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Regal, AMC and Cinemark going all Digital

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Regal, AMC and Cinemark going all Digital

Old 03-31-08, 03:13 PM
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Regal, AMC and Cinemark going all Digital

Theaters, studios see $1.1 billion upgrade deal in Q2
By Sue Zeidler
Sun Mar 9, 7:08 PM ET

Several theater chains and studios are nearing an estimated $1.1 billion financing deal to deploy in cinemas digital technology that promises to boost attendance and save Hollywood billions of dollars in annual print and delivery costs, industry officials said on Sunday.

"We're hopeful that in the second quarter we will get it all arranged," said Travis Reid, chief executive of Digital Cinema Implementation Partners. DCIP is wholly owned by theater chains Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings Inc and AMC Entertainment Inc, which collectively operate over 14,000 screens.

The long anticipated upgrade at an estimated cost of $70,000 to $75,000 per screen is expected to be a key topic this week at ShoWest, the annual Las Vegas gathering of movie exhibitors that begins on Monday.

DCIP, formed about a year ago, first hoped to clinch the deal involving six major studios and third party financiers by the fourth quarter of 2007, but market volatility and issues related to equipment procurement, performance criteria, standards and usage fees prolonged the talks.

"Unfortunately, anytime you need to bring consensus on that basis, it's going to take time to get it done. It is literally front burner," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive officer of DreamWorks Animation on a February 26 conference call.

Katzenberg, a huge 3-D and digital cinema proponent, said he expects the DCIP deal to be done in the next 30 to 45 days.

The studios involved in the talks include General Electric Co's Universal Pictures, Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros, Viacom Inc's Paramount, which distributes DreamWorks films, News Corp's Twentieth Century Fox, Sony Corp and Walt Disney Co.

According to sources familiar with the talks, the deal would require studios, exhibitors and content providers to pay usage and other fees when using the equipment. These fees would go toward paying off loans that will be provided by financial institutions, including JP Morgan, to buy and install the equipment.

About 4,000 of the 37,000 cinema screens in the United States are digitally equipped, industry experts estimate.

Reid said that once the deal is done, the roll-out would start, and it is expected to take about three years to complete the upgrade of the 14,000 screens involved.

The ultimate aim within the industry is to transform all 125,000 screens worldwide to digital projection, enabling studios to beam film via hard drives or satellite dishes to theaters, which can then download them to servers and transfer them to high-resolution digital projectors.

While studios save on storage and distribution, theaters would benefit as audiences are drawn to higher-quality images.

Additionally, once outfitted with digital projectors, theaters can add 3-D capabilities, which promise more programming options at higher prices.

Many look to the success of the 3-D concert movie, "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," which grossed nearly $30 million in its opening weekend as a template for the future. Tickets sold for $15, about 50 percent more than the typical movie prices.

About 1,000 cinema screens worldwide have 3-D systems, and the number is projected to hit 4,000 by 2009, according to Michael Lewis, chairman of Real D, whose digital projection 3-D technology was used in most theaters showing "Hannah Montana."

"3-D is the big game changer and the compelling reason for doing digital cinema," Lewis said. "More people are showing up to theaters to see 3-D and top filmmakers are using it as a new way to tell their stories."

Some industry experts have cited concerns about whether or not there will be enough screens to accommodate a growing pipeline of 3-D titles, including Disney-Pixar's "Toy Story 3," DreamWorks' "Monsters vs. Aliens," and "Avatar" from "Titanic" director James Cameron.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler, editing by Richard Chang)


~

and the promise of going all digital continues. Still waiting to be wowed by IMAX Digital in less than three month's time.
Old 03-31-08, 03:17 PM
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ugh, I hope they do it right. While overall Digital has been a good experience with me (in my hometown we have 3 theaters, all of which are 90% digital and most are very good, Bourne Ultimatum quite literally looked like it was being shown on a massive super high definition tv) I can't help but shake the feeling they'll use lower quality projectors during the upgrade (in Tallahassee, we have 1 screen in 1 theater that uses DLP, it can't do black to save its life. Similar, saw There Will Be Blood on digital, and it also struggled quite badly with black levels.)

Seems like a wise investment though -- video quality will remain the same for the full duration of the movie's run, and it's got to be cheaper than the platters.

