Two companies have developed a smart card system that would allow moviegoers to buy discounted tickets without waiting at the box office.

Card Logix, a plastic card manufacturer, and MPO Videotronics, Newbury Park, Calif., a supplier of video kiosks, plan to market the program to theaters around the country.

With increasing crowds and multiple-screen theaters, the automation and prepayment of tickets is a "natural fit," said Emil Nastri, vice president of sales for Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Card Logix. The partners are in discussions with "a number of theater chains" to implement the program, Mr. Nastri said, though no deals have been made.

With a swipe of a debit or credit card, or using cash, customers could purchase the Movie Gold Card from an automated kiosk in the theaters. The plastic card, which has an embedded computer chip, holds ticket information.

The value of tickets would be debited when the card is inserted into a smart card reader. The smart cards could also be used to purchase beverages and other concession stand items.

The system does not address single ticket sales.

Anne Moore, president of Synergistics Research Corp. in Atlanta, said automation "is a great idea, but a lot of people don't want to fork out money in advance for 10 tickets." She said a large family could benefit from such a program. She suggested the program might be more successful in large cities where ticket prices are high.

Mr. Nastri said the Movie Gold Card program targets the 10% to 15% of consumers that regularly use discounted tickets to attend movies. According to the National Association of Theaters, 1.3 billion tickets were sold last year for $5.6 billion. The association did not track the percentage of discount tickets sold.

Theaters using the program would gain loyal customers, he said, and the closed system, which excludes bank participation, offers other perks as well.

"If you go to Mondex or Visa Cash, there's no motivation to install smart card readers," said Mr. Nastri. There is motivation if the theaters get the float and the unspent funds left on the cards, he explained.

The Movie Gold Card can employ colorful designs, using movie themes or manufacturer's logos, providing additional income for the theater. Software can be customized for loyalty programs and promotions.

Initial investments are variable. One touch-screen kiosk costs a minimum of $7,000. Card prices vary with the size of the order, but software is included with purchase. The system would be integrated into a theater's point of sale equipment.

Smart cards for closed environments have been gaining ground. Sports stadiums, college campuses, and retail locations have installed the technology, which has more memory and capability than magnetic-stripe cards.

First Union Corp. reports success with its smart card system at the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium in Florida. Ken Darby, a bank spokesman, said the stored-value cards account for 12% of all concession sales in the stadium.

The bank plans to expand the system to retailers around Jacksonville that are official sponsors of the team, such as fast food restaurants or sporting goods stores. The bank may also wire the Tampa Bay Devil Rays major league baseball stadium in 1998. Discussions are under way.

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