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TOPIC: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE?

2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 24 Mar 2007 00:31 #22622

  • Cinemateer
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At ShoWest, I spoke in length with a company that provides a digital projection package including projectors, a server, custom software, media servers (for each screen), and a satellite for receiving movie and key downloads and for transmitting info for troubleshooting and monitoring system health. They have partnered with Christie, so the projectors are Christie CP2000's (2K, possibly upgraded to 4K in the future) using Texas Instrument's DLP Cinema technology. The server is a Doremi's DCP2000 JPEG server. JPEG2000 files are the standard file type for digital movies.

Movies are sent to your satellite atop your theater, along with a key that unlocks the movies. A key is good for ONLY your equipment, but can be transferred between auditoriums. Each key expires after your play time is up, but if you want to hold the movie longer, they will re-transmit a new key to you. Even if the movie is stolen somehow, it can only be played on the equipment in YOUR theater with YOUR key (different for each movie), by equipment serial number. Movies can also be shipped to you via hard drive. Movies take approximately 7 hours to download each via satellite, but can be downloaded while another is being shown.

The software is very impressive. Basically, all movies are saved on the server and copied to each auditorium's hard drive and can be moved back and forth between them. A playlist is created for each screen, along with pre-show entertainment, music, ads, and trailers. It's drag-and-drop, very simple to use and intuitive- remniscent of an iPod. You make your playlist, starting at a specific time, and go pop some popcorn.

They push alternative content very hard, which is another way of creating revenue for your theater. You can show cartoons (called KidToon Films), concerts, sporting events, broadway productions, lectures, etc. Since they are digitial projectors, you can also show 3-D movies, provided you have a silver screen (unlike film). RealD had a couple of impressive demonstrations where the glasses are polarized and cheap enough to be disposable. With digital projection, a digital "watermark" is embedded in the picture, so if someone tries to videotape the movie illegally using a camcorder, the time, date, and even the theater location can be easily seen, making pirating almost impossible. Pretty cool.

And the cost? The salesman I spoke with said there is NO cost for the equipment itself, but you must sign a 10-yr maintenance agreement with them. They do maintenance every 6 months and any time in between when needed. They have 24/7 tech support by phone, too. The major studios (I have a list) have made agreements with them to supplement the cost of the equipment so the exhibitors don't have to. He couldn't give me a quote because it will be different for each theater, but if you e-mail them, they will contact you. He said we have to sign an NDA as well, which means we can't share our quotes on this forum.

I was worried about the number of titles available digitally, but after seeing the list of titles that have been available dititally since the beginning of 2006 and realizing that all of the major studios are on board now, I don't see that as an issue. Many multiplexes across the country have been running 100% digital for many months now. They do recommend keeping a 35mm projector or two nearby if you plan on showing some indie or foreign films. However, they recommend all auditoriums have digital projectors instead of one or two because if the A/C goes down in a theater, for example, you can quickly transfer all the content to another screen (takes about 30 minutes) whereas if the other screen has a 35mm projector, you're screwed.

I'm not an expert on this by any means, and I'm not trying to push digital conversion, I'm just sharing what was shown and told to me. You can visit their website to see a 3-minute informational video and e-mail them if you're interested in a quote. I'm still waiting for mine, but I'm sure they're busy after ShoWest.

The company is called AccessIT and the website is [url=http://www.accessitx.com.]www.accessitx.com.[/url] I've got a booklet if anyone wants any more details. They seem very dedicated to making the cost affordable (he claimed it's cheaper than maintaining a 35mm system) for even the small exhibitors. The studios understand that exhibitors aren't going to shell out $100k for just a projector, so this is their solution. They are the ONLY company that provides a complete digital solution at this time and the only ones actually using satellite for uploading movies, not just going through beta testing.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 24 Mar 2007 03:16 #22623

  • BurneyFalls
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Paying someone to service those machines every six months could be real costly--especially if your theatre is in a remote area. But, at least, it is a start to helping out with the rollout. I would think there will be other options as time passes. ???
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 24 Mar 2007 09:35 #22624

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Of course, the cost is a big issue for all of us, but at least you're getting something for your money (maintenance) instead of paying some arbitrary "license fee" or something. Equipment always needs to be maintained anyway. To me, trying to work on this type of sophisticated computerized equipment would be like working on a 2007 Cadillac where you can't fix anything because it's all computer controlled now... except adding gas.

