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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.


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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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.

Japanese Earthquake May Not Impact The D-Cinema Supply Chain

Texas Instruments DLP

Shortly after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan on March 11th numerous rumors and speculation have swirled around the exhibition industry over its impact on the availability of digital cinema equipment. In part, this was spurred on by Texas Instruments reporting that their manufacturing plant in Miho, Japan, about 40 miles northeast of Tokyo, “suffered substantial damage” during the quake.

Because third of the output at TI’s Miho plant is dedicated to DLP production. The DLP chip is one of the most important parts in digital cinema projectors manufactured by Barco, Christie and NEC, so it was initially thought that the industry would once again face a shortage of equipment. However, since then both Barco and Christie have publicly said they have enough inventory on hand to meet demand for months, if not a year, into the future.

As the number of emails coming in to Celluloid Junkie with questions about the issue increased to more than two dozen, I felt it appropriate to give TI a call for an update. What I learned was that, most importantly, all of TI’s personnel are safe and unharmed. The company’s fabs in both Miho and Aizu-Wakamtsu (about 150 miles north of Tokyo) were damaged in the earthquake. At Miho, the building withstood the earthquake, though the manufacturing equipment inside was damaged as it got tossed around with all of the shaking.

By the end of March repairs at Miho were finished on the facility’s infrastructure systems that deliver water, gases, chemicals and air. Most significantly, the fabs cleanroom was recertified. At the time, 90 percent of the plant’s equipment had passed electrical tests.

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Les Moore Discusses Kodak Laser Projection Technology

Kodak Laser Projection SystemAt the end of February when the FDA approved a variance clearing the way for Kodak to sell their laser projection technology to cinema exhibitors we ran a post which started out stating it was meant to be a competitor to Texas Instruments DLP chip. It didn’t take long for a commenter to point out that the Kodak’s system actually uses the DLP chip.

I spent considerable time searching through all of Kodak’s marketing material and press releases trying to find any reference to TI’s DLP chip and came up empty. Multiple searches on Google, that bastion of all knowledge, finally turned up some information which seemed to confirm that Kodak employed DLP in its solution.

All of this made me realize how little I actually knew about Kodak’s laser technology. I figured there could be no better source for information on the system than Kodak itself. Thankfully, I was able to speak with Les Moore, Kodak’s chief operating officer for Digital Cinema, who managed to shed some light (no pun intended) on the new technology. Surely, my first question should come as no surprise.

Celluloid Junkie: After being corrected in a recent post about Kodak Laser Technology and its use of the DLP chip I found it difficult to determine conclusively whether you are actually using the chip. Are you?

Les Moore: Yes. What we did was we said, “Lasers are starting to hit a price power point that makes some sense for theatrical use. Let’s see what we can do to design a projector using lasers as the light source. Let’s take a good hard look at the benefits that lasers can bring to a projector and then optimize the projector to make use of the lasers. There are a few manufacturers out there making good products in the industry with DLP, let’s base it around a DLP engine.” So that’s what we did.

CJ: The reason I ask is that there is no reference to DLP in any of your marketing or technical material. Was that intentional?

LM: I thought we had said it. I don’t believe it is described in the FDA variance. You might be right. There was no intent to not include that information. I think you’re aware we’ve held some open sessions here in Rochester where folks can hear a presentation that walks through the technology from front to back and then we take people up to a theatre and do a demonstration. It’s been very clear in those presentations that it’s designed around a DLP. Maybe that’s something we need to work on. It wasn’t intentional.

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Christie Gets DCI Compliance And New Manufacturing Faciltiy

Christie's CP2220

Christie's CP2220

It’s been a busy week for Christie. The company’s CP2220 was the first series 2 digital cinema projector to pass the Compliance Test Plan (CTP) put in place by Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) to gauge whether equipment meets their published specification. As well, they announced the opening of a new manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China.

While many d-cinema equipment manufacturers claim their products are DCI compliant, it wasn’t until October of 2007 that a testing process was made public and testing entities were selected. Christie can now officially say the CP2220 is DCI compliant, having fully passed all tests that make up the CTP, including procedural and design reviews. Because Sony says the SRXR320 is compliant on their website I’m not sure if it’s the first digital cinema projector to pass the CTP, or just the first series 2 projector to pass it.

In the press release announcing the test results, John Hurst of CineCert, one of DCI’s icensed testing entities, said:

“We are very pleased to confirm that the Christie CP2220, featuring Texas Instruments’ Series 2 DLP Cinema technology, has passed all the requirements of the CTP.”

Passing the CTP is a huge milestone for a d-cinema technology vendor as it is the only way for equipment to become DCI compliant. Hollywood studios require all equipment playing their content to be DCI compliant. In making sure a piece of equipment meets all of the DCI specifications, one of the CTP’s main goals is to verify a device’s interoperability and content security features.

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Texas Instruments On Track With 4K

DLP Logo.jpgBoth at ShoWest and in the weeks leading up to the conference, I was able to speak with some of the folks over at Texas Instruments working on the company’s digital cinema offerings. They were happy to report that development of their 4K chip was right on schedule and some of the first 4K DLP projectors should be available for purchase in the first part of 2011, if not a little sooner.

For those who are just tuning into our industry, TI is the group that has been making DLP chips for cinemas since 1999.   Each DLP chip is an array of 2.2 million microscopic mirrors that move and rotate at high speeds to reflect the appropriate light and provide 2K image. Projectors based on the company’s DLP digital micromirror device (DMD) have been installed on over 19,000 movie theatre screens worldwide, giving them at least 90% of the digital cinema install base.

