Tag Archives: Arts Alliance Media

Latin American VPF Deals Hide Regional Problems – UPDATED

Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid

[Ed: We have received lots of feedback and updated info from readers fram and active in the region. ¡Muchas Gracias/Muito Obrigado! The article has been UPDATED THROUGHOUT as a result.]

Much like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid headed to Bolivia after they had run out of banks in the Wild West to hold up, so too digital cinema integrators have moved on to Latin America, now that virtual print fee (VPF) coffers are empty in North America and Europe. Yet despite the flurry of Latin America-related VPF press releases at the recent CinemaCon, there are fundamental issues that will make it a challenge to migrate the continent to digital cinema.

We have already discussed the press releases from CinemaCon 2014, including those  related to Latin America, so for a full breakdown have a look HERE. We will not provide a full analysis or analyse each deal, but try to look at the context and outlook for the region, as it struggles to catch up with the rest of the world in going digital.

As we pointed out during ShowEast 2012 it was the last chance for Latin American countries to get a VPF deal and we are unlikely to see many more major deals after this one. Gary Johns from Sony Electronics commented then that their VPF deals for North America were available until 31 March 2013, i.e. almost exactly a year ago. While international deals do have a little longer to run, studios like Twentieth Century Fox have politely but firmly informed exhibitors, distributors and (perhaps most importantly) government representatives in Brazil and elsewhere in Asia that the end of 35mm prints is nigh.

GDC at the Forefront – of press release announcements

It is noteworthy that deployment entities like Scrabble and GDC have signed separate VPF deployment deals with Hollywood studios (here and here respectively), highlighting that the continent could not easily follow deployment patterns and terms even for non-US or EU territories such as India and China. Of these two entities GDC has been the more active, with no less than five announcements relating to Latin America, while Scrabble has been largely silent recently. So what’s the motivation to be aggressive on the VPF front in Latin America?

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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.

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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Arts Alliance Rethinks Its Alternative Content Strategy

Arts Alliance MediaHow hard is it to find success with alternative content? The answer is; very. So many variables have to fall perfectly in place to find success, much less profit. No matter whether it’s sports, concerts or cultural events, there are rights clearances to obtain, theaters to secure and screenings to promote. None of this is easy, though there are a number of companies that have managed to make a name for themselves in alt. content by routinely producing high profile events including, Arts Alliance Media (AAM), Cinedigm and Fathom Events.

So imagine my surprise when in late November I started to receive emails and phone calls informing me that AAM was getting out of the alt. content business. How could this possibly be? After all, I had just interviewed Elizabeth Draper, who heads up AAM’s alt. content efforts, for a story on marketing such events in Boxoffice Magazine.

Rather than contribute to the rumor mill by posting such news with third party confirmation, I figured it would be best to go straight to the source by getting in touch with Howard Kiedaisch, AAM’s CEO. His email response sums up rather nicely not only AAM’s approach to alt. content, but also the company as a whole:

“Over the last three years AAM have released over 60 alternative content titles. Some have been very successful for our content and exhibition partners but in many cases have left little net contribution for AAM. Meanwhile, AAM’s VPF rollout business continues to grow nicely while our software has become a tremendous success with our recent deals. In looking at what to do going forward on the AC side, we have been reviewing our business model including both the revenue opportunity and the overhead requirements. Through that review we found it necessary to reduce the permanent staffing of the AC department at this time.

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Cinema Digitaal Selects Arts Alliance Media For Netherlands D-Cinema Rollout

Cinema Digitaal and Arts Alliance Media

Cinema Digitaal, the organization overseeing the rollout of digital cinema in the Netherlands, has selected Arts Alliance Media to as their integrator to convert more than 500 screens throughout the country to digital.

Under the exclusive arrangement AAM will install and maintain digital cinema equipment and technology in a wide range of cinemas encompassing large exhibition chains and smaller art house venues. Circuits not participating in the rollout include Pathe, Euroscoop and Utopolis, as they will be handling their own conversions.

AAM will also provide their VPF deals with five Hollywood studios and is in the process of finalizing similar deals with the 14 local distributors that make up the NVF.

Cinema Digitaal was founded by the Dutch Association of Cinema Operators (Nederlandse Vereniging van Bioscoopexploitanten, NVB), the Dutch Film Distributors’ Association (Nederlandse Vereniging van Filmdistributeurs, NVF) and the EYE Film Institute. The Dutch government is funding 14 percent of the project with additional funds coming from the Netherlands Film Fund (Nederlands Fonds voor de Film) and bank financing.

