Technicolor To Equip 15,000 U.S.
Screens; Christie AIX To Equip 4,000
5 of 6 Major Studios Sign
Up For Big-D Distribution
Two separate companies – Technicolor Digital Cinema
and Christie AIX – announced in autumn a slew of
deals designed to convert thousands of U.S. movie auditoria
into digital cinemas in the coming months and years.
Technicolor – whose plan would equip 5,000 North
American auditoria with studio-compliant (or “big-d”)
digital projection systems over the next five years (and
a total of 15,000 over the next decade) – announced
Nov. 9 that it had signed long-term agreements with four
distributors: DreamWorks, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.
20th Century Fox signed a similar agreement with Technicolor
in December. Technicolor also revealed that it was in late-stage
negotiations to sign similar deals with New Line and The
Weinstein Co. Disney is also negotiating with Technicolor,
according to unnamed sources of The
but is still “working through the finer financial
points of the deal.”
Christie AIX – which plans to equip between 2,500
and 4,000 U.S. auditoria with big-d projection systems
over the next two years – announced this autumn that
Fox, Universal, Sony and DreamWorks would join Disney as
its studio clients.
At press time, the only major distributor that had not
struck a deal with either digital-distribution concern
The plan at both companies is to equip existing U.S.
and Canadian cinemas with big-d projection equipment at
or no cost to the owners of the cinemas. The cost of the
equipment would be compensated by movie distributors willing
to pay for the use of the big-d projectors.
“The studios will continue to book films directly
with exhibitors, and if a booked screen is equipped with
a Technicolor Digital
Cinema system, the studio will pay Thomson [TDC’s
parent company] a virtual print fee for usage of the digital
equipment,” explained a Thomson press release.
Distributors stand to save billions by switching from
celluloid film prints to digital “virtual prints,” which
are far less expensive to strike and ship.
Though major studios have utilized digital distribution
of their features since the 1999 release of “Star
Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace,” fewer
than 200 of the more than 37,000 public U.S. auditoria
are currently equipped with big-d equipment.
Insiders expect that Technicolor will launch a 3- to
6-month test of the system before spring.
Technicolor says its plan will be “technology agnostic,
allowing both exhibitors and studios to benefit from the
best available technology, including both 2K and 4K projection.”