Mobile Payments Theater Orders: Fun and Ease, Hold the Fraud

February 28, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

The movie theater is perhaps one of the longest-lived brick-and-mortar institutions we have. While some—including me, from time to time—have forecast the inevitable collapse of this industry thanks to the growth of the home theater trade, even the most pessimistic outlook noted that if the theater innovates, it has a chance to survive.

Innovate it has, including a lot of new features such as restaurant-style concessions—Popcorn and soda? How declasse! Try steaks and wine!—child care and more. Mobile payments have been a part of this process as well, and though it’s come with challenges, mobile payments are making the theater a viable destination again.

In fact, new word from PYMNTS suggests that about 70 percent of all digital orders are going through a mobile app these days, and that’s including the quick-service restaurant (QSR) trade. With movie theaters increasingly resembling QSRs, the end result is a market increasingly dependent on the quality of its apps. With customers enjoying the faster, easier payments experience and the connection to rewards programs that increasingly commonly comes with mobile payments, it’s putting a new weight on theaters to protect all that data.

It’s not just data security that’s giving theaters trouble, either; they’re also running into the biggest problem of mobile order-ahead: too much success. Like Starbucks before them, the theaters are discovering that mobile order-ahead means a lot more orders in the pipeline, and someone needs to go to the back of the line. Moreover, with alcoholic beverages increasingly part of the picture, regulating the overindulgent, verifying legality, and protecting data also get involved.

It’s a natural consequence of innovation that unintended consequences come along with the ride. Surely no movie theater 20, even 10, years ago would have believed it would ever need data security protocols. Now, they’ve vital to theaters’ entire operations, assuming they want to keep customers coming back. So while movie theaters have likely saved themselves from one disaster—the complete loss of their market base due to more-desirable substitute goods—they may be lining up for another one if they’re not careful.

Still, the theaters are proving surprisingly resilient. Only time will tell if they can keep this up, but with survival at stake, they’re likely pretty motivated.