EXCLUSIVE: Roughly three years after it began offering movies and other content to theaters via satellite, the Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition says it ended 2016 serving about three of every four U.S. screens — up from 62% in 2015.
The coalition contracted with 179 exhibitors that have more than 2,650 theaters with 30,000-plus screens. It reached 23,579 screens at the end of 2015.
The DCDC delivered 221 film titles last year, up from 200 in 2015. They included Best Picture Oscar nominees Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion and Oscar winner Moonlight.
The announcement comes as exhibition and studio leaders prepare to convene next week in Las Vegas for the annual CinemaCon confab.
Major exhibition chains (AMC Theatres, Regal Entertainment and Cinemark) and studios (Universal Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment) formed the coalition in 2013 to facilitate the rollout of satellite delivery. Both sides pay DCDC to install dishes and digital servers, which it controls, at theaters — and then transmit content to them.
The organization initially struggled to persuade owners of small and midsize theaters that it was worth the trouble to change.
But last year “we started reaching critical mass and word-of-mouth started spreading across the exhibition community” about the value of the system, DCDC chief Randy Blotky says.
“Pretty much everything comes through us these days,” he adds. That doesn’t include pre-show ads “yet.”
But this fall, DCDC likely will have to increase the memory in the servers it has installed to handle the growing number of versions of each film that it transmits.
It isn’t just to accommodate 3D and 2D or large screens vs. conventional screens.
Blotky says that a release frequently will be offered with different light levels to accommodate screens made with different materials. Some require projection in different frame rates. Venues also often use different sound technologies.
“You can grow a 250 GB film to have all versions [require] close to 1 TB,” he says.