D-Rollout For 3,000 Screens Starts
Reporter: Studios & Technicolor
Hatching D-Plans For U.S. Cinemas
Three of Hollywood’s most prolific film distributors – Disney,
Warner Bros. and Sony – have signed a deal involving “big-d” digital
projection deployment and “third-party” financing,
according to an April story in The Hollywood
The deal allows Technicolor to approach other studios, “chief
among them Universal Pictures and 20th Century Fox,” according
to the trade paper.
An initial U.S. installation in “3,000 theaters,” according
to one Reporter source, could begin deploying as early
as the end of this year. The paper also said the installations
would be compliant with the nearly-finalized technical
specifications approved by studio-backed Digital Cinema
Initiative over the last three years.
According to another Reporter source said to be familiar
with the deal, a 3,000-screen rollout would cost about
$200 million, and be implemented with a combination of
equity financing from the participating studios and debt
financing from banks. The paper said a “studio source” confirmed
that each distributor is contributing “significant” monies
to an initial rollout.
Though studio-endorsed (or “big-d”) feature-film
digital cinema projection systems made their commercial
debut with 1999’s “Star Wars: Episode I – The
Phantom Menace,” fewer that 100 (or about one quarter
of one percent) of the nation’s approximately 36,600
public auditoria are currently equipped with the celluloid-free
equipment – equipment that, if implemented on a greater
scale, could potentially save the studios billions of dollars
in celluloid print and shipping costs.
Cinema owners widely anticipate than any realistic studio-backed
big-d business plan will employ significant subsidies – subsidies
that would cover all or most of the expense of installing
big-d equipment in the nation’s projection booths.
Big-d projection systems are three to five times more expensive
that the celluloid projectors most exhibitors currently
The Technicolor plan is expected to be presented to the
exhibition community and the Department of Justice’s
antitrust division in the coming months, according to the
paper, which also notes the Technicolor deal does not preclude
distributors from entertaining other financing plans.