It’s a known fact that everything is bigger in Texas, and when it comes to movie theaters, San Antonio’s Santikos Theatres proves it.
The theater chain, which was founded by Louis Santikos in 1911 and now spans the greater San Antonio area, is a shining example of the American dream and a fascinating case study in more than a century of technological innovation.
Santikos, an immigrant from Greece, began opening nickelodeon theaters in the early 1900s and eventually turned the business over to his son John, who built it into one of the largest family-owned movie theater chains in the country.
Today, Rackspace helps Santikos keep its AWS cloud up and running and its website safe and secure so Santikos’ staff can focus on providing its customers with a movie-going experience unlike any other.
Most recently, Santikos’ Casa Blanca Theatre became home to the two largest movie screens in the state of Texas, at five stories high and 90 feet wide. Casa Blanca is also the first all-laser digital theater in the world.
“Laser digital projection is a lot like HD television on steroids,” said Santikos CEO David Holmes. “It was the first thing about Casa Blanca that people noticed — even though the screen was probably double the size of any movie they had ever seen before — the actual quality of the image is what people really love.”
The theater is also fully digital. There is no box office; tickets are purchased online or from a kiosk at the theater entrance. Every seat is reserved, and the theater’s bowling alley, arcade and bars are all automated.
“All of this was done to ensure the smoothest experience for our guests,” said Holmes. “We know people prefer to interact with us electronically, and we know it makes for a better overall experience in our theaters.”
Knowing Casa Blanca would be built from the ground up with new technology informing every aspect of the theater experience, Santikos’ IT team looked to Rackspace before they had even broken ground for help navigating the challenges a project of this size and scope would entail.
“We’re good at a lot of things,” said Holmes, “but looking ahead and looking around corners and figuring out what technology challenges we’ll have tomorrow — that’s why we value our partnership with Rackspace.”
Santikos began by leveraging two Rackspace services — Fanatical Support for AWS and Rackspace Managed Security — to provide a solution that would extend across the entire Santikos brand and all 10 Santikos theaters.
For starters, they rebuilt the ticketing system using Rackspace Managed Security to make it more secure and PCI compliant on an AWS public cloud platform for speed and scale. This proved to be a wise move.
Soon after Santikos implemented its new system, Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters nationwide. Online sales were so high that several large ticketing websites crashed under the deluge of traffic.
But not Santikos.
“We slowed, but never went down,” said Holmes. “It became a record day of ticket sales for us and we knew we were ready for the higher volume of transactions that would come once Casa Blanca opened its doors.”
With the growth in online transactions, keeping up with PCI compliance was also of the utmost importance, and Santikos’ IT staff wanted to make sure they were protecting customers’ credit cards and other sensitive data with the best tools possible.
“That all tied into the website,” said Santikos CIO Scott Iden. “With the growing number of people going to the website instead of buying their tickets at the theater, it became key that we meet all of the compliance requirements needed.”
Rackspace AWS architects and security experts were crucial in the implementation of all the above — from architecting and optimizing Santikos’ AWS workloads to the ongoing, active monitoring of its environment — but Iden also emphasized the overall support Santikos has received from Rackspace to make their IT transformation possible.
“Working with Rackspace enabled Santikos to achieve our goals, he said. “They’re technology goals, but they’re directly tied to the larger vision this company holds.”
While much of that vision is about providing a stellar cinema experience to Santikos’ customers, giving back to the community has also been a key part of Santikos’ mission.
John Santikos, who shaped the theater chain in recent decades, always insisted on using Santikos as a venue for helping those in need. Upon his passing in 2014, ownership passed to the San Antonio Area Foundation. As the owners of the Santikos chain, the foundation now has a steady income stream it can use to help fund local nonprofits.
“John’s vision was to create an economic engine for our community that would continue to be a big employer in San Antonio and carry on the Santikos legacy,” Holmes said. “Today, all of the company’s proceeds get reinvested back into our community.”
With Rackspace helping usher in the new era of online ticket sales and customer interaction, Holmes said he’s confident the Santikos model will continue to flourish.
“Moving forward, we’re going to upgrade our existing portfolio of theaters, not only from a technology platform but from a guest comfort and ease of service platform,” he said.
“Then we’re going to look at some new locations in San Antonio and continue building on the legacy left by John Santikos.”