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Sunday, June 24, 2012

CineBUZZ - Cinema News Report - 22 June 2012

Highlights of This Week's Report

- What is a NOC ?
- D-Cinema Projection for Small Venues
- EEC - A Deployment/Service Provider
-Ultra Stereo Intros LSS-100
-Deployment - It's All Greek to Me

NOCs remotely monitor  cinema operating systems
Network Operating Centers
A network operating center is a 24/7/365 facility which remotely monitors clients' digital systems making sure they are operating properly, getting timely maintenance, and receiving all necessary software updates.  Additionally, the NOC provides comprehensive remote monitoring and management of devices to ensure required compliance with specific site operation - such as with the Virtual Print Fee Program in the case of cinemas.

NOCs are high-tech operating and monitoring facilities that allow technicians to address operating problems and remotely fix those problems immediately and, in addition, spot and identify potential operating issues and problems.   If the problem can not be solved remotely the NOC will notify the client designated technical provider for on-site service.

Not new to the digital domain, NOCs have been in use by the military and in many industries for years, but are relatively new to the cinema exhibition industry.  As time goes on, you will see more and more NOCs being used as system electronics become more sophisticated.  The goal is a NOC is to prevent or limit operational down-time and to monitor equipment and its operation around-the-clock.

NEC's new NC900C Projector
Later this year, NEC sill be launching a compact, industry certified, D-Cinema projector - the NC900C.  It will be the first projection to incorporate the new S2K chip set from Texas Instruments and is the perfect solution for very small cinema auditoriums or screening rooms.

The NC900C will be the first D-Cinema projector with dual lamp capability which provides more operating reliability.  It has no external exhaust which makes for easy placement or wall/ceiling mounting, accepts 3D systems and supports high-frame-rate projection.  Inputs include: HDMI, HDSDI 3G for alternative content. It also incorporates an integrated RAID 5 Server system with a 1.5TB capacity.
The NC900C will be available in late 2012, no pricing as yet.

EEC - Deployment/Service Provider

Entertainment Equipment Corp. provides end-to-end solutions and deployment of Digital Cinema to movie exhibitors.  Starting with free on-site visits to determine each cinema's specific needs and requirements when converting to digital projection and ending with theatre staff training, EEC runs the gamut in providing superior service and equipment.
Representing all of the major digital cinema equipment manufacturers, EEC recommends and presents each client all of the available alternatives and options regarding digital projection equipment, sound upgrades, VPF participation, pricing, and financing options.  Leaving the final decisions to the cinema client, EEC has been and will continue to be 'product neutral".  If asked, we state our opinion based upon field experience with products and their performance and upon client testimonials regarding prior purchases which are monitored very closely.
Digital Cinema conversion is now inevitable and the decisions surrounding the process are complex and the financial consequences both significant and long-term. Therefore, it is imperative that each cinema owner work with a trusted deployment provider that has the requisite capabilities, resources, and technical knowledge to assist in the decision process and then be able to implement those decisions with a full compliment of  installation, training and after sale services.

USL's LSS-100 Is A 'Must-Have' For Cinemas

Showcased at CineEurope last week was Ultra Stereo Lab's newest innovation - the LSS-100 Projection and Audio Analyzer.  This product allows cinemas the ability to continuously monitor on-screen technical performance - screen luminance, color accuracy, and sound levels  - allowing for a constant superior movie presentation.  "We are excited to demonstrate our latest innovation that allows exhibitors to understand how each auditorium is performing on a global level with projection and sound" , says Jack Cashin, USL's President & Chief Technical Officer. 

The wall/ceiling mountable LSS-100 includes a microphone to measure SPL (sound pressure level) while also monitoring the quality of reflected on-screen light and color quality.  Cinema Mucho Gusto, which rarely makes product endorsements, is recommending the LSS-100, as it ensures an optimal level of movie presentation quality which is a 'must-do' by exhibitors in this very competitive entertainment marketplace that currently exists. For more information check our the following:
www.uslinc.com:8880/ftp/LSS-100/LSS-100manual1120501'pdf.  Although pricing has not been set the unit should retail for well under $900.

D-Cinema Deployment A Myriad of Questions/Concerns

Digital deployment requires the equipment/service provider to perform a site visit to each cinema.  These mandatory visits are two fold: first, to gather vital information on the physical and performance aspects of the cinema, and second, to answer the myriad of questions and concerns by the cinema owner/operator regarding the conversion.

In making many of these visits over the last several years I have found that the 12 most often asked questions/concerns are the following:
  1. What is the best equipment to purchase, I've heard a lot of different stories?
  2. How much is the conversion going to cost?
  3. When will 35mm prints no longer be available?
  4. What is the VPF and how does it work?
  5. How much money will I receive if I opt for the VPF Program?
  6. Is financing available, and do you have recommendations?
  7. Can I use my existing sound system?
  8. What about 3D. How much more will it cost and what are my options?
  9. Can I use the System for alternative content and how will this work?
  10. What about 2k vs. 4k resolution?
  11. How long will the installation take?
  12. What is the useful life of the equipment?

Best and Happy Movie Going!
Jim Lavorato

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Chinese will produce more quality films
Hollywood has been downplaying the rise of online outlets for movies, television, and video content.  The fear has been that movies and television were headed for the same loss of audience and distribution suffered by the print and music businesses - as millions of consumers now read news online and access music digitally.  This theory has proved true to some extent with the rise of such entities as Netflix and Redbox, which have cut into DVD sales and ruined retail video outlets, such as Blockbuster.