The neat thing about the satellite being a receive AND transmit type (unlike a Dish Network type of TV satellite which is receive only) is that they can receive your system status and know what needs to be done before coming out.

I would agree that other options would become available as time passes, along with software upgrades with more features. Everyone realizes that theater owners, even big multiplexes, will simply not pay the big bucks for the equipment. That was very apparent at ShoWest. Other similar programs from other manufacturers will pop up eventually; this is just the first.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 24 Mar 2007 11:37 #22625

  • rodeojack
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AccessIT pushes only Christie equipment. Other projectors are available that have features you might find more appropriate to your application. The "maintenance" contract runs in the thousands per year for each screen they equip. I don't know if bulbs are included in the deal.

This technology is in its infancy. To get in right now would commit you to something that, like your home pc, will probably have been upgraded 10 times in the next 10 years.
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 24 Mar 2007 18:33 #22626

  • rufusjack
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The advantage for us would be able to get movies that we normally do not because of lack of prints. 1/3rd of the year we are guessing what we are going to have from week to week. That makes it extremely difficult to market your movies that you will be playing.

What I do not like about this particular agreement is the NDA about pricing. I beleive in the free market and I want to know what others are being charged as well.

Did they tell about how long it would be before you got your equipment? I was under the impression that supply is tight.

How does their contract handle upgrades?
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 24 Mar 2007 23:22 #22627

  • rodeojack
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The advantage for us would be able to get movies that we normally do not because of lack of prints. 1/3rd of the year we are guessing what we are going to have from week to week.

Sure... but are you not getting a print because all the first-run houses are still running them, or is it for competitive reasons, controlled by the studios?

The notion that going digital will mean open access for all is something I'm not sure I'd bet the house on right yet. If all theatres in a market had digital, I'd guess that the major houses would still not want a lot of theatres playing the same shows at the same time.

This is a touchy subject, and I'm on the wrong side of the fence my share of the time... but I don't think that going digital is the answer that the salesmen might like you to think it'll be.
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 25 Mar 2007 09:44 #22628

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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by rodeojack:
This technology is in its infancy.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

This is important to understand. This is a new concept for most and will work for some and not others. Like anything else new, some people wait in line at the store to be the first to get it, while others hold back and wait for the bugs to be worked out. It all depends on the individual. Technology changes so fast, it's impossible to find a "right" time to jump in.

According to everyone I spoke with, print availability is an issue of yesterday in the digitial world. That is a big concern of mine. If you're not getting prints because of competitive reasons Rufusjack, that probably wouldn't change is my guess.

NDA's have become a normal part of business for me. It's a different world than it was just 10 years ago. Costco even made me sign one to have my logo embroidered on some hats... and it was MY logo!

The equipment has been available for about a year now. Supply was tight at first, but the equipment, according to AccessIT, is readily available.

I haven't seen a contract yet, so I don't know how they handle upgrades. It would be great if there was someone here that is enrolled in the AccessIT program. (???)

Rodeojack is right, you always have to be careful of salesman, which is why I look at the numbers. Going digital won't make sense for many, but for myself faced with a new build, it's either pay for 35mm equipment now and upgrade to digital later (it's a matter of WHEN to go digital rather than IF) or get it now and pay maintenance. Being able to just check on the system to make sure everything is playing correctly as opposed to paying a full-time projectionist to be in the booth all the time adds significant value for me. It's the ease of using the system that attracts many exhibitors to digital.

Jack, I don't think you have anything to worry about yourself. During one of the sessions on digital, someone stood up and asked if efforts were being taken to make projectors bright enough for the long throws needed for drive-ins and the answer was basically NO. Accommodating drive-ins are low on the priority list... and studios will still be making film prints available for another decade or two.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 25 Mar 2007 11:23 #22629

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For someone like cinemateer doing a new build. Looking into digital from the start is the way to go.

