BURBANK, CA â€“ In a long-awaited move, Disney has become the first of the six major Hollywood studios to move forward with a digital cinema effort. Last month, the Walt Disney Studios' distribution arm Buena Vista Pictures Distribution and Access Integrated Technologies' Christie/AIX unit entered into a non-exclusive agreement to supply feature films from Walt Disney Pictures and Touchstone Pictures to DCI-compliant digital projection systems to be deployed by Christie/AIX.
Under the plan, Christie/AIX will act as a financing intermediary between content owners â€“ including major studios and independent distributors â€“ and exhibitors who will use DCI-compliant digital cinema systems, including 2K projectors and related hardware and software.
Christie/AIX says it will install between 2,500 and 4,000 systems throughout the United States and Canada over the next two years.
All of the movie studios will gain from moving to digital in particular by eliminating the cost of film prints. But this deal makes sense for Disney in particular because their overall business includes theme parks and other venues where footage from the feature films they release are re-purposed. That will be simpler and less costly in the digital era.
This announcement can - and to a certain extent, already has - jumpstart the overall move to digital cinema.
Producers and post houses will benefit from this in many ways. Post facilities in major movie markets such as Los Angeles, New York and Toronto will see benefits the soonest. But as D-Cinema and E-Cinema applications evolve and grow there will be opportunities for producers and post facilities in virtually every market in the world.
Executives from the companies involved in the Disney announcement were understandably bullish.
"We are thrilled that we have come to an agreement with Christie/AIX to supply content to their digital projection systems, and we will continue to support other deployment plans in order to ensure the future success of the exhibition industry," said Buena Vista president Chuck Viane, president.
Jack Kline, president/COO of Christie, says, "Exhibitors were one of our top priorities when we crafted the agreement. We wanted to ensure that maintenance costs remained similar to that of film projection while providing higher quality images."
Chuck Goldwater, president/COO of Christie/AIX says, "The Disney contract is the first of several announcements concerning our rollout plan that we expect to make in the weeks ahead."
"We appreciate the importance of this signing as a major step forward for AccessIT and the industry," says Bud Mayo, chairman and CEO of AccessIT. "Disney has always been extremely forward thinking in the digital cinema space, and in supporting this venture in particular. We fully expect the deployment to begin in October with at least 150 screens in time for Christmas."
Nick Dager is the Editor & Publisher of Digital Cinema Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.