Category Archives: Trade Shows

CinemaCon 2014: Press Release Roundup

CinemaCon Logo

PLEASE NOTE: If we missed any individual press release it was not done purposefully. If you would like us to include a CinemaCon related press announcement in a future roundup, please forward it to tips@celluloidjunkie.com.

Historically companies and organizations doing business at trade shows and conferences have relied heavily upon press releases to get their message out to an industry. This has been especially true at CinemaCon and ShoWest before it. This year was no different.

The first day of the show always sees a flurry of announcements “hit the wire”. As the week (and convention) progresses the number of releases tends to dwindle. We thought it might be useful to sum up all of the announcements made at this year’s show, and when appropriate, provide a bit of insight or analysis. Here are the releases published during CinemaCon 2014 listed in alphabetical order by company name:


Arts Alliance Media
The London based digital cinema integrator and software developer is is always good for a few releases during industry trade shows. CinemaCon saw them release no fewer than four. The first announced the launch of a new software solution called AdFuser. The software was designed for all aspects of on-screen cinema advertising. The software is capable of planning campaigns and managing inventory, targeting ads to appropriate genres or audience demographics, automated ad playlist creation, ad content delivery, reporting and much more. AdFuser can be used in either an extremely granular or completely automated fashion.

Our Take: AAM’s cinema advertising software has been in development for years so it is interesting to see them finally launch the product. We have yet to have a close demonstration of the solution, but look forward to seeing it in action. The company is entering a niche market with a stiff competitor (Unique Digital) that has more than a decade head start in the space.

AAM announced a software deal with Vox Cinemas, a cinema chain based in the Middle East. The circuit will be employing AAM’s suite of software to manage their digital cinema technology and operations. This includes solutions such as Screenwriter Plus (Theatre Management System), Producer (Enterprise Circuit Management System) and Locksmith (Enterprise KDM Management) and Lifeguard (NOC Tools). Vox operates 9 complexes which account for 92 screens in Lebanon and the UAE.

Finnkino was already using AAM’s theatre management system (TMS) and will now upgrade to Screenwriter Plus, which has additional features for automation and monitoring. The circuit will rollout the new version of Screenwriter Plus throughout their 14 sites and at a later date has the option to include their 11 Forum Cinemas located in the Baltic.

AAM began as a digital cinema integrator with their own virtual print fees (VPFs) in Europe. They have now entered the complicated Latin American market with a series of partners, most recently Quanta-DGT. The trio announced three deals for VPF rollouts with three exhibitors in Uruguay; Grupo Cine, Life Cinemas and Movie.

Our Take: This agreement is a perfect example of just how complex Latin America can be for the motion picture business. While the combined 61 screens covered in the contract already have digital cinema equipment installed, these screens will now fall under AAM/Quanta-DGT’s VPF agreements.


Barco
CinemaBarcoThe Belgian based projector manufacturer was incredibly active during this year’s CinemaCon, showing up at the conference with half a dozen press releases. Many of the notices centered around their new CinemaBarco initiative, specifically the 60,000-lumen laser projector the company is bringing to market. The projector is DCI-compliant and capable of showing 4K content all the way up to 60 frames per second. The Barco 6P laser projector is capable of showing 3D content in 4K at 14 ftL and is fully integrated within the DCI-compliant projector. It will be commercially available immediately in the United States and China before being distributed in the rest of the world by the end of 2014. The company demonstrated the projector at CinemaCon without a “shaking” screen.

To prove just how market ready their laser projector is, Barco announced that Cinemark would be the first exhibitor to install the new technology. The release didn’t specify precisely which sites Barco would be installing its high-tech projector in, though don’t be surprised if Cinemark Century 16 South Point and XD winds up being the first. That’s the Las Vegas cinema in which Barco was conducting off-site demonstrations of its laser projector during CinemaCon.

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CinemaCon Mobile App Gets Pushy… In A Good Way

2014 CinemaCon App Alert

For those attending the upcoming CinemaCon trade show later this month who still haven’t downloaded the event’s official mobile app you’ve already missed out on a number of announcements sent out by the National Association of Theatre Owners, the organization running the conference.

