Christie’s New Projector Is Portent of Battle Ahead

What do you do once the majority of multiplex screens around the world are converted to digital? You mop up the remaining screens and look for new markets. That’s what we can read between the lines from the launch of the new Christie Solaria One projector at ShowEast. The projector, which is based on Texas Instrument’s new S2K DLP Cinema® chipset, 8K to 10K lumens output. While no price is given, it is expected to retail for as much as $10,000 less than Christie’s current cheapest projector. Similar projectors are coming from Barco, while Sony has already announced its cheaper entry into their market space (see previous post).

This is part of a deliberate and concerted strategy to maximise the market uptake reflecting the reality of global digital cinema penetration. With global uptake standing at just over two-thirds, with countries like Norway and Holland already having 100 per cent conversion, the question is which type of territories and cinemas remain. The brutal truth is that this 66-67 per cent represents 85-90 per cent of box office revenue generating screens. There is thus little financial incentive for converting the remaining screens and less money and almost no VPF schemes to do so. So the OEMs are launching products to mop up this last market, which faces it’s digital-or-die moment in the next 12 months.

While it is the most advanced multiplex chain of its continent, it is nevertheless telling who the client flagged in the press release is:

Ster-Kinekor Theatres, the largest cinema exhibitor in South Africa, will be first recipient of the solution, having ordered 198 projectors from the Christie Solaria One line. Ster-Kinekor Theatres CEO Fiaz Mahomed commented, “The Christie Solaria One projectors offer superb quality with a heightened viewing experience for movie lovers. These projectors are perfectly suited for smaller screens and are very cost-effective.”

What will be perhaps more interesting to see is how these new projectors filter through to new types of screening venues. not just Steven Spielberg’s home cinema, but growing mixed-use venues and bijou cinemas become possible with smaller and more affordable projectors. This will inevitably have an effect on booking patterns of film and other content. As the industry approaches the end of its one-for-one analogue-to-digital swap outs, the door to new and exiting digital cinemaa opportunities open.