Canton Palace Theatre

Editorial Team

4 min read
The Canton Palace Theatre interior with seating area, balconies, boxes, and lobby entrances

It’s impressive when particular facets of a theater date back to the 1920s: the pipe organ, the sconces. It’s less fun when the 100-year-old artifact is a bookkeeping system.

The Canton Palace Theatre, which opened in 1926, is one of Ohio’s beloved historical theaters. It was designed to resemble a Spanish courtyard, complete with brick and terra cotta walls and stars dancing across the ceiling. It hosts as many as 1,488 people for movies and shows. After surviving a temporary closure and impending destruction, it joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Canton Palace Theatre exterior featuring sign and main entrance

But when Georgia Paxos became its executive director in 2007, the Palace’s operations were stuck in the past. Take the concession stands, for instance. Paxos says, “Before we had an actual point-of-sale system, we had a lot of paper and pen and pencils to keep track of inventory and sales, and as our business started growing, it started getting really difficult to keep track accurately.” Despite their volunteers’ best efforts and valiant use of mental math, patrons complained of long wait times and crowding.

Concession stand with popcorn machine

Know the audience

And then there was the fuzzy audience data. Beyond movies, the Palace hosts concerts, comedy shows, and even weddings–all of which stimulate local economies by inspiring restaurant meals and hotel stays. But the Palace had no way to quantify their valuable impact to their community. “We would guesstimate, based on their ZIP code, how far audience members were traveling,” Paxos says.

Canton Palace Theatre interior featuring the stage during a concert

Plus, the Palace needed new gear. As Hollywood turned toward digital cameras and away from analog technology, “movie distributors would not distribute to a non-digital theater,” Paxos says. The theater had to invest $90,000 into digital cinema equipment. But without solid audience data, it’s tough to attract the grants and donations that could help fund such a large purchase.

Enter Clover

Soon after Paxos joined the Palace, her team sprang for a card reader. And once the theater upgraded to Clover’s point-of-sale system in 2015, concessions sales skyrocketed. In 2014, the team sold $47,467 of snacks and merchandise. In 2019, that number had tripled to $147,859. These days, even long lines move quickly, and it’s easy to train new concessionaires. Paxos says, “We tell volunteers, if you know how to work an iPad, it’s pretty similar and pretty simple.”

Clover POS system in the theatre concession stand

Main Street Insights gives Paxos and her team a view into patrons’ travel and spending habits. According to the local visitors bureau, Paxos says, “Our economic impact in our downtown, in our community, in our region is just shy of a million dollars. So, it’s a pretty significant economic impact that this one facility has. We’re able to gather the data using Main Street Insights, which is able to quantify, in dollars, not just attendees, [but also] what we provide to our community. That’s definitely looked upon favorably amongst the local foundations and regional foundations that provide operating and/or programming grants, because they know that the money’s being well spent.”

Clover also helps the Palace manage inventory. Every summer, the theater holds a weekly kids’ movie series. “We’ve been able to see, year to year, which candy items sell the best with kids,” Paxos says. “So we know that if we’re having a kid-centered event, we should stock up more on Sour Patch and Twizzlers.”

Concession stand with candy including Twizzlers and gummi bears

Saving volunteers time

Their Clover POS system doesn’t just save money, it also saves time. Before switching to Clover, the Palace’s volunteers needed at least 90 minutes to reconcile sales after each show. Paxos worried about alienating volunteers with the cumbersome work and late nights. “Now, all the House Manager has to do is just run the report from one terminal to get the data,” Paxos says. “It’s saved them, on a large event, at least an hour of their time–I mean, over the course of the year, we would average about 275 events a year, times an hour. That’s pretty significant.”

The pandemic certainly disrupted the Palace’s business model, but Clover has helped the theater’s staff adapt. The team created a drive-in theater and held movie-in-the-park events, using Clover Flex handheld POS devices to sell tickets and concessions. They have approximately 100 distinct items on the POS at any given time, and Paxos praises how easily they can add or deactivate them from the system as circumstances change. Plus, Clover’s bookkeeping functionality and audience insights have helped the Palace win grants and stay afloat.

Historic organ at Canton Palace Theatre

These days, the Palace provides a gathering space for Ohioans and out-of-towners, offering efficient service and unforgettable experiences in a storied, beautiful setting. “We pride ourselves on being able to blend the historic with the modern,” Paxos says. Even for this 1920s theater, it’s good to be in the 21st century.

Read more stories about how Clover is helping businesses–from theaters to bakers–update operations and keep things running efficiently.

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