European digital cinema services group is to enter the North American electronic distribution sector, launching a broadband-based service targeting the movement of specialised content to cinemas. The group has launched a US entity, Direct Cinema North America, to be run by industry veteran Barry Rebo, who himself has been very active in specialist content, which is defined as specialist films, alternative content (or event cinema), screen advertising and trailers and publicity materials. The Ymagis Cineconductor software will form the backbone of the service, which will sit between distributors and exhibitors but not be involved in any commercial transactions.
Ymagis has stressed that the proposed service is not a competitor to the existing distribution infrastructure being built under the name Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition (DCDC). This venture is a partnership between a group of major studios and exhibitors, (the founding partners that formed DCDC are leading exhibitors AMC Theatres, Cinemark and Regal Entertainment, and major studios Universal Pictures and Warner Bros) and even though progress has been slower than anticipated, the addition of Carmike Cinemas, Marcus Theatres and Wehrenberg Theatres in late 2014 expands the network’s coverage to over 21,000 screens in 1,800 sites. This is around half the North American screen base, but now includes all the Top 5 US exhibitors. Last year, DCDC acquired its service provider (and competitor) Deluxe Echostar, simplifying the overall market structure somewhat. The addition of Ymagis to the sector will not affect the workings of this venture but should boost the ability of exhibitors to play other forms of non-mainstream content. The market is dominated to an extent by Fathom Events, which is linked to the major exhibitors behind the venture (and DCDC by the same companies), and a new player of this type should enable further market growth.
Ymagis has undergone a rapid expansion in the past two years, becoming the largest digital cinema services group in Europe following a series of acquisitions. In particular, dcinex has now been integrated into the group’s structure. A Russian office was opened in late 2014, adding to the company’s European presence.