CJ + Vista: Interview with Murray Holdaway, Vista Group CEO

By | December 22, 2016 11:35 am PST

Celluloid Junkie caught up with Murray Holdaway, Group CEO of cinema software major Vista Group, for a pre-Christmas chat about our Cinema of the Month partnership, areas of growth, opportunities and challenges in China, the thinking behind Vista’s acquisitions and what it’s like to be a non-dairy New Zealand export.


Celluloid Junkie: Vista recently partnered Celluloid Junkie for the Cinema of the Month series. Can you talk about the thinking behind this?

Murray Holdaway: With Vista having over 5,500 cinemas using our software we get to see a lot of amazing cinemas around the world. These range from heritage rebuilds to the latest high tech cinemas, from ones focused on children and others doing serious Food and Beverage in cinema. Here at Vista we are huge cinema fans and we thought it would be good if we could showcase some of these sites to CJ readers.

CJ: We are equally thrilled to be working with Vista, having followed the company’s remarkable growth for a long time now. What do you see as the next big focus for Vista?

Murray Holdaway: Vista is shifting from being a cinema software company to being a film industry software company. We want to utilise our tremendous reach across exhibition and distribution to introduce new technologies across as much of the transaction activity and data in the film industry as we logically can. By doing this we hope to add value for our customers and bring new efficiencies to the film industry.

CJ: You have invested a lot in China through the partnership with WePiao (owned by Tencent and WeChat). Are you still optimistic about the growth prospects there?

Murray Holdaway: We are very optimistic about China. The growth in cinemas there is phenomenal, and yet in terms of screens per million people it is still way behind western markets. The growth in the market meant that by ourselves Vista would find it very difficult to scale quickly enough to meet the market requirements. By teaming up with WePiao we have instant access to scale and we can introduce the full range of our product set to China more quickly and easily.

CJ: Vista has bought or invested in a lot of companies, yet seems happy for them to run themselves at at an arm’s length. What’s the philosophy behind building the Vista Group’s family of companies?

Murray Holdaway: As I mentioned earlier, we want to add value in a wide range of transactions and data in the film industry.

Each of our companies has links to other companies in the group, whether its Vista feeding Movio the loyalty data, or Cinema intelligence providing intelligent forecasting for our staff management product MovieTeam, or MACCS receiving eBor data from Vista cinemas, we believe we can improve the business operations of customers that use these products. But of course all of these products are Intellectual Property companies and it is important the initial founders and creators of the IP are motivated and continuing to innovate – so we tend to bring them into our strategy but still run the businesses autonomously.

Movio is a great example of that, where many Vista Cinema customers have become Movio customers – but Movio still runs as a standalone business and also integrates with other software companies – some of whom compete with Vista Cinema!

CJ: What do you see as the challenges for the cinema industry globally in the coming years and do any of them also represent opportunities?

Murray Holdaway: Cinema has made the transition to digital in terms of content delivery, but the film industry still has a long way to go in terms of making the transition to a truly Digital industry. The challenge is for all segments and elements of the industry to move fast enough to keep up with customer’s demands for speed, agility, seamlessness and connectedness – in other words to be able to deliver experiences that align with what the increasingly digital people of the 21st century want. Having said that, I remain a firm believer in the power of movies to draw people in and, providing we continue to produce great films, the industry will remain relevant and in good heart.

CJ: Vista is something of an anomaly, in that a Kiwi friend of mine joked that New Zealand mainly exports things it can milk or chop up. What’s the perception of Vista in its home market?

Murray Holdaway: Its an interesting perception, which I think is changing. New Zealand is becoming quite a place to shoot movies and the IT and Tech industries are booming. It might surprise CJ readers to learn that apart from Vista there are software companies from New Zealand that are world leaders in everything from DJ softwareto Healthcare Management Systems to Small Business Accounting software. Despite all the competition, Vista was named New Zealand’s High Tech company of the year in 2016, which was a nice piece of local acknowledgement for our success in the film industry around the world.

CJ: Congratulations are in order. Thank you for talking to us and Merry Christmas to you and the Vista team.

Patrick von Sychowski
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Patrick von Sychowski

Patrick was a Senior Analyst at Screen Digest, went on to launch the digital cinema operations of Unique and Deluxe Europe, then digitised Bollywood at Adlabs/RMW, and now writes, consults and appears on panels about cinema all over the world.
Patrick von Sychowski
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