Back in February we told you about the updated mobile app being made available for the show, but we though you might want to glimpse first hand how it keeps delegates informed with up to the minute news.  After installing the app on an iPhone or Android device it will begin displaying alerts on the phones lock screen and in the designated notification center.  An example of such a message pushed to my iPhone last Thursday accompanies this post.

The screen capture shows a notification for a screening and party being held by Universal Pictures in support of their film “Neighbors”.  As is true with most mobile apps, these push notifications can be turned on and off by every user.  See you in Vegas!

CinemaCon Refreshes Its Mobile App

CinemaCon 2014 Mobile App

This year’s CinemaCon is just around the corner (March 24 – 27) and organizers of the world’s largest convention for movie theatre owners are once again providing show attendees with an informative smartphone mobile app.

Canadian based Soma Media developed the app for the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) using their EventKaddy platform. The free app is similar to those made available for CinemaCon in past years. In fact, if you’re like me and never deleted the app from your phone, all you have to do is update it to the latest and greatest version.

This year’s app is available now for both iPhone and Android. Attendees with Blackberry or Windows devices can access the HTML5 web app through their phones’ browser.

NATO, which runs CinemaCon, got Fandango, the web ticketing company, to sponsor the app. It features the most recent event schedule, a directory of trade show exhibitors along with maps of the trade show floor and convention area, and information on Caesars Palace where the conference is being held. There are even ways to see what CinemaCon is posting on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Though the app is very basic, it gets the job done. I personally found the iPhone version to be quite useful during last year’s CinemaCon. I especially appreciated the push notifications the app sent, alerting me to the start of various conference events.

Has Auro Abandoned Cinema for the Home?

Auro Technologies surprised the cinema industry by announcing partnerships for bringing its immersive audio format to the home cinema market at the recently concluded CES. With only some 100 systems installed in cinemas around the world it would seem early for a switch of focus to the home. However, underpinning the announcement is a complex control structure and ownership of the technology and brand by Barco, Datasat (formerly DTS Digital Cinema) and Galaxy Studios. The question is what impact the announcement will have on future Auro cinema deployments.

The announcement itself is very straightforward in laying out the plan for conquering not just the home cinema, but also the car and mobile markets:

After the successful introduction of its technology in the digital cinema market, Auro Technologies announces the introduction of the immersive Auro-3D® audio experience into the consumer electronics market…Since the introduction of Auro 9.1 and Auro 10.1 at the AES Convention in Paris and San Francisco in 2006, the cinematic speaker layout Auro 11.1 was successfully launched in 2010 (Tokyo, AES Spatial Audio Convention), thanks to the great contribution of Barco, market leader in professional digital projectors and Auro Technologies’ exclusive partner for digital cinema. Until now, Auro-3D® has only been available to the public in professional cinemas equipped with Auro 11.1 by Barco around the world. Now, together with its official partners, Auro Technologies is pioneering once again and the first now to bring its revolutionary 3D Audio technology to all consumer markets.

Auro Technologies then sent out separate press releases the following days announcing the key partnerships, including the one with Datasat (formerly DTS Digital Cinema), whose sound processor is at the heart of the Auro system:

The deal will see the companies collaborate in the development of a range of processors incorporating the Auro-3D® immersive sound format. The new processors will make Auro-3D® available across price points from entry level to high-end home cinema.

The technology partnership agreement builds upon the Auro-3D® license agreement that the companies signed in September 2013. The previous agreement brought Auro-3D® to high-end home cinema with its integration into the award-winning Datasat RS20i processor being demonstrated at ISE 2014. The new agreement will bring this important immersive sound format within the reach of those with more modest budgets.

The other partnership that merited a press release was with DMS for distribution of the technology in most major markets (except for China). Auro Technologies full list of official partners includes: Audiokinetic, California Audio Technology (CAT), Continental, Datasat Digital Entertainment, Denon & Marantz, McIntosh Laboratory, Steinway Lyngdorf (SL Audio) and StormAudio. Then there is of course Barco, with its exclusive right to use the technology in cinemas and which has been lobbying Hollywood studios and other film producers to release their films (preferably exclusively) in the Auro format.

