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.