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Sunday, July 13, 2008

D Cinema Finger-Pointing

What's this all about?

Warner Bros. is accusing theater owners of dragging their feet in the deployment of digital cinema equipment. (True - the biggest chains, including Regal and AMC, have yet to get serious about installing digital projectors.)

And the National Association of Theater Owners is accusing Warner Bros. of being slow to commit to the financial terms that will support future digital cinema roll-outs. (Probably also true... studios are notoriously stingy about how much they will pay for a film print, or how much their will pay as a "virtual print fee," which is essentially a toll for sending a digital movie to a digital projector, which helps pay for the cost of the equipment.)

Earlier this year, Jeffrey Katzenberg had also accused theaters of being slow in their shift to digital. DreamWorks, of course, is getting ready to introduce its first 3-D movie in 2009, 'Monsters vs. Aliens.' (Warner Bros. is the distributor for this month's 'Journey to the Center of the Earth.')

The studios, I suspect, are now feeling the complexity of releasing movies in both film and digital formats -- and probably won't start seeing real cost savings until digital distribution hits a certain volume level. That's why they're negotiating so hard on what they'll pay as a virtual print fee for this second wave of d cinema installations.

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