Last edited by RichC2; 03-31-08 at 03:19 PM.
Old 03-31-08, 04:22 PM
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Am I the only one that see sparkles when viewing DLP projected film at the movie theaters? It's like the silk-screen effect I see with DLP HDTV micro displays.
Old 03-31-08, 04:47 PM
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I like old fashioned reels... meh.
Old 03-31-08, 04:56 PM
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Adieu, cigarette burns. You will be missed.
Old 03-31-08, 05:58 PM
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Yeah good news! Am I the only one happy about this? This means that all screens will be DLP right? And I guess this also paves the way for 3D movies.

Yeah for progress!

I'm really surprised about this though, it seems like a VERY large investment. I thought theaters were having a tough time pulling a profit. Hopefully hollywood will pass some of that money saved from prints onto the theaters.

I guess this will be the final nail in the coffin for $1 theaters.
Old 03-31-08, 06:19 PM
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I'm all for them doing this, but increasing attendance? I don't think picture quality is what is keeping people away (when it's acceptable, that is.)

Try lowering prices, keeping kids out of adult-themed movies, neat alternatives (saw Wayne's World at an independent theater the other night at a midnight showing - big fun!) and continue to offer more interesting and affordable concessions and you'll be on to something. Otherwise I'll just stay home with my projector.
Old 03-31-08, 06:22 PM
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About fucking time. There aren't any digital screens that show anything with regularity within 20 miles of me. Way to go AMC.
Old 03-31-08, 08:24 PM
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I haven't yet seen a digital presentation that was as good as film done right, but the way most of these companies' theaters handle film, digital will look like a big improvement.

Ticket prices are still going to have to come down; they're up to $10 in my area now and I simply refuse to pay that much for any movie. I might give in for a 3-hour epic in 3-D on a HUGE screen, but there aren't any huge screens in my area right now.
Old 03-31-08, 09:20 PM
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I just have to laugh when I see Regal's claims... Granted, this is probably good news for most areas, but the theater here will probably be among the last to receive an upgrade -- if we get one at all -- and it seems likely they'd only do it for a couple of the larger screens in this piddly 8-screen layout. Four of the screens are currently so small that it's like paying to see a film on a big TV in someone's walk-in closet.

I've heard their talk before, too: when they took over for Hoyts, there was all this talk that now our area would never have to miss out on showings of big releases, there would be more sophisticated fare, indies, foreign, etc... None of which ever happened, mind you. It's probably a worse racket now than under the previous company, which was bad enough. They never, ever show anything resembling quality cinema and routinely skip over MAJOR releases in favor of getting family films, cartoons and idiot comedies on multiple screens, seemingly avoid picking up any award-nominated or -winning movies so as not to offend the braindead masses, and generally manage to botch just about anything and everything possible. Regal, I hate you and hope your company burns.

Last edited by Cosmic Bus; 03-31-08 at 09:23 PM.
Old 03-31-08, 10:04 PM
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This just means higher ticket prices. If they want me in the theatre they can start discriminating against anyone under the age of 19.
Old 04-01-08, 04:46 AM
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I don't think I've ever seen a Digital presentation in a theater.
Old 04-01-08, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Giles
[b]
The ultimate aim within the industry is to transform all 125,000 screens worldwide to digital projection, enabling studios to beam film via hard drives or satellite dishes to theaters, which can then download them to servers and transfer them to high-resolution digital projectors.

While studios save on storage and distribution, theaters would benefit as audiences are drawn to higher-quality images.
Sounds like VOD to me
Old 04-01-08, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Cosmic Bus
I just have to laugh when I see Regal's claims... Granted, this is probably good news for most areas, but the theater here will probably be among the last to receive an upgrade -- if we get one at all -- and it seems likely they'd only do it for a couple of the larger screens in this piddly 8-screen layout. Four of the screens are currently so small that it's like paying to see a film on a big TV in someone's walk-in closet.
I was actually shocked in which auditorium Regal converted to DLP 3D in Rockville Maryland - it literally felt like what you noted, a walk in closet, 13 screens in total and they had to choose THAT one - boooo - I complained online regarding this. AMC Tyson's has the most attractive and comfortable auditorium. Regal Gallery Place has the best in brightness and audio setup. National Amusements Cinema De Lux has two of the largest DLP screens in the DC/MD/VA area - 300 was amazing.

However I've been recently seeing some less than perfect DLP presentations: system shut downs, audio dropouts, brightness flickering (throughout an entire film - ) . The systems have their flaws and are far from perfect.

Last edited by Giles; 04-01-08 at 08:58 AM.
Old 04-01-08, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Draven
Try lowering prices, keeping kids out of adult-themed movies, neat alternatives (saw Wayne's World at an independent theater the other night at a midnight showing - big fun!)