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Hollywood Studios Embrace High Frame Rate For All Films (Sort Of)

CineAsia 2013

A large flat screen monitor displays trailers at CineAsia

It should come as no surprise that Warner Bros is showing off the trailer for “The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug” in high frame rate (HFR) at the current CineAsia trade show in Hong Kong. After all, that is how director Peter Jackson filmed it and wants audiences to see it. What is more surprising is that WB is also showing HFR trailers for its other films: “300 Rise of Empire” and “The Lego Movie”. What, you didn’t know that they were HFR? Then you will be even more surprised by the HFR trailers for films from Disney, 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures. In fact ALL these studios’ film trailers were playing in HFR.

Seeing these trailers will come as a surprise to those who thought that Messrs Jackson and James Cameron were the only ones advocating and shooting in HFR and not expect auteurs like Wes Anderson or multi-hyphenates like George Clooney to also have embraced the format. But walk around the displays of WB, Disney, Fox and Sony and you will see the trailers on loop for all of their future films showing the same smooth, video-like HFR characteristics. Sony Pictures “Robocop” reboot looks just like the console game it will no doubt tie in with, while “Heaven Is For Real” looks like a shot-on-video TV film-of-the-week. Disney’s “Bears” looks just like a Discovery channel documentary while Angelina Jolie slinks about super-ultra smoothly in “Maleficient”. Over at Fox, Iceland is looking crystal clear in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” while “The Book Thief” and “The Monument Men” give us a video vision of World War II.

By now you might have worked out that none of these films were actually shot in HFR. But the way the big monitors from Samsung and LG have been set up with default 100Hz to 200Hz refresh rate, interpolation and edge enhancement, MPEG+ and other “image improvement” features they might as well have been shot in HFR for the look it creates. The only studio to have calibrated its display monitor to give a film look to its titles is Paramount, showing the new “Jack Ryan” and “Noah” trailers the way people will see them in the cinemas. (Universal only has a cardboard standee for “47 Ronin”).

This might seem like a trivial issue. After all, the studios show off the trailers on the big screen properly in their product reels. That’s where it matters, surely? But overlooking the trailers at a trade show, seen by exhibitors over and over is emblematic of a larger issue.

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Can RealD Rival IMAX In The Premium Large Format (PLF) Market?

With Cinema Europe currently underway in Barcelona, two trends for premium cinema experiences that pull in opposite direction are hot topics for exhibitors gathering in Spain. The first is towards smaller, intimate venues that typically serve fine food and wine, as exemplified by The Electric in London or the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. But it is the super-sizing of cinemas in a bid to compete with IMAX and its ability to charge premium ticket prices that is attracting the most attention right now. And RealD wants to be the centre of that action.

With cinema admissions in most of Europe static or even down and 3D seeing its lowest admission figures yet in the US this week, the hunt is on for how to squeeze more out of the people that still go to the cinema. This is where the success of IMAX comes into play, with exhibitors either partnering the large format (LF) player or launching their own premium experience auditoriums, to be able to charge a premium above that of 3D. The track record of exhibitors that have launched their own IMAX-like screens has been mixed, with social media in particular abuzz with patrons venting their unhappiness about large screen up-charges. This blog called AMC’s ETX ‘an Excuse To charge Extra’ and is no less kind about Regal’s RPX.

With Digital 3D being a key part of the PLF experience, RealD has spotten and opportunity to try to create a branding on behalf of exhibitors. From their press release:

At a special presentation to European cinema exhibitors at CineEurope, RealD Inc. (NYSE: RLD) today introduced “LUXE: A RealD Experience,” a premium large format (PLF) initiative aimed at unifying the exhibition community under a single brand with a goal of becoming synonymous with the ultimate out of home entertainment experience. Minimum standards will assure all “LUXE: A RealD Experience” auditoriums feature massive screens, ultra bright 2D and 3D, enveloping audio and luxury seating for a premium movie-going experience. “LUXE: A RealD Experience” auditoriums will provide full flexibility with content, allowing exhibitors to show any movie at any time for optimized profitability.

