Technicolor has agreed a deal with Norway's Unique Digital for in-country distribution to cinemas, on the back of Unique's existing and planned hard drive replication and fibre network. Outside of its existing activities in hard drive replication and distribution into cinemas, Unique Digital has developed a solution of transferring films over the Internet, sending a 100GB file overnight (about three hours) to be accessed by a unique code the following morning by the cinema. Unique has tested this in association with Norwegian distributor SF Norge and tech company BUG Norway. This system can be used by 90 per cent of Norway's 185 cinemas, once it is up and running, and is a part of the single-market approach to digitisation that Norway has pioneered.
In Mexico, Technicolor has agreed a strategic alliance with Mexican film logistics company Contenido Alternativo for in-country replication and distribution of hard drives to cinemas, offering a single point of contact for support. Universal Pictures has become the first studio to sign up to this service which is where they believe the market is headed: integrated service covering duplication and logistics as opposed to splitting these two areas out into different providers.
Technicolor has also signed a multi-year deal with Warner Bros and other studios to create an end-to-end platform of studios and post-producers, effectively creating a secure network of vendors (service providers) within the post-production sector and developing a suite of tools for management, monitoring and collaboration between them.
The development of digital delivery systems is not necessarily developing as the industry had assumed five years ago. Satellite is one possible (and actual) method of delivering content to cinemas, but it is not the only one. Without the necessary volume, satellite can start out expensive although the price would be expected to fall over time as a satellite network develops. It is clear that hard drive delivery is still a viable solution for delivering content into cinemas, and can be better managed and organised than the same system for 35mm film as can be seen by the recent deal between KIT Digital and Nevafilm in Russia which brings the two companies together into a streamlined hard drive distribution infrastructure. The development and average speed of fibre networks varies around the world, ruling it out in some places, but where a quality infrastructure exists then a broadband (IP) approach can also work, such as has happened in Norway and parts of Asia and Europe.
These three possible solutions and the growing number of entrants into this area means that electronic distribution is now a reality, and the market is becoming slightly crowded in Europe and around the world. The resulting patchwork of systems (satellite, fibre and hard drive) across the globe is likely to be complex, and will require further technical cooperation between players and further down the line, probably some consolidation will occur. For the operations side of film distributors, the eventual spider's web of companies, links and solutions is likely to prove difficult to manage without effective IT infrastructure and control systems in place, hence Technicolor bringing distribution networks into their client offer, but the prospect of digital delivery to digital cinemas is moving closer to the reality that was dreamed of a decade ago.