With no VPF deals of their own, Cinema Digitaal needed to partner with an entity that had such agreements covering the Netherlands. Thus, it was really a choice between AAM, XDC and Ymagis.

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Odeon Selects Unique Digital’s Platform For Digital Rollout

Odeon + Unique.jpg

Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group took another step forward in their digital cinema rollout this week by announcing their selection of Unique Digital’s software suite to help them manage digital content and equipment in converted theatres.

With 1,802 screens spread across 202 venues in seven countries, Odeon is Europe’s largest cinema circuit. They are so large in fact, that Odeon struck their own virtual print fee (VPF) agreements with Hollywood studios. Rather than rely on a deployment entity such as Arts Alliance Media or XDC, Odeon is handling the rollout all on their own.

However, it wouldn’t make much sense for Odeon to build their own digital cinema management software. That’s where Unique Digital comes in. [Full Disclosure: I have ongoing business dealings with Unique]. Odeon has selected to deploy Unique’s Rosetta Bridge, a theatre management system (TMS) and Cinema Accord, a back office system focused on managing digital content, keys and VPF agreements.

Based in London, and with offices in Dublin, Ireland and Bergen, Norway, Unique is one of Europe’s leading providers of software and network solutions that give motion picture exhibitors the ability to manage and support their cinema operations, including all content and equipment. In February, Unique was selected by Norway’s Film & Kino to help convert 90% of the country’s movie screens to digital.

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MTV Bringing Green Day Concert To European Cinemas

YouTube Preview Image
MTV is partnering with Cinema Events and Arts Alliance Media (AAM) to bring their popular concert series “World Stage” to movie theatres throughout Europe. The first screening will feature the award winning rock band Green Day performing a show from their recent 21st Century Breakdown tour.

Fans of Green Day will be able to see the concert in 150 theatres across 14 European countries starting on November 15th in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Serbia and the United Kingdom. France and Spain will screen the concert on November 25th and December 2nd respectively. Additional theatres and countries may be added as the screening date nears.

The 80-minute concert was filmed by MTV at the Olympia Halle in Munich, Germany in November 2009 and will be shown in cinemas with high-definition and surround sound. Tickets can be purchased at http://greenday.mtv.com.

AAM Topper Howard Kiedasch Discuss TMS Deal With Hoyts

AAM + Hoyts

It’s that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere where everyone wanders off on vacation at the end of summer. It’s very easy to let an important piece of news slip by without digesting it properly. So, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the announcement made early last week that Hoyts Cinemas had chosen deploy Arts Alliance Media‘s (AAM) Theatre Management System across their 400 screens in Australia and New Zealand.

It would be incredibly easy to brush the news off as just another press release from a digital cinema vendor. After all AAM has developed a TMS for the deployments it is undertaking in Europe. It’s not as if they have to build it from scratch. I’d argue however that it’s a bit more meaningful because Adam Wrightson was a part of the decision making process at Hoyts.

Wrightson is Hoyts, Group Technology Director and anyone that knows him, or has ever worked with him, knows how thorough he is when it comes to the technology the chain chooses to install. Presently he is working with Digital Cinema Implementation Partners Australia (DCIPA) to roll out digital cinema throughout Hoyts.

Any system or software developer that wants to do business with Hoyts has to get past Wrightson’s wary eye which is no easy task. After all, Wrightson is the kind of guy that can judiciously put together a detailed technical requirements document that leaves few if any engineering questions unanswered. A few years ago Wrightson sent me a specification document he wrote for a digital advertising network which came in at a mere 80 pages and had more color figures and diagrams than a world atlas. Getting a nod from Wrightson may as well be the digital cinema equivalent of being knighted.

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Screen Digest’s David Hancock Discusses Europe’s D-Cinema Funding Shortfall

Europe's Digital Shortfall (Courtesy Screen Digest)

Europe's Digital Shortfall (Courtesy Screen Digest)

On June 21st, just in time for Cinema Expo, Screen Digest published a report titled “Digital Cinema Moves Into The Mainstream“. Twelve pages in length and with 10 tables and charts, the report uncovered a significant “digital shortfall” in the amount of financing required to convert all of Europe’s screens to digital. David Hancock, a senior analyst at Screen Digest, authored the report and we asked him to shed some light on its key findings. (The interview appears after the jump).

Details From The Report
Not counting Russia there are roughly 32,600 screens throughout Europe for which a digital rollout will cost EUR €2.1 billion (or USD $2.65 billion). Of those screens 23,800 are covered for digital conversion through virtual print fees offered by Hollywood studios. Upwards of 5,000 screens will be handled directly by theatre owners themselves. Theoretically that means there is funding of EUR €1.65 billion (or USD $2.1 billion) for d-cinema conversions, leaving a gap of EUR €450 million (or USD $568.4 million) to cover all Europe’s screens.