The code words are clearly audible dog whistles for cinema owners. The first sentence effectively says, “you have largely failed with your efforts of creating in-house PLF brands that can take on IMAX.” The second sentence says, “too many of the PLF auditoriums have been poor IMAX-lite causing consumer backlash.” The third sentence is the most critical, because it tells cinemas not to tie themselves in with IMAX’s restrictive licence terms – “you will have to pay a licence fee to RealD, but it will be less than what you would pay IMAX and we also won’t tell you which films to play and for how long.” Not surprisingly the effort has won the backing of the studios, who are keen on premium ticket pricing, but not on IMAX dominating the market. [NB: The first point was made even more strongly in the ScreenDaily interview, where Mayson is quoted as saying, “There are more than 50 PLF brands worldwide. We’re trying to unify those brands on the grounds that it’s easier to create awareness around one experience."]

Bob Mayson is quoted in the Hollywood Reporter on the technical specifics:

“LUXE comes in response to our exhibitor customers, who are seeing increasing demand for premium cinema offerings but really want a single identifiable brand that will be a guarantee of quality to their customers,“ Robert Mayson, Managing Director of RealD Europe told The Hollywood Reporter. According to Mayson, the technical standards, which include wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling screens of at least 16 meters (52.5 feet) in width; 3D sound; auditorium rakes and a screen brightness for 3D projections about twice the current norm, means LUXE will be an elite standard. “We are talking about the top five percent of cinemas, there will be many theaters that won’t have the capacity or the physical dimensions to qualify,” he said.

Note in particular the mention of ’3D audio’. RealD is careful not to pick a winner in the fight between Dolby’s Atmos and Barco’s Auro and would most likely prefer to see an open standard, as called for by NATO and UNIC [Dolby’s Artmos in its RPX screens, 3D audio will together with a big screen and bright projection be a cornerstone of the PLF experience. Though for exhibitors not willing to install two projectors, whether Sony or DLP, the equation will not truly be completed until the arrival of laser projection.

The next thing to note is the territories where this system will launch. THR identifies this as, “RealD plans to roll out the new LUXE initiative in Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Africa. Europe in particular has seen strong growth in the premium segment of the cinema market.” Screen meanwhile lists, “Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkans.” The thing to note is that it is the emerging markets that are of particular focus, which is why we get a quote from “Paul Heth, CEO of Karo Film, a leading cinema chain in Russia.” These are the markets that have not attempted a PLF brand on their own and that will build new multiplexes, so that the system does not have to be retrofitted into existing multiplexes. RealD is thus unlikely to try to persuade existing cinema clients in North America and Western Europe to ditch their own in-house PLF brand in favour of LUXE.

While IMAX is built on great technology and offers (depending on the site) a terrific viewer experience, there is nothing about it that cannot be replicated with todays digital technology – unlike the analogue 70mm systems of olden days. What sets it apart from in-house PLF screens is thus one thing: branding. IMAX has done a terrific job of re-positioning its brand from 60 minute documentaries for school groups that put bums on seats Monday through Friday 9am until 5pm, to one where people book tickets weeks in advance to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster on the opening weekend. This despite the backlash of the ‘IMAX-lite’ entry into the multiplex market a few years back. Vue Xtreme and Regal RPX have simply not been able to match the branding power of IMAX. RealD too has some cleaver technology, including launching the brighter screen this week, but there is nothing inherently unique about circular polarization 3D at the heart of their solution. The truth is that RealD too is about branding. Just like IMAX it charges a licence fee. Just not as much or with terms perceived as equally restrictive. If RealD succeeds with LUXE – and it stands a better chance than in-house PLFs – it is because the company understands IMAX and what makes it a success all too well.

