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Saturday, March 11, 2006

`Digital cinema isn't ready for prime time'

That's the quote from National CineMedia's Kurt Hall in this Reuters piece that ran yesterday, headlined `Digital cinema may not be ready to roll.'

Hall's message will resonate loudly with theater owners next week at ShoWest, because his company is handling the digital cinema roll-out for three of the nation's largest chains: Regal, AMC, and Cinemark.

Hall has some motivations for saying that digital cinema isn't ready:

  1. It's a negotiating ploy. If Hall seems too eager to buy thousands of digital projectors and servers, he won't get the best price.
  2. His organization simply isn't ready to start its roll-out.
  3. The three big chains that fund his joint venture don't see the competitive advantage today in introducing digital.

Hall's attitude could change fast if the smaller theater chains that *are* involved with digital cinema deployments (like UltraStar in southern California) start marketing their digital screens as something they have and their bigger competitors don't. And the pending digitization of Carmike Cinemas, the country's third-biggest chain, by Christie/AIX could cause Hall to change his tune.

In other news: MPAA says attendance was down 9 percent in 2005, and that movie marketing costs are up. And Forbes reports on Disney's annual shareholder meeting.


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