Auckland software firm Vista Entertainment is investing in other players to broaden its role in the film industry

Cinema software company Vista Entertainment Solutions is on the acquisition trail as the Auckland-based firm hunts for a bigger audience in the movie industry.

The company is a key global player in the cinema management software market, and is set to broaden its scope through buying stakes in Dutch company MACCS International (Movie ACCounting System) and New Zealand start-up, Movio.

Chief executive Murray Holdaway said the investments were part of a long-term vertical integration strategy to broaden Vista's scope into film distribution and the wider film industry.

"We've been working in the retail space of the supply chain [in the film industry]. We've got ourselves to a world-leading position in that space, but we wanted to spread ourselves out along that supply chain. So a few of the big areas we've been working in are in the data analytics area with Movio, and the distribution sector with MACCS."


Globally, the film exhibition industry attracts about six billion moviegoers each year, with close to US$46 billion in sales in 2012.

Since its launch in 1996, Vista has grown to 180 staff with customers in 63 countries.

According to Holdaway, the company has always concentrated on the global market, with 96 per cent of revenue between 2011 and 2013 derived from overseas.

Until now, the company has been working in the retail end of the industry, providing software solutions for cinemas. The acquisition of Movio and MACCS will move Vista into dealing with the distribution and analytical side as well as the retail end.

Movio is a Kiwi start-up focused on big data analytics through the collection of information from cinemas. Co-founder William Palmer said working with Vista had helped the company.

"Building the partnership with Vista has been great, it's opened a lot of doors for us and now we have a symbiotic relationship where working together means we can tap into two markets not just one," Palmer said.

Movio collects information on a large scale, something Palmer said was not easy to do, as 90 per cent of the information was collected at the point-of-sale. The data Movio collected was used to help the film business target movie campaigns, an industry which is worth more than $20 billion a year and something Holdaway saw as a huge opportunity for Movio.

"They're doing something pretty cool," Holdaway said. "There's a lot of interest in what they're doing both from the exhibition community and the distributors, and in particular the large studios. I think that because of the huge budget for movie advertising, they [Movio] could become bigger than Vista.

"It really is quite possible, which is a huge opportunity for us and for them."

The investment in Movio follows an initial interest three years ago, which saw Vista take a 30 per cent stake in the company, a stake that has increased to 56 per cent, giving it a commanding share in the company.

The niche that Movio occupies in the cinema industry has seen the company grow its revenue by 311 per cent last year, with staff numbers also increasing from seven to 27. Palmer said the success that Movio had seen was one that a lot of start-ups in New Zealand could attain.

"I think New Zealanders are great generalists. We're capable of doing lots of things, which makes us great entrepreneurs," Palmer said.

"In a smaller marketplace like New Zealand, we can take a niche and own it completely, which fits well with our Kiwi style."

The second investment in distribution company MACCS was seen as a logical step to moving into the film distribution sector, with Vista acquiring an initial 25.1 per cent share in the company.

Vista will also have an option to increase this by a further 25 per cent within three years, giving it the controlling share. "Assuming things go well, as well as I think they should, I would imagine that we would take that up," Holdaway said.

Vista Entertainment has seen significant development over the past few years with revenue growth of about 60 per cent between 2011 and 2013, a feat which put it in the Technology Investment Networks "top 10 companies to watch" for 2013.

MACCS International founder and chief executive Bert Huls said he was looking forward to working with Vista.

"We have long admired Vista's significant global growth and the quality of their executive team and we're tremendously excited to have them coming on board as we grow our market share."

Vista Entertainment Solutions

• Auckland-based cinema software company, launched in 1996, with 180 staff and customers in 63 countries.

• Provides management software for everything from online booking of tickets and food and beverage sales to staff rostering.

• The company had revenue of $30.5 million in the 2013 financial year.

• Investing to broaden its scope into distribution and the wider film industry.

• Globally, the film industry attracts about six billion movie-goers each year, with close to US$46 billion in sales in 2012.