AccessIT is the company that is currently doing all the Carmike Cinema Chain installs. So if your near one and better yet buddies with someone at your local Carmike, take a look see.

On the question of Digital getting more prints out there. Yes I can see that happening. If the problem you face is only physical print availability. But I also know that if you have distributor issues like... Competitive zone, low grossing (remember there are still virtual print fees to be paid out of grosses), or if your in a market where you split product with a competitor. Digital is not going to change any of that. None of the big boys are going to allow any erosion of the market they currently have.

Was there any word from the CBG (Cinema Buying Group) at Showest? Were they even there? This is supposed to be the organization for assisting the independents. Run by J. Wayne Anderson and sponsored or backed by NATO.



[This message has been edited by sevstar (edited March 25, 2007).]
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 25 Mar 2007 12:02 #22630

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Was there any word from the CBG (Cinema Buying Group) at Showest? Were they even there? This is supposed to be the organization for assisting the independents. Run by J. Wayne Anderson and sponsored or backed by NATO.

J. Wayne Anderson (introduced as chairman of R/C Theatres) received a "ShoWester of the Year" award, which was presented by John Fithian, president of NATO. His new wife, MaryAnn, VP of NATO, also received one, making it the first duo award given at ShoWest. They were very cute together.

However, Mr. Anderson didn't speak at any of the events, and I attended almost all of them, but MaryAnn was on a panel of speakers about the movie rating system. No mention of the CBG that I noticed.
"In a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." -Martin Landau
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 25 Mar 2007 12:11 #22631

  • rodeojack
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Jack, I don't think you have anything to worry about yourself. During one of the sessions on digital, someone stood up and asked if efforts were being taken to make projectors bright enough for the long throws needed for drive-ins and the answer was basically NO.

I'm not worried about that. Long ago, I learned to take the technology available and make it work for me. We have digital sound, though the manufacturers probably never considered it would be installed anywhere but at an indoor theatre. Dolby didn't intend for a CP65 to be where mine are. My automation wasn't designed for theatres at all... it's a radio station system. Pretty much nothing here was designed to be at a drive-in... except maybe the screens and the speaker posts... and the posts are just parking markers out here.

I think drive-in design probably went out with the end of Ashcraft lamps, Hobart generators and the big RCA, Altec, Ballantyne and Simplex power amplifiers. Heck... even Spatz paint is but a memory.

So... asking whether ANYONE is thinking specifically about a drive-in when they're designing their products is probably a question with a predictable answer.

There already is a digital projector that will come close to industry standards on a drive-in screen. In some cases, it might even hit them. You might need larger bulbs than you're used to using, maybe heavier (or 3-phase) wiring and a higher electric bill, but it can be done. Heck... if you have the money, you CAN go with two machines. That would make it much easier.

Remember, as it is now, very few drive-ins come close to half the light intensity that's specified in the standards. That doesn't justify anything. However, if you're only getting 1 or 2 fL out of your present setup, a digital that can get you to 10 would be a major upgrade. The NEC projector did better than that on a 86 foot screen.

As you say... we have to find our own benefits to going with digital right now... and you're right in your observation that I'm not there yet.

I don't mind splicing my films, though I realize I could spend the money to eliminate that. I know several drive-in owners who would probably go with digital just on that basis, were it not for the annual fees involved. Being able to point-and-click my trailer list would be VERY cool... but that's not something the audience would notice.

I've always taken care of my own machines, so I'm saving the maintenance contract money. I have spare power supplies, transmitters and projector heads here, and I can put the whole place on a diesel generator in about 10 minutes. Don't forget that if something goes wrong with a Christie machine, you don't have the ability to do much about it. Opening it up fully disables it and sends a message out that you've been bad. The NEC system has a training program that will help you get around that... and others may, by this time.

I like the fact that I have the ability to determine whose bulbs go into my lamphouses, and I use the products of two different companies for subjective reasons. That probably wouldn't be the case if Christie was managing the booth.