I love this, but I wish they would do it at a reasonable hour. I'm getting too old to do midnight showings. You'd think some of the cheap theaters would draw bigger crowds by rotating in some classics.
Old 04-01-08, 09:05 AM
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Midnight and Sunday mornings seem to be the most common.

Sunday mornings are general kid fare, though some occasional classics get mixed in.

Last time I went to my hometown, they were showing Goonies at the midnight showing with The Big Lebowski and Fight Club planned for the following Fridays.

But then, this is the same theater that was first to get digital (and shows movies in the format) and has "senior sundays" where anybody over like 60 can pay $4 and watch movies all day. Sadly, I think they're struggling (we got them, a Rave and a local brand theater all within a 2 year span)-- shame too, nice place with cheap seats (4 - 6pm = $4).

Last edited by RichC2; 04-01-08 at 09:11 AM.
Old 04-01-08, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Giles
I was actually shocked in which auditorium Regal converted to DLP 3D in Rockville Maryland - it literally felt like what you noted, a walk in closet, 13 screens in total and they had to choose THAT one - boooo - I complained online regarding this. AMC Tyson's has the most attractive and comfortable auditorium. Regal Gallery Place has the best in brightness and audio setup. National Amusements Cinema De Lux has two of the largest DLP screens in the DC/MD/VA area - 300 was amazing.

However I've been recently seeing some less than perfect DLP presentations: system shut downs, audio dropouts, brightness flickering (throughout an entire film - ) . The systems have their flaws and are far from perfect.
I really enjoy Tysons, but I don't think they actually show any films in digital. Really bogus though, because the pre-show enterainment is crystal clear. So much so that I can tell when they switch on the projector.

Likewise, I've always felt disapointed by my experience at De Sux. The video is nice, but the auditorium is so large and feels cold - especially true for the director's hall (no carpet, leather, etc.).
Old 04-01-08, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Superman07
I really enjoy Tysons, but I don't think they actually show any films in digital. Really bogus though, because the pre-show enterainment is crystal clear. So much so that I can tell when they switch on the projector.

Likewise, I've always felt disapointed by my experience at De Sux. The video is nice, but the auditorium is so large and feels cold - especially true for the director's hall (no carpet, leather, etc.).
Tysons has one DLP equipped screen and it's showing "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns"

In regards to De Sux, I don't know why they call them Director's Hall - it's a joke when you compare them to Mazza Gallerie's two Club screens.
Old 04-01-08, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Giles
Tysons has one DLP equipped screen and it's showing "Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns"

In regards to De Sux, I don't know why they call them Director's Hall - it's a joke when you compare them to Mazza Gallerie's two Club screens.

De Sux! Hilarious. Yeah, nothing special about those theaters.

I have a really stupid question. I'm not sure I've even seen a digital movie yet. But I saw "21" last night at a Regal Theater and the quality/picture of the film looked almost like it was videotaped, for the most part. And up on the big screen, it looked odd to me. I don't know if anyone here saw "Pieces of April", but it had that look. Was that digital??
Old 04-01-08, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Daytripper
De Sux! Hilarious. Yeah, nothing special about those theaters.

I have a really stupid question. I'm not sure I've even seen a digital movie yet. But I saw "21" last night at a Regal Theater and the quality/picture of the film looked almost like it was videotaped, for the most part. And up on the big screen, it looked odd to me. I don't know if anyone here saw "Pieces of April", but it had that look. Was that digital??
'21' was shot with HD cameras, 'April' was shot in standard (non-High Def) digital video
Old 04-01-08, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Giles
'21' was shot with HD cameras, 'April' was shot in standard (non-High Def) digital video
Thanks!

And F you for the "Kill Bill" april fools thread. Yeah, I fell for it too
Old 04-01-08, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Daytripper
Thanks!

And F you for the "Kill Bill" april fools thread. Yeah, I fell for it too
oh come on, now.... jeesh, I should just put my head on a plate...
Old 04-02-08, 03:16 AM
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Well I'm sure projectionists are jumping for joy at this news. I heard that Regal was trying to transition to all digital but was implementing them slowly. A good amount of theaters in central MD already have one digital projector with more on the way but things might have changed since I quit there last July.

But just imagine, movies aren't constructed but downloaded. Trailers are arranged on a computer and you can pause, rewind and fast forward at any given time. And along with no scratches or dirt on the prints, the projectors are virtually silent. Sure there might be an occasional equipment malfunction but it beats the threat of a movie wrapping and breaking which ruins the presentation for every following showing on the print.

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