Disney Signs Historic Digital Cinema Agreement
Sep 16, 2005 11:39 AM
The Walt Disney Studios' distribution arm Buena Vista Pictures Distribution (BVPD) and Access Integrated Technologies' (AccessIT) Christie/AIX unit have entered into a groundbreaking 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. Christie/AIX will install between 2,500 and 4,000 systems throughout the United States and Canada over the next two years.
Just over one month ago, Digital Cinema Initiatives, a joint venture of Disney and other major studios, issued the final technical specification for theatrical digital equipment. Christie/AIX's installation plan marks the first mass deployment following the DCI specification's release. The benefits of DCI compliance should be apparent to consumers as the systems initially deployed by Christie/AIX will include DCI-compliant compression, the state of the art in moving image projection which delivers the highest-quality DLP Cinema image to the movie screen. All systems will be upgraded to full DCI compliance as soon as the hardware is available.
Disney is the first major studio to sign an agreement to provide content for Christie/AIX digital systems. Recently, in an unprecedented move, Disney led the film industry by introducing Disney Digital 3D, using Christie DLP Cinema projectors and Dolby servers. Audiences can enjoy this true three-dimensional digital experience in movie theaters on November 4, 2005, with the highly anticipated release of the Walt Disney animated film Chicken Little.
AccessIT's Christie/AIX unit serves as the funding vehicle and administrator for the company's 4,000 screen digital cinema rollout plan expanded from the one originally announced in June 2005. Under the plan, Christie/AIX will act as a financing intermediary between content owners -- including major studios and independent distributors -- and exhibitors who will utilize DCI-compliant digital cinema systems including 2K projectors and related hardware and software. The raising of capital for funding of the initial 200 systems was completed on July 21, 2005.
"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," says Chuck Viane, president of BVPD. "DCI-compliant digital cinema rollouts will allow consumers to enjoy the highest quality cinema experience available while providing clear benefits to exhibition partners. We couldn't be more pleased with the top-of-the-line performance of Christie projectors and look forward to seeing our films presented in the highest digital viewing quality available."
"We appreciate the importance of this signing as a major step forward for AccessIT and the industry," comments Bud Mayo, chairman and chief executive officer of AccessIT. "Disney has always been extremely forward-thinking in the digital cinema space, and in supporting this venture in particular. We expect this to be the first of several signings with studios in the next month or so, accompanied by agreements with exhibitors. The contribution of Christie to this and other contemplated signings cannot be overstated. As we expand the number of stakeholders in this groundbreaking venture, AccessIT is proud to be a key member on such an impressive team. We fully expect the deployment to begin in October with at least 150 screens in time for Christmas."
Jack Kline, president and COO of Christie, notes, "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. Disney, an innovator and leader in the art of entertainment, is an important part of the equation. By marrying their leadership with our understanding of the unique needs of the exhibition community, moviegoers everywhere will be the big winners, enjoying the spectacular visual experience of digital cinema technology that is unmatched by anything they have ever seen before."
Adds Chuck Goldwater, president and COO of Christie/AIX, "The Disney contract is the first of several announcements concerning our rollout plan that we expect to make in the weeks ahead. It re-affirms our confidence that the plan is viable, practical and workable for all industry participants. We are encouraged and grateful for the growing support from the studios and from exhibitors, which will enable AccessIT to continue to help drive the industry's transition to the digital future."