Wall Street financing massive digital conversion program

posted by danpetitpas on October 6, 2008 at 10:45 am

Wall Street will raise over $1 billion to help fund the conversion of 20,000 movie screens to digital projection in a deal announced Wednesday.

Blackstone Group LP and JPMorgan Chase & Co are arranging financing for Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings Inc and AMC Entertainment Inc to install 3D digital projection for up to 20,000 movie screens.

The three theater chains have reached agreements with Lionsgate, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney and Universal Pictures where the studios will pay a “virtual print fee” each time a digital movie is shown. The fee will be used to pay off the cost of the equipment.

Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures are expected to eventually sign on to the agreement.

Details will probably be announced before the start of ShowEast, the annual convention of theater operators, in Orlando on October 13th.

Up to 3,000 digital screens could be ready to go within a year as the studios are moving aggressively ahead with the production of 3-D movies.

Disney will have Bolt out in November, A Christmas Carol in 2009 and Alice in Wonderland in 2010. Dreamworks has Monsters vs. Aliens out in March and all future animated movies will be in 3-D. Twentieth Century Fox has Ice Age 3 out next summer and James Cameron’s Avatar out for Christmas.

Read more in Financial Times and Reuters.

Comments (12)

moviebuff82 on October 6, 2008 at 2:17 pm

$1 billion? This is despite a falling stock market as of today which could hurt the banks and the media and tech companies that are behind this digital thing.

KenLayton on October 6, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Meanwhile the little guy is left out in the cold.

CSWalczak on October 6, 2008 at 3:17 pm

And guess who will actually end up paying that “virtual print fee” through higher ticket prices and outrageously-priced concessions?

Furthermore, as should have been learned from the original 3-D period in the 1950s, and from the age of widescreen experimentation, 3-D (or Cinerama or 70mm) in and of themselves cannot make a bad movie better and excessive use of these processes on unworthy material ultimately contributes to the demise of their use.

CinemarkFan on October 6, 2008 at 7:23 pm

Why do I get the feeling that all this spending on digital will come back to haunt us in a few years? Granted, digital has it’s place, but it will never compare to the quality derived from 70MM, which uses a DTS timecode soundtrack today.

Oh and yeah, ticket prices will rise because of this.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on October 7, 2008 at 1:04 am

Dear Wall Street Crooks…
I’d love to add 3D to my digital projection system in my 25 seat home cinema.
Please add my name to your list of “friends”! Cherio for now…

markp on October 7, 2008 at 9:22 am

What a novel idea!!! Now I’ll be able to go to my local cinema and pay some inflated ticket price, to watch the same thing I can watch at home. And at home, I can do it by my fireplace. All I get in the theatre is rowdy kids running around. As Ken Layton, and CinemarkFan said, the little guy will be toast, and as a long time projectionist, give me 70MM anytime. That had superior picture and sound, long before all this digital projection and even digital sound was even thought of.

JodarMovieFan on October 7, 2008 at 10:52 am

I saw my first IMAX digital movie (“Eagle Eye”) at the AMC Columbia 14. It wasn’t anything spectacular to watch compared to other digital movies. The auditorium was no larger than one of the larger AMC theaters but not bigger than the largest one. The screen size was probably 50-60 ft wide, which is about the size of our Muvico’s DLP screen. As with the non-IMAX DP movies, the colors were bright but not exaggerated, no spotting, blotches or flickering. The only major difference is the admission price of $13!!! Was it worth it? No. I’ll visit the other 2 IMAX screens to see if there is an appreciable size difference. Maybe an animated movie will look better in this format. We’ll see next month with Madagascar 2.

CinemarkFan on October 7, 2008 at 12:29 pm

What you just said Movie534, is the reason why this digital stuff will eventually fall flat on it’s face. Think about it, on 2/17/09, television will be all digital. With that, why would some sane person wanna spend $12-13 dollars on a movie presented in a projection system that you get at home, for free? With high ticket prices, moviegoers will stay & wait for blu-ray for most films (save for films like Iron Man and TDK).

cahammoaz on October 7, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Cinemark i beleave will not be welcomed verywell here in Kingman after lastyears closeing.

Kingman are you ready for a $12 movie ticket?

cahammoaz on October 7, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Also i have the Blue prints done for my Drive-in Here in Arizona. i am looking for investors for this project.

i may have to rethink my plans to go Digi

Chris Hammontree


markp on October 7, 2008 at 10:49 pm

CinemarkFan, if I’m ever lucky enough to be able to get to Chicago, I have to absolutely meet you. You speak my language.

moviebuff82 on November 22, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Recently Clearview has converted some of its busiest theaters to digital cinema, probably installing nearly all of its screens before this decade is over.

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