However, last year for the first time TI’s dominance in the market was threatened when two of the world’s largest cinema chains, AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas, announced they would be installing Sony’s 4K digital cinema projectors. While the DCI spec may only call for 2K, the marketing advantage of 4K was hard to overcome with exhibitors who were looking for a future-proof solution. So in June of last year TI announced they would be developing a 4K DLP chip for their OEM manufacturers, which include Barco, Christie and NEC. No development timeline or release date for the new chip was given.  Read More »

TI’s 4K Announcement Causes Waves – Wither 2K Now?

The announcement on Celluloid Junkie that Texas Instruments is developing 4K projector solutions is causing waves throughout the industry. The story was picked up by both THR.com (DLP making the jump to 4K) and Variety (TI leaping into 4K fray), which despite their headline both acknowledge that TI was effectively forced into this situation by the Sony tie up with Regal and AMC.Perhaps the best other coverage came from Eric Taub in the New York Times:

TI has always said that 2K is good enough, with tests showing that consumers can’t see the difference.

TI has been against 4K, until they were for it. On Thursday, the company announced that it would now market 4K technology, which will be incorporated into their next-generation projector technology to be manufactured by a variety of partners.

The company will continue to sell 2K projectors to the majority of its customers, according to Nancy Fares, business manager for TI’s DLP Cinema Products Group.

Ms. Fares said that this is not a case of TI trying to play catchup to Sony, which recently announced a number of large contracts to install its 4K projectors in AMC, Muvico, and Regal Entertainment cinemas. Texas Instruments has been working on 4K technology for two years, she said.

And when TI said that most consumers can’t see the difference between a 2K and 4K image, the company is sticking to its guns.

Their 4K technology will only be installed in about 20 percent of its customers’ theaters, the “brightest and biggest” with screens 70 feet and larger in size.

TI has meanwhile put out a press release providing details:

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It’s Official: TI Targets 4K; Cinemark Makes Deal

dlp_logo1It’s official: On the heels of our previous Celluloid Junkie post on this subject, TI announced that it plans to develop 4K as an extension of its next-gen DLP Cinema projection technology.

The new platform—which TI said would comply with the DCI spec—is slated to launch at the end of the year and initially support 2K. TI aims to offer 4K sometime in 2010.

Meanwhile, Barco inked a deal to deploy TI’s developing 4K technology to the Cinemark theater chain—a notable move, as additional DCIP members Regal and AMC both recently announced deals with Sony.

“Regal and AMC are no stranger to DLP Cinema,” said Nancy Fares, business manager for DLP Cinema Products Group. “I hope this will give them an option to think about.”

Fares reported that a 1.2 inch 4K chip would be developed and released first, “but there are not limitations.” She added that TI would also continue 2K development. 4K, she said, would offer choices, including support for 2D screens as big as 100 feet, and 3D screens as big as 75 feet. It’s not expected that the developing technology will be able to be retrofitted to the current system.

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Sources Say TI Moving Toward 4K

dlp_logoTI is developing but has not commercialized a 4K DLP Cinema system and is pushing for a big exhibitor—perhaps DCIP partner Cinemark–to come onboard, Celluloid Junkie sources report.

Nancy Fares, business manager for DLP Cinema Products Group, was contacted for comment. She only responded: “We have always said our technology is capable of going higher to a resolution of 4K and even higher. It’s about what the market needs and wants.”

AMC and Regal—DCIP’s two additional participants–have demonstrated interest in the resolution, as both recently announced deals to deploy Sony 4K digital cinema projectors.

Some insiders opine that a 4K announcement from TI might lead AMC and Regal to review their Sony deals. Considering the stakes, other insiders question why TI would not have already made the alleged development public.

DLP Cinema projectors are installed in an estimated 6,000 sites in North America, compared with Sony’s estimated 400. But Regal represents a total of 6,775 screens in the US and AMC encompasses 4,628, giving Sony the potential to overtake DLP Cinema with these installations.
Meanwhile, any announcement by TI of a move into 4K may potentially slow further 2K deployments. One insider pointed out that many exhibitors remember the shift from 1.3K to 2K, with 1.3K projectors have to be written off. It has also been suggested that while DCI specifications approve of both 2K and 4K projection, there might be a fear of a competitive disadvantage of 2K, particularly as major Regal and AMC have already committed to 4K.

AMC Set To Deploy Sony 4K Digital Projectors

amc-logoOn the eve of ShoWest, the largest trade show for the motion picture exhibition and distribution industry, AMC Entertainment is set to announce that it will install Sony’s 4K digital projectors on all of their screens.  According to Variety and the New York Times, the world’s second largest cinema chain will begin installing the equipment in the second quarter of 2009 and complete the rollout by 2012.  Presently AMC has 4,628 screens across 309 theatres.

The circuit is no stranger to Sony’s projectors having already installed 150 units to date.

The announcement comes on the heels of last Thursday’s news that AMC chose RealD as the 3D technology provider for 1,500 of its screens.  The cinema chain already has 29 screens capable of showing 3D films.  Together the two announcements are the culmination of the agreement made public in February that Sony and RealD would team up to merge the two companies’ technologies into a combined 3D product offering.

Besides being the kind of news the industry was hoping to hear at ShoWest, given the stalled digital cinema rollout, this is a huge win for Sony.  As the Times points out, there has been little competition for Texas Instruments, which as installed it’s DLP projection technology on nearly 5,500 screens.  Read More »