The "alternative content" argument doesn't resonate with me. There's plenty of film to run during my good (weather) months, and not much in the way of alternative that I could really dedicate a screen to... especially for an entire week.

As it is, this may be a moot issue for seasonal operations. Last I checked, the financing people weren't much interested in placing a projector that would be turned off for 5+ months of the year.

There are, maybe, 8 digital projectors in my entire state. That's twice as many as there were last year, but half as many as could fit into one of our many mondoplexes. There has to be a reason for that, though the big boys aren't calling to tell me why. I figure that seeing those numbers start going up significantly will get my attention. Until then, I'm very happy to let the chain companies work out the kinks.

Unless you're sure it's the right time for you, you could install a reliable 35mm projector for a 10th of the cost of a digital. Other than maybe an occasional tune-up, you could dust, lube & oil the thing yourself and save 2-4k$ per year (per screen). In the meantime, the progression of this new technology would continue... reliability would get better, the 4k issue would work itself out, and maybe the prices would moderate a bit. Just look at what happened with the PS3. People were paying 7,000+ to be the first to have them. Now, they're less than 10% of that. A good example? Maybe... maybe not.

You could be right... digital might be a sure bet. It could also be possible that the industry is painting themselves into a corner, whereby we'll have a dual-technology system for many years to come. IF that turns out to be the case, then there's plenty of time to watch the fun play out before jumping into the pool. If not, then I think we'll all know when it's time to get serious about getting digital for our market. If the time for you is now... then great. You know your market much better than I would.

[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited March 25, 2007).]
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 25 Mar 2007 12:29 #22632

  • wimovieman
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I sure do not see getting product any easier in a small market because of the virtual print costs---the same rhetoric will surely be used of "covering the print costs".

I also, a paying member, haven't heard anything from CBG since the push to have us join. Would be nice to have a little updates now and then of how bad or good the small markets are looking in this digital world.
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 25 Mar 2007 22:16 #22633

  • Transit Drive in
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CBG held member only meetings at both ShowEast and ShoWest. Those meetings were confidential to CBG members, so I cannot post about those meetings on here.

Rick Cohen
Transit Drive-in
"As long as there are sunsets and stars at night, there will always be drive-in movies."
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 25 Mar 2007 22:35 #22634

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Barco is putting a new D-Cinema Projector on the market this summer that will be capable of running a 6,500 watt Xenon bulb and hitting the screen with 30,000 lumens, which will just about do the trick for 99% of most drive-in screens.

The screen we held the NEC demo on last May at the Transit was 98 feet wide, with a 6,000 watt bulb hitting the screen with about 24,000 lumens, and that was as bright as I've ever seen my screen.

A key issue for when to jump into D-Cinema is the studio financed VPF's. Those agreements will not be available forever, so if you choose to wait for the back-end of the rollout, you could end up paying the entire cost of the equipment on your own. It is my understanding that the VPF's will eventually be cut off after a certain date, and the studios will only pay VPF's through a third party integrator such as AccessIT or Technicolor.

There is still a long was to go with D-Cinema, however it is progressing steadily and will only pick up more speed over the next couple years.
"As long as there are sunsets and stars at night, there will always be drive-in movies."
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 26 Mar 2007 08:50 #22635

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Yes the CBG was there. They had a meeting and I spoke in the hallway of the hotel with Wayne earlier in the week. After I talked with Wayne we decided to join because I think for us little guys we are only going to get attention if we stay in a group. Unless you want to pay going rates from AccessIT you have to have big screen #'s to negotiate prices. The only way for me to do that is in a group. It does not cost a lot to join and it made sense to me so we did it.

FYI: I have worked in Corporate America for one of the most respected companies in the US and we were then bought by one of the Largest Company's in the world. Size does matter when you go to negotiate on contracts.
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Re: 2K Digital projector systems... for FREE? 27 Mar 2007 08:04 #22636

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wimovieman if you have not heard from the CBG or gotten a new agreement to sign this year then they don't have you down as a member. That is what they told people at showest. You should check with them. They may have your contact info wrong. http://www.cbgpurchasing.com/

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