ShowEast 2012 is Latin America’s Last Chance for VPF Deals

This year’s ShowEast cinema trade show is likely to be the last one where any significant virtual print fee (VPF) deals are still on the table. Not only will there soon be no more actual 35mm prints to replace with fees for  virtual ones, following the winding down of film operation by Fuji and Kodak. But Hollywood studios too are rapidly winding down their funding mechanisms. This is particularly bad new for Latin American countries, which have the lowest digital cinema penetration numbers for any continent bar Africa. This was highlighted at the recent 2nd International Conference on Digitisation of Cinemas in Bogota, Colombia, which “focused on the difficulties being experienced by Colombia and Latin America in general in finding the financial model and public funds to help the region convert its cinemas to digital technologies adhering to the global standard.”

With approximately 13,500 systems installed around the world (over 10,000 in North America and over 3,000 in the rest of the world), Sony is intent on pushing its global market share up from the current one tenth of all world-wide screens. Hence Sony’s decision to extend its VPF scheme, most likely by agreeing to lower terms with the Hollywood studios in return for longer lead time. As quoted in THR:

“[Some] VPF deals for the U.S. and Canada ran out at the end of September. Ours are available until March 31, 2013,” reported Gary Johns, senior vp, digital cinema solutions at Sony Electronics. The deadline to sign up for Sony’s program in international markets extends even further out.

Sony is also using the ShowEast opportunity to showcase its newest SRX-R515P projector designed for small and medium auditoriums, as well as its Entertainment Access Glasses for hearing and visually impaired cinema patrons.

ShowEast has traditionally been the cinema trade show for Latin American countries and there is no more pressing issue for that region than the imminent end of 35mm prints and the do-or-die conversion to digital in less than a year. As such, it should come as no surprise that third-party digital cinema integrators, consultants and VPF brokers from across the world are homing in on Latin America. The most recent operator, India Scrabble, has just announced a deal for three territories:

The company has signed separate non-exclusive agreements with Hollywood studios Warner Bros Pictures International, Universal Pictures International, Walt Disney Motion Pictures International and Sony Pictures Releasing International Corporation… The roll-out of the technology will begin from 2013 and will initially be launched in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Note that 20th Century Fox and Paramount are missing from the list of studios. While neither of these two will get a free ride on the equipment installed by Scrabble under the terms with the other studios, it highlights the difficulty of getting VPF deals in place this late in the day. Other operators were already present in the region. Cinedigm signed a deal last year with Contenido Alternativo for satellite delivery of DCPs and alternative content, under which it would also “collaborate with theatres in Mexico to bring digital cinema deployment and Virtual Print Fee management services to the region,” on as-yet unsepcified terms. Cinedigm has more recently signed a deal for 290 screens out of the 437 operated by Caribbean Cinemas (pdf) in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Trinidad.

Cinedgim has also signed a deal (pdf) with Brazil’s DGT for the deployment of its software solutions suit, “in preparation for its VPF program roll out later this year.” Similarly, Arts Alliance has contracted with Mexico’s Cinemex for the deployment of its software, though the exhibitor is “negotiating its own VPF (Virtual Print Fee) deals directly with the studios” for its 2,000 screens. Yet the largest obstacle to digital cinema installations in LAtin American territories is not Hollywood studios refusing VPF deals but high tariffs and restrictions on imports of digital cinema equipment. Brazil recently reduced its import duty, but it won’t be until analog screens start going dark for lack of 35mm film that governments across the continent are likely to wake up. Come ShowEast 2013 it will be a very different picture for the continent.

 

CineEurope Makes The Move To Barcelona In 2012

CineEurope LogoHaving changed its name from Cinema Expo to CineEurope this year upon teaming up with the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), now another change is in store for Europe’s largest motion picture exhibitor trade show; its location.

After being held at the Rai in Amsterdam for the past 15 years, the conference is being packed up and moved to Barcelona for the 2012 event. This was a move that had been rumored as far back as 2009, when UNIC decided to hold their own trade show in Brussels a week before Cinema Expo. Rather than compete head-to-head with a larger trade show, UNIC decided to fold the European Cinema Summit into Cinema Expo in 2011 and rebrand it as CineEurope. A change-of-venue could help in reposition the show in attendees’ minds.

