Delivering Digital

Delivering Digital

It’s Showtime For Traditional AV Integrators In Digital Cinemas

Barco’s Deliver Digital program offers financing, cinema projection products, and integration services to theaters.

Movie theater audiovisual systems have traditionally been integrated by professionals separate from traditional AV contractors. But when digital cinema came to the forefront in 2000, there was hope that the AV world would benefit. It looked promising. Much to the chagrin of the pro AV industry, however, it appears as though installs have remained within the purview of these established cinema technology servicers.

There’s a bright spot on the horizon: as digital cinema becomes the norm among the major theater chains, opportunities are growing for traditional AV installers in local and regional independent theaters. Will traditional AV integrators see a big boon to their business as a result? Or, is it still a nascent vertical market? Video display manufacturers like Barco and Christie believe there are significant new opportunities (as do audio manufacturers; see cover story). These major industry players are making inroads in the digital cinema market and have products and services to back up their claim.

Barco recently partnered with Cinedigm, Cinemark Holdings, the DLP cinema product group from TI, and media server providers to bring to fruition the “promise of digital conversion” to more theater screens in North America. The new Deliver Digital program will offer financing, cinema projection products, and integration services to theaters.

Patrick Lee, operations, digital cinema, Barco North America, said this new initiative represents real potential for converting more screens in North America.

Cinemark plans to install more than 3,000 digital projectors in nearly 300 theater sites throughout the U.S., which include the exhibitor’s Century, Cine Arts, and Tinseltown brands. Every theater will include Barco 4K DLP powered projectors. The agreement also includes plans for Cinemark’s international locations in Latin America, which would bring the overall deployment to more than 4,600 screens.

According to Lee, in North America there are 40,000-42,000 total cinema screens, of which 15,000-20,000 are still to be converted and are not part of Regal, AMC, and Cinemark.

“We feel that Deliver Digital is a powerful program in the marketplace,” Lee said. “We are offering a turnkey solution with financing, integration services, and a superior product. Additionally, we have partnered with financiers who truly understand this market and, as such, can provide unique financing products.”

Lee said that the new partnership offers a unique value proposition: a superior product from Barco and competitive rates in the cinemabuying group.

The hallmark digital cinema line from Barco—which is found in hundreds of cinemas—is the DP series. The new models to the DP line (DP-1200, DP-1500, DP-2000, DP-3000) target a broader range of venues and are based on the Texas Instrument’s DLP Cinema 1.2 and 0.98 inch chips.

Along with Barco and Sony, Christie is another major player in the digital cinema market. A recent New Orleans, LA Christie cinema install completed by Electrosonic is particularly noteworthy. Nine digital cinema Christie DLP projectors were installed in the new Solomon Victory Theater to play the 4-D WWII film, Beyond All Boundaries. A Medialon show control system automates the audio, video, lights, and props that motor down from the ceiling or rise from a 23-foot-deep pit (not an easy task in a sub-sea level city).

Christie is also promoting its motorized lens mount solution that is compatible with all Christie DLP Cinema 1.2-inch DMD based projectors. Its lens mount, motors, and downloadable software allow theatres to change between flat and scope screen formats with a single lens set-up. With the growing popularity of 3D digital cinema, the motorized lens mount is also designed to work hand-in-hand with Christie’s Brilliant3D technology.

Margot Douaihy, contributor to SCN and Residential Systems magazine, has been covering the systems integration industry for ten years.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D., is a lecturer at Franklin Pierce University.