ShoWest 2009: The Preview

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Sun, 03/08/2009 - 20:00 -- Nick Dager

Self-Financing 3D and Staying Ahead of the Curve This is certainly no time for the faint of heart in the exhibition business. On the one hand the overall economy is more problematic than it’s been in most anyone’s memory. On the other hand box office returns remain solid and the summer of 3D holds out the promise of even greater business. The challenge is to find the right way for your business to balance the two. Attendees at this year’s ShoWest convention which begins at the end of this month in Las Vegas will be looking for information on how best to meet that challenge. As usual there will be many seminars and panel discussions at the event designed to offer exhibitors insights into both business practices and new technology