Some press articles said that they are both working on a seperate deal with DCIP. Sony, being a manufacturer and studio is in a different position than the others, so this is understandable. Warners, no one can figure out. The rightfully say that they have done as much anyone to get digital cinema evolving, but except for XDC, they haven’t signed a VPF deal.
The studios that are in this set of accords are Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Motion Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Lionsgate Films.
[Edit: Sony DCSS has announced a VPF deal with Fox, Paramount and Sony Pictures. The release doesn’t specify a number. It appears that Sony is offering their own financing package. And, there is another announcement from Kodak that they have a VPF package for 8,000 screens with Paramount.]
The financiers for the DCIP packages are J.P. Morgan, the investment banking arm of JPMorgan Chase and The Blackstone Group. GE Financial, with 80% ownership of Universal and the financier of the earlier largest deployment of DCinema systems (by AccessIT/Christie) was not mentioned.
What is mentioned in the press release is that these seperate long term agreements are for 20,000 screens in North America, while DCIP’s website establishes the partners with only 14,000. Cinemark does have 1,030 cinemas in Central and South America (11 of which have been deployed with DCinema systems according to Bill Mead’s article in Film Journal International.) What are the implications of adding 6,000 additional screens to the numbers? except that DCIP will offer its integration capabilities to other chains. The press release uses the phrasing “to nearly 20,000 movie theatre screens across North America, including…” the 3 partners.
NATO issued a release applauding the DCIP Agreement (which possibly should be referred to in the plural, since the DCIP release mentions ‘agreements’ and ‘seperate agreements’ several times…except in the heading.) NATO continued by expressing encouragement for “similar deal with smaller exhibitors.”
This confuses a previously understood situation, in that the smaller exhibitors were assisted by NATO in forming the Cinema Buying Group. This group then selected AccessIT as the vendor to equip and service their installations. AccessIT had 3 weeks previous announced agreements with Disney, Fox, Paramount, and Universal for 10,000 US and Canada screens worth of VPF. (A long term deal with Lion’s Gate was announced the following month.) Why is NATO encouraging a similar deal for small exhibitors when small exhibitors have access through AccessIT, who provide several layers of benefit to both the exhibitors and studios?
There are other interesting implications and questions that this deal brings up.
With 4,500 North American screens already installed and 14,000 going direct to the studios in this deal, and 8,000 going though AccessIT in the CBG deal, that’s 28,000 of approximately 41,000 screens in the US and Canada. Are the owners of these screens just waiting in the wings? If DCIP does there own supply and installation contracting, and if they complete their DCDC distribution infrastructure plans, is there enough business left over to keep AccessIT investors happy? to support other groups, for example Technicolor? Kodak? both of whom have a couple hundred systems installed. The significance of the additional 6,000 screens handled by DCIP must loom large in their plans.
And what of equipment manufacturers. Will a large sale like this promote the use of single vendors, or will several different brands of servers and projectors be used? The latter would promote interoperability point that NATO has detailed in their DCinema System Requirements.
One thing not mentioned in the press release is time of deployment. How many quality lenses can be crafted every month?
Nothwithstanding all this, such a major agreement is a welcome relief in an industry which has invested a lot of un-recouped engineering, exposition/marketing, and standards development effort, time and money.
The titans have sat at the table and made their deals. Now the exciting part of implementation can begin.