For the most part, regarding film and video content, Hollywood is coping with the digital disruption quite well. First, video content is not easily shared like music.  The file size of a movie or TV show is enormous vs. a song.  That makes it much more difficult to copy and distribute. Second, media companies learned from the mistakes they made in the publishing and music businesses and have adapted.  For example, Hulu - a popular online TV channel (created by Disney, Fox, and Universal) -streams a wide-range of movies and TV shows available for free viewing with advertising support or with membership fees for premium content.  Hulu is working well for its studio owners in terms of revenue and as an alternative to Netflix and other online content streamers.
Redbox: foe of the cinema and DVD sales

Regarding movie exhibitors, theatre owners have kept close tabs (on their own and through blogs like Cinema Much Gusto) on the rise of internet or on-demand films offered by cable networks and others and how the Studios are reacting.  So far, the Studios have given cinemas an open and exclusive distribution window and this policy has worked will - as the old business model continues to reap profits.  This is particularly true in the overseas markets, which are expanding at a rate of 7% per year and provide the double benefit of countries, like China, becoming move aggressive in protecting movie copyrights and enforcing piracy laws as they now have a vested interest in expanding and protecting their indigenous movie business and cinemas. Digital cinema projection has also helped.  Cinemas can now easily and quickly install new pre-feature advertising and have a greater opportunity to exhibit alternative content.

So, for the time being, I believe, movie theatres will continue to benefit from their exclusive distribution window on filmed content as Hollywood has no compelling reason to change the current situation.

Best & Happy Movie Going !
Jim Lavorato

Monday, June 04, 2012


The Alamo and 1982 - What's The Connection
The Alamo Drafthouse Theatres, a small cinema chain HQ'd in Houston, TX, is one of EEC's clients.  The Drafthouse operates as a cinema/restaurant but does it with unique twists and approaches to film exhibition which is unlike any other cinema.  For example, Alamo regularly commissions famous graphic designers to 'reimagine' movie posters for films and then prints up its own one-sheets (trade name for posters for you movie film buffs). This summer, in celebration of their 30th anniversary the Alamo will be featuring movies of 1982.  '82 was a great year for films - Thriller, Conan The Barbarian, Mad Max 2, Rocky III, Poltergeist, Star Trek II, E.T., Tron all premiered.

Says, Tim League, founder of Alamo Drafthouse, "I was only 12 in '82 but I remember seeing many of these movies at the local cinema. The Drafthouse will mimic '82 exactly, even running the original trailers for these films."  Even the films that didn't succeed that year at the box office have settled into their place in film history.  For example, The Thing. And yes, 3D was around.

The Alamo Drafthouse Theatres provide a rare entertainment experience that combines Hollywood first-run and art films with great Tex-Mex food and one-of-a-kind programming events which places the Drafthouse in a class all its own.  Named "Best Theatre Ever" by Time Magazine, the Drafthouse chain has built a brand and reputation as a movie lover's oasis, and is a prime example I point to when other exhibitors ask how they can survive in the future.  Surviving is going to take a lot of thought, hard work, and initiative.

Thinking 30 years back and playing off that theme is the sort of
showmanship that every cinema operator should be doing.  The
key is to brand your cinema as a unique entertainment space that
is a fun and exciting place to visit.  The competition for eyeballs is getting harder and harder. In the future, just running movies will no longer be enough, exhibitors will have to be much more creative, much more customer oriented, and much more selective with the services and products they provide .

Drafthouse posters are great and many times best the originals. This one of
Blazing Saddles is eye catching, amusing, and very creative advertising.  
A Drafthouse 'Reimagined' Poster of Blazing Saddles

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Piranha Bites First !

'Piranha' Bites First With Day/Date Release

Premise: With ever better home entertainment systems (including 3D) for the first time, this weekend, the Theatre-only release window is shutting as the Weinstein Company's Piranha 3DD is being released at both cinemas, cable/satellite TV and internet video on demand on the same day.

Dimension Films (owned by Weinstein) stated that the film was going to be offered on VOD for $6.99
($7.99 for 3D version) starting Friday with purchasers having 30 days to watch it.  The movie will also be rentable through Amazon Instant Video, Facebook, Google Play/You Tube, iTunes, Xbox Live, and other internet outlets

These days, for movies to go wide release (say over 1,000 cinema screens) requires a huge marketing budget and the studio needs to create brand awareness for the movie - that is why the studios love franchise films, and make endless numbers of sequels and remakes.  Don't forget, when a film is based on a comic book character, top-selling novel or play, the marketing is built in.  But for the average film the going is very tough particularly if there is no 'star' power.  Thus the day and date release strategy, which you will be seeing more and more - as the big money lies in the cable and VOD 'box office'.

However, the Piranha's  across-the-board release is the first by a major studio.  Remember last year as Universal attempted to release Tower Heist in VOD just three weeks after the theatrical release and was threatened with a boycott of the film by several exhibition circuits.  But for Weinstein, the Piranha 3DD strategy makes sense.  A sequel to Piranha 3D, released in 2010 to an underwhelming cinema box office, 3DD will probably double its production cost by going with  same day cinema -TV-internet release. And expect more of the same from studio/distributors in the future.

This day-and-date release scenario was predicted in this blog two years ago, to much ballyhoo and "no/no' finger pointing but now it has come true. 5 to 10 years from now, most movies will be released in this fashion.  It makes economic sense for the content providers to go 'really wide release' with their products and they will.

Best and Happy Movie Going!
Jim Lavorato