In a press release statement announcing the move, Robert Sunshine, the Managing Director of CineEurope (not to mention ShowEast and CineAsia), said:

“The move to Barcelona represents CineEurope’s dedication to better serving the European cinema exhibition and distribution communities. CineEurope management and UNIC consulted with constituents and the overwhelming feedback received was that a move to Spain would be a beneficial change”.

Underscoring the new venture as a combined effort, Ad Westrate, the President of UNIC, also provided a press release quote

‘’I am sure I speak for all UNIC colleagues in welcoming CineEurope’s move to Barcelona and our continuing partnership with Bob Sunshine and his team. Our members will now have even more reasons to support the convention in its new host city.”

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CinemaCon 2011: Digital Funding Partnership Pacts With XDC For D-Cinema Deployment In UK

Cinema Exhibitors' Association and XDC

At the outset of CinemaCon this past Monday Steve Perrin gave an interesting presentation titled “Harnessing The Power of the VPF”. As the Chief Executive of Digital Funding Partnership (DFP) Perrin is in a position to know a thing or two about virtual print fees. He’ll have some help in this department now that DFP has entered into an agreement with XDC for the deployment of digital cinema in theatres throughout the United Kingdom.

The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association created DFP in 2009 to help small and mid-sized theatre owners in the UK secure funding for digital cinema conversions. The group is a legal entity consisting of approximately 400 screens at 130 mainstream and specialized cinemas operated by more than 100 theatre owners.

Perrin spent more than a year studying the country’s booking patterns, box office receipts and endless market data in an attempt to determine whether VPF deals would work for independent cinemas in the UK. In doing so he confirmed that VPFs work best for large theatre circuits which play mostly mainstream content. Smaller cinemas showing less mainstream content at varying turn rates are not as attractive to local or international distributors, making it difficult, if not impossible, for theatre owners to gain access to VPF deals.

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CinemaCon 2011: Fithian Urges NATO Members To Begin Digital Transition

John Fithian At CinemaCon 2011

John Fithian At CinemaCon 2011

John Fithian, President of the National Association of Theatre Owners, gave his annual State of the Industry address yesterday at the trade group’s inaugural CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. His speech covered all the necessary points while reiterating some of the comments about the digital cinema transition which Fithian has made to smaller groups over the past several months.

He began with a handful of statistics that highlighted some economic figures, including a global box office which climbed 30% over the past five years to reach USD $31.8 billion in 2010. North American box office receipts rose 15% to USD $10.6 billion in that same period, while inflation only rose 8%. In what was perhaps a jab at the studios rumored plans to begin offering new films via premium video-on-demand, Fithian compared these numbers to home video sales, which have declined 13% during the past five years.

Fithian also provided an update on North America’s digital cinema roll out, telling the audience of over 2,000 delegates that almost 16,000 screens, out of a total of 39,000 had been converted to digital. Nearly 9,000 of those screens are equipped for 3D projection. After running through more industry numbers than most could ever remember, Fithian paused as he came to the most important point in his speech:

“For any exhibitor who can hear my voice who hasn’t begun your digital transition, I urge you to get moving. The distribution and exhibition industries achieved history when we agreed to technical standards and a virtual print fee model to enable this transition. But the VPFs won’t last forever. Domestically, you must be installed by the end of 2012 if you want to qualify. Equally significantly, based on our assessment of the roll-out schedule and our conversations with our distribution partners, I believe that film prints could be unavailable as early as the end of 2013. Simply put, if you don’t make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business.”

Fithian went on to remark that admissions had climbed in each of the last four decades and that 3D grosses in 2010 made up 21% of total receipts, doubling the amount such films earned in 2009. However, his earlier comments about the ongoing digital cinema transition is what most of the show’s attendees focused on after Fithian’s speech concluded. Was it true that all cinema owners had to convert their screens to digital before 2012 to qualify for a VPF? Are studios really going to stop distributing 35mm film prints after 2013?

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