsible for everything - from deciding which films to screen to running social media, organizing events, and even cleaning popcorn off the floor. 

But then, DX offered digital solutions that automated parts of his job, freeing up hours of his time. 

Since he discovered DX’s solution, Martin relied on it for the full cinema management flow. To him, DX was always one step ahead, developing innovative products and finding new ways to make his job easier. He always felt that DX could somehow anticipate his needs, even before he could conceive them himself.  

DX gave Martin the extra time to dive into activities that could help the cinema thrive, like writing screening introductions, planning events, and building a community. 

Driving efficiency through DX’s digital innovation 

Aside from freeing up Martin’s time, DX also helped the cinema become more efficient. 

Martin thought it was time to leave behind the outdated, manual practices and step into the digital era. And so, he began to innovate and automate as much of the cinema’s operations as he could. 

Back then, the cinema had a limited site that was part of the municipality's larger website. It didn't serve the purpose of selling tickets or showcasing trailers, and everything had to be done manually. 

Looking for innovation and efficiency, Martin and Myfanwy Moore, his colleague in charge of the other, non-cinema events at the culture house convinced their superiors to build a website through DX’s website solution by pitching it as a way to sell more tickets and save time for the team to focus on marketing.

After updating the cinema's website, Martin and Myfanwy set their sights on the concession stand, which was run by a private company. Knowing that selling popcorn could generate significant revenue for the cinema, he leveraged the DX POS terminal to take control of the concession stand and maximise profits.

But his quest for innovation and optimisation didn't stop there. 

He realised that the cinema could save money by implementing DX’s ticket scanning technology instead of having an employee stationed at the door. He didn't want to sacrifice human interaction but didn't see the need for so much staff either. If he was still at the cinema, there is no doubt in his mind that he would have implemented this solution, which is especially useful for the packed screenings.

Following this line of thinking also led him to consider a self-service concession stand. This solution could allow moviegoers to skip long queues during busy screenings while allowing the cinema to sell more snacks. Quite a genius move!

Conquering the hearts of the viewers through community building

Martin’s mission was clear: he wanted to increase the popularity of his local cinema. He knew he couldn’t do it by competing with the commercial cinema located 1 mile away that boasted 8 screens and better technology.

"This just had to feel different. It had to be really nice to be here and be a part of this cinema," the cinema manager emphasised.

His vision was to create a community where moviegoers would feel like they were joining a group of friends to watch a film. "My vision was that this cinema’s experience should be the same as visiting a friend," he explained. 

Themed Screenings & Community-Building Events 

To bring his vision to life, Martin developed several original concepts to make each visit to the cinema a unique experience.  

One concept he created was the "Wild card of the Month," where the cinema screened quality films at a discounted ticket price with special introductions. It became a monthly thing. Then he came up with the Nordic film pearls concept, showing the best films from that region in collaboration with The Norden Association. There was also the queer films concept he brought to life, also in collaboration with a local group.

For him, quality films meant something different than blockbusters and mainstream movie titles. He wanted to make people aware of that through these concepts and revive their interest in niche, festival films with non-catchy titles.

By organising these monthly themed screenings, Martin wanted to foster customer loyalty and build a close-knit community. He even went the extra mile by organising Kahoot quizzes with prizes before movie screenings. It was a fun thing to do, and it cultivated a sense of shared experience for the moviegoers, much like hanging out with friends. 

Shifting the perception: From overlooked to popular

When Martin first joined the Ås cinema, he felt like the common belief of the public was that few visited the local cinema. With such a reputation, it was a challenge to convince more moviegoers to come to a small, local cinema instead of the regional, larger one.

One strategy Martin devised to shift that perception was sending press releases to the local press, especially when the cinema recorded spikes in attendance. 

He wanted to create more buzz and make people think that the Ås cinema was popular, that it was the place to be. To further shape that perception, he cooperated with a lot of local associations and got their help in spreading the cinema’s message to their followers on social media.

What Can Small Cinemas Learn from Martin?

The secret to Martin's success in completely transforming the Ås cinema lies in his community-building approach.

He managed to nearly quadruple the number of moviegoers for his local cinema in less than four years by turning it into a brand and building a community around it. 

He gave the cinema a personality and a unique tone of voice. He created personalised experiences based on the film genre. He made people feel connected and engaged with the community he was building through a dedicated cinema Facebook page and loyalty programs. 

Martin quickly realised that building viewer loyalty for a small cinema isn't about trying to compete with the big guys or having the fanciest technology. It's about creating a tight-knit community and optimising cinema operations through efficient digital solutions like DX. 

Martin's experience proves that small cinemas can thrive even with a small team if you have the right technology to save you time in your day-to-day cinema operations. That's exactly what DX did for the Ås cinema under Martin's brilliant management. 

Where is Martin Now?

Now, Martin is a senior communications advisor at Kulturmeglerne - a PR agency that specialises in the culture industry, where he’s worked since 2021. His main focus is launching Norwegian films. Writing press releases is still part of his job, and so is creating buzz around new releases. The work he does at Kulturmeglerne has an impact on cinema audiences all over Norway. 

Eager to pass on what he learned at the Ås cinema, Martin created a digital course for the cinema industry. He wanted to make learning convenient, so he designed four separate 90-minute courses that people could follow at their desks. He created the courses under the Kulturmeglerne umbrella. Over 100 people enrolled. 

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