E-City Digital inks alliance with Real Image

MUMBAI: E-City Ventures promoted E-City Digital has tied up with Chennai-based Real Image Media Technologies (RMIT), wherein the latter will be the technological hardware and service provider for all digital screens of E-City in India.

RIMT’s Qube servers are the only player in India, which supports both the D-Cinema and the E-Cinema standards.

E-City Digital presently operates 101 digital screens in Mumbai, Gujarat, Delhi, UP, and Nizam film circuits. By 2011, the company would have brought 1000 digital screens under its fold by adding West Bengal, Rajasthan, TN and Kerala to its roll out plan. As against 117 in the US, India has a cinema screen ratio of only 12 screens for every one million people. With about 13,000 single screen theatres, there still is a scope for an additional 10,000 screens in India, feels E-City Ventures, CEO, Atul Goel.

Goel stated, “RMIT already provides servers and technical assistance to E- City Digital for their existing 101 operational digital screens. This new alliance with RIMT further reinforces our faith in their excellent quality deliverability and will fulfil E-City’s upcoming requirement of targeted additional 300 digital screens by end of FY 08. The business arrangement is worked out in a manner that would help E-City scale up its operations with considerably less operating capital.”

E-City Digital has grown at over 15 per cent quarter-on-quarter since its first digital screen in January’ 2006 and has planned an investment of Rs 1 billion (Rs 100 crores) for the proposed roll-out.

Real Image Media Technologies director-technical Senthil Kumar said, “RIMT’s Qube Cinema is today one of world’s leading digital cinema companies, which has proven its superiority in quality and reliability in digital cinema not just in India but in many countries around the world, from North America to Europe to Asia. Qube Cinema is an end-to-end digital cinema solution providing the ultimate combination of quality, reliability, ease-of-use, security and flexibility at a price-point that finally makes digital cinema practical. Our association with E-City Digital dates back to year 2005. We are excited about this new alliance and are overwhelmed by the bullish trust E-City is putting into promoting the digital cinema in India.”

In conventional e-cinema, each film prints costs about Rs 60,000 – 70,000. Due to their high cost, generally only A-cities (large metropolitan areas) get the first releases. B and C cities receive (usually worn out) prints that too after a gap of five – eight weeks, placing pressure on exhibitors in those cities, since the audiences already have awareness on the release of films in ‘A’ cities. The audience demand is instead met by piracy. The current model of distribution is thus not geared to extract maximal value from ‘B’ & ‘C’ centres as they are not part of the first week phenomenon, leading to audience demand trailing off as the release is staggered.

The digital projection technology revealed itself to the industry in 2005. Fortunately, the technology caught favor with the single screens in India. The deployment of the digital technology gave a reason to shift from a theatre-hire revenue share regime to a revenue-share regime even for the single screens. However, of the total 101 digital screens, only 60-70 screens of E-City Ventures have been able to shift to a revenue share arrangement. Due to difficulty in changing mindsets, conversion to digital cinema across the industry has so far remained slow with only about 700-800 screens having been digitized in India.

E-City Digital Cinema provides end-to-end service to cinema owners with its hybrid business model, wherein it takes the cinema on long-term theatre hire or revenue share orservice-charge, based on mutual convenience. In all these business models, E-City acts as the theatre aggregator digitizing the theatre. In addition to installing digital equipment, E-City Digital also guarantees theater owners a constant revenue stream and also takes full charge of the programming function. In a few instances, E-City Digital has also invested in refurbishment of the digitized cinemas.