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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Technicolor vs. Christie/AIX

Things are heating up in the rivalry between Christie/AIX and Technicolor. Both are vying to convert as many theaters as possible to digital projection, financing the necessary equipment and then collecting a fee from studios every time a new digital movie is shown.

Technicolor announced today that it'll be using some of Sony's high-res 4K projectors when it starts its digital cinema beta test in 2006. Here's a snippet from the press release:

    "The goal of digital cinema is to offer an entertainment experience that can't be had at home, even with the best of home theater systems," said Joe Berchtold, president of Technicolor Electronic Distribution Services. "Sony's 4K SXRD projector is a device that can deliver on this promise, and will provide theatergoers a more satisfying and dynamic cinema experience. That's why we're including the Sony projector in our beta test next year and eventually expect to deploy a meaningful number of them in the marketplace."

Last week, Technicolor announced that four studios were committed to providing it with digital versions of their movies: DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, and Universal Studios.

Meanwhile, Christie/AIX hasn't announced any plans to deploy 4K projectors; they're going to be using 2K projectors, which are less expensive and more proven, but offer lower resolution.

Here's a podcast of an interview between Bud Mayo, the CEO of AccessIT (half of the Christie/AIX joint venture) and Laurie Sullivan of TechWeb. He talks about the DCI standard, and the value proposition digital cinema offers to theater owners and studios.

Sullivan also wrote this piece, `Digital Cinema Lighting Up Megaplexes.' She writes:

    Plans call for a 36,000-screen deployment during the next five years. That's how many commercial movie screens there are in the United States and Canada.

I think that's probably a mistake. But it got me thinking: could we really see all 36,000 screens in the U.S. convert to digital by 2010?