Market Insight

MasterImage stakes out leading exhibitors in France, Japan


3D technology company MasterImage has signed deals to equip leading exhibitors in France and Japan with its 3D theatrical systems.

Masterimage has been selected as a 3D equipment supplier to Pathé Gaumont (Europalaces), the leading circuit by screen count in France. The first installations will include five key Europalaces cinemas in Paris.  The leading French circuit has recently made significant progress in its digital screen deployment, having upgraded over 70 per cent of its screens as at end first quarter 2011, of which 300 or 45 per cent of its total screens have already been equipped for digital 3D.

In Japan, MasterImage has been selected by the largest cinema circuit, Toho Cinemas, to supply its 3D theatrical system as part of their ongoing digital deployment. A vertically integrated Japanese major , Toho, operates 545 screens nationwide. Toho has already agreed terms for its full digital deployment namely with Sony for its 4K projectors. Toho expects all its screens to have been fully digitised by end 2012, but has not stipulated its target penetration of 3D screens.

French exhibitors have been particularly aggressive in their approach to 3D, for example, the top five circuits had upgraded an average 46 per cent of their total screens to 3D capability by end Q1 2011, a very high proportion. The key protagonist has been second-ranked circuit, CGR, now on target to achieve 100 per cent 3D capability using RealD systems. To date, the primary 3D exhibitor partners have been either RealD or active glasses (XpanD) in France. While MasterImage is already active in France, deal with largest circuit could significantly bolster its market share, if on a bulk scale. Currently, MasterImage's largest strongholds in Western Europe are Germany, Spain, the UK and Ireland. Other key exhibitor clients include Cineplex, Empire Cinemas, Nordisk Film and Cinema City International.

Deal marks the first major breakthrough for MasterImage in Japan. It is, however, at odds with a precedent, as Sony projectors have traditionally been matched with the market leading RealD systems, following a technology link-up between the two companies. Sony Electronics also recently announced that it will also be integrating the Panavision 3D system, the most recent entrant into the digital 3D as welll as film-based 3D theatrical space, with its projectors for launch in Europe by end 2011. This technology deal has been set up through DPVO, a joint venture company between Panavision and Omega Optical. One advantage of the Panavision system is that it does not use polarization so can be projected onto a standard white screen.

3D accounted for approximately 22 per cent of total scré eens in Japan at end 2010, according to IHS Screen Digest. Toho was already the leading Japanese exhibitor for 3D screens at year end with around 150, followed closely by Warner Mycal (125) according to the MPPAJ.

In March 2011, MasterImage raised $15m in venture funding from Samsung Ventures.