Belgian and global digital cinema projector company Barco has agreed the sale of 3,000 d-cinema projectors to India's Real Image Media Technologies (RIMT), of which 700 units will be shipped this year beginning in May 2013. RIMT runs a network of 3,000 (mainly) e-cinema screens in the single screen sector. The deal includes all projectors in the Barco product range, depending on screen size, and projectors are equipped with Qube's IMB.
Barco and RIMT have a long business relationship, beginning in 2010 when the two companies announced a product partnership for d-cinema projectors in some screens, equipping around 140 in this phase, extending this in 2012 when RIMT ordered a further 300 d-cinema projectors in a deal worth $10m. This included a dual projection solution for 3D screenings and Qube servers. RIMT is the company behind the Qube digital cinema server. RIMT is backed amongst others by Intel and Japanese bank Nomura and offers a wide range of digital cinema (and other media) services.
The single screen cinemas in India can be very large, and a small-screen projector (the cheaper end of the d-cinema range) is not suitable for such a screen, which presents complications for conversion. However, with the pricing of d-cinema projectors coming down, especially with the arrival of the more recently launched small-screen d-cinema projectors (S2K chip), and the longer lifespan of d-cinema equipment compared to e-cinema, the gap between d-cinema and e-cinema pricing has narrowed and projector manufacturers and Texas Instruments believe that d-cinema is a viable proposition for (potential) e-cinema screens, although maybe not all just yet.
Even though RIMT rival UFO Moviez (which has around 2,500 e-cinema screens in its network) acquired a majority of Asian (and recently US) d-cinema deployment outfit Scrabble Entertainment in 2012, this deal is likely to put some pressure on them to undertake a similar technology upgrade, spelling the end of e-cinema as a digital cinema solution in India for over half of the current Indian e-cinema market. However, there are still approximately 4,000 35m screens left to convert to digital in the single screen sector, where the existing solutions don't seem to make economic sense, and these are struggling to convert at all let alone to d-cinema.
E-cinema equipment, especially that purposed for large venues, can actually be more expensive than d-cinema, but in general, the e-cinema machines are lower cost than d-cinema (a range of $10-20K for e-cinema) but are not purposed for cinema, and tend to have a relatively short lifespan. One Spanish exhibitor used e-cinema equipment, spending EUR12,000 on a machine that would last for one year, when it would be thrown away and replaced with a new one. Given that a similar d-cinema machine cost around EUR40,000 at that time (2011), of which 75 per cent would have been financed under a VPF deal, this hardly made economic or technological sense at any level. E-cinema within the cinema is now all but dead outside China and India, although there are many other uses for such projectors (corporate, film clubs, advertising, conference and business and so on).
At 1Q 2013, India had 1,256 d-cinema screens in place, double the 620 a year ago, some of which are within the e-cinema networks of RIMT and UFO Moviez but most are in the multiplex sector. Circuits like INOX, PVR, Big, Satyam have all invested in d-cinema equipment, offering as they do a mix of Indian and US films.