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Author Topic: Digital projection seminar
Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12482
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 09-18-1999 07:17 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi all,

I just got back from the Rocky Mountain Theatre Convention where we had a seminar on digital cinema. The speaker was from CineComm, a division of QualComm.

The most surprising thing he said was that according to their plan, DC would cost exhibitors "zero dollars." CineComm consider themselves a "Service provider," meaning they will equip the theatre with the equipment and charge by the performance. He said the fee would be somewhere between the cost of one and two adult tickets.

He also said the film companies would also be paying "substantially more" than that -- also per performance.

The theatres' relationship with film bookers, film companies etc would remain the same.

Since many of the people at this convention are small independents like me, we were asking if there would be a difference between what a small-town theatre would pay vs. a big city theatre. He said, No, the cost would be the same for all because "If this is going to work, it must be affordable for ALL of exhibition and that includes everyone from the smallest single-screener to the biggest megaplex."

He said they expect the rollout to take seven to ten years to achieve 65 - 70% penetration of the screens in the US and that there would be dual-inventory for the duration. He also said they will provide the theatre with all equipment including the projector, storage devices, lamphouse (including replacement lamps when necessary), and maintenance.

He said the system was designed so that "the average 11 to 12-year-old" can run it, and it will be a basically drag-n-drop thing where you have total control over your showtimes, trailers, etc. Once the features are downloaded to your system, you can play them whenever you want, as many times as you want (and even in multiple languages) during your playdate "window."

He said they plan to contract with service companies in each area to provide next-day service, but he also said the system will be redundant enough ("at least two backups available in the theatre") and the systems will be self-diagnosing. "Probably, the system will know it has a problem and will contact the service people for help before you even know you have a problem," he said.

He also said there would be a lease-to-buy program...but said that nobody would probably want to buy the systems outright because of the "technology risk." "Once we're up and running, your projector would probably be changed out after the first year or two, since technology moves so fast," he said.

So, doing the math, if you have a theatre running four shows a day, and just guessing that they'll charge about $11 per show (figuring a first-run price average of about $6.50 per show), your cost for Digital Cinema for one auditorium for one year would be $16,060. That's if his guess of their fee is correct...I have a feeling it would be higher.

Seems to me that the people who would benefit the most from digital (aside from the presentation benefits, if it looks as good as they say) would be the small operations who now have to wait four to eight weeks for prints. I know our business would increase if we could get movies faster. I'm more than willing to pay the aditional rent....we'd make it up in concession sales.

But we only run 8 shows a week...I have a hard time believing they will put a machine worth $150,000 or more into my theatre at no upfront cost when they're only going to get $4500-some dollars a year from me. This question was repeatedly asked during the seminar and he repeatedly said, it will be affordable for ALL exhibitors. (Given the recent history of the biz, I find this hard to believe.)

Any comments or questions? This was a two-hour seminar, so I've only covered the high points here.


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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 8001
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 09-18-1999 08:33 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Interesting post! Did they have any printed material to hand out to the attendees? If so, perhaps it would be worth sending to Brad for him to scan and post here.

BTW, there should be an article on the TI DLP system sometime early this week in the Wall Street Journal. I was interviewed (by telephone) for it last week. I suspect that it won't have any information that the people here don't already know, but the reporter to whom I spoke seemed to be much more intelligent than most of the people who are writing articles on this topic.

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9464
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 09-19-1999 07:36 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sort of typical of this industry CineQuam uses the JVC Hughes which has a much poorer image thanthe TI

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12482
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99

 - posted 09-20-1999 06:58 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
They did have a one-page handout, but it was so simplistic that it was worthless. (Your basic vague graphics with a simple flow chart of how the movie gets from them to the theatre.) I'm still sorting thru brochures, samples, etc. if I find I still have it, I'll send it to Brad anyway.

Also on Gordon's note about the projector: This guy said they have not finalized yet which projector head they will use. He mentioned the TI but also threw out one or two other names.

Another thing I forgot to mention was that he said they plan to begin rolling this thing out by the end of 2000 and that within 2 years of introduction, it should be on between 1500 and 2000 screens. (I guess the biggest roadblocks right now are finalizing the fee structure, and working on storage issues.)


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Randy Loy
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 156

Registered: Aug 1999

 - posted 09-22-1999 02:14 PM      Profile for Randy Loy   Email Randy Loy   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm glad to see that CineComm is remembering the indies in their plan to carve out their own piece of the digital projection pie. I am heavily involved with the day-to- day administration of the recently formed United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association and I spend a lot of time visiting both drive-ins and indoor theatres (part of the time as a representative of the UDITOA, the rest of the time just because I like being behind the scenes in the business). The concern I hear most often from the independant owners is that they will not be able to afford to convert to the new digital projection technology.

Aside from the finance issues, does anybody know whether digital projection will be adaptable to outdoor venues? Of all the articles I've read in the trade publications and all the discussion I've followed on the internet, I've never seen drive-ins brought up regarding whether they too will be able to go digital. I realize that xenon lamps are part of the digital systems but I wonder whether the digital units will be able to achieve the very long throws necessary in some drive-in theatres. Anybody got any answers?

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