And who is being left out of the funding equation? Well, it’s mostly art houses, seasonal theatres, repertory venues and mobile cinemas.

The United Kingdom and The Netherlands have set up special funding groups to help solve this problem. Support funds have also been established in such countries as the Czech Republic, Finalnd, France, Germany, and Sweden. On region in Poland plans to pull money out of a tourism fund and Italy is giving tax credits to any theatre which converts. The European Union is offering assistance through its MEDIA Programme.

Driven mostly by 3D content, the number of European screens equipped for d-cinema at the end of the first quarter in 2010 had risen 16% over 2009 to 5,333, or a full 15% of the region’s screens. Presently 75% of all digital screens in Europe are 3D capabe. Thanks to competition among France’s largest exhibitors, the country leads the 3D screen count with more than 700. The U.K. and Germany are second and third hovering around the 500 screen mark.

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Cinema Expo Thoughts: Howard Kiedaisch of Arts Alliance Media

Not being able to attend Cinema Expo last week was very disappointing since it is one of my favorite conferences each year. The annual trade show held in Amsterdam is always a great opportunity to catch up with exhibitors and distributors from all over the world, especially Europe.

Rather than try to cover Cinema Expo from a desk in Los Angeles, I turned to some of the leading players working in the space today, all of whom were in attendance at the show in Amsterdam. Over the next week I’ll be posting their thoughts for everyone to read in comment on.

Today, we’ll start with Howard Kiedaisch of Arts Alliance Media:

Howard Kiedasch of Arts Alliance Media

Howard Kiedasch of Arts Alliance Media

For AAM, this year’s CinemaExpo marked a significant change in our business.

The tide started to change at Showest and was flowing in our direction at Cannes but it was Cinema Expo where we really felt the current, heavily pushing digital cinema. The added benefit of a robust cinema market (in no small part due to digital), helps drive the digital cinema conversion even faster.

It has become clear that every exhibitor of any size (50+ screens) will have found a solution to full digital rollout before the end of the year. Though in the past there were concerns about the technology, the business model or the financing, the latest (and really only remaining) issue on everyone’s lips at Cinema Expo was the availability of machines. With the dramatic increase in demand, manufacturers are unable to deliver all the supply the market wants.

Fortunately, we ordered over 1,000 machines three months ago and have ample product for our customers’ needs. The number of deals in the pipeline also took a huge leap forward at Cinema Expo causing us to order nearly 2,000 projectors for 2011 before the end of the show. After 5 years of hard labor, it’s tremendously exciting to see an industry hit an inflection point and to be part of the transition. Clearly there are some exciting times ahead.

Ymagis Experiences Growth Spurt In Deals With UGC, Utopia and OCine

Ymagis Logo.jpgIn the past few weeks Ymagis, like their European counterpart Arts Alliance Media, has announced a number of new deals with exhibitors. What better time to review them all than on the eve of Cinema Expo, which begins tomorrow in Amsterdam.

For anyone who may need a brief refresher on who Ymagis is, they are a European digital cinema integrator and deployment entity of sorts. Based in Paris, France, they differentiate themselves from other European integrators by focusing on the management and administration of virtual print fees (VPF) being paid by distributors rather than on the financing and installation of digital cinema equipment.

This is not to say Ymagis doesn’t arrange for financing and deploy d-cinema systems in theatres. They most certainly do. In fact, Ymagis arranged the financing for the deal they announced on May 11th with the French based theatre chain UGC. The announcement was really a formality since Ymagis began converting UGC’s nearly 600 screens in March of this year. UGC operates 36 theatres in France, three in Belgium, four venues in Italy and another six in Spain. Attendance at UGC’s theatres throughout Europe tops out at more than 40 million.

The deal is one of the more important ones Ymagis has landed, not only because its with one of France’s largest theatre operators, but also because they arranged financing for the conversion through Banque Populaire Group, LCL-Crédit Agricole and Banque Palatine.

Reached via email, Ymagis chief executive officer and founder Jean Mizrahi detailed the unique way his company works with exhibitors:

“We have a flexible model. In some cases, exhibitors prefer to finance the equipment themselves. In other cases, they want us to take care of it. Right now among the 1400 screens we have signed throughout Europe, half of them have chosen to self finance, the second half we’re financing. We receive the VPFs and though the exhibitors do not know how much we receive from the distributors, we redistribute the largest portion of this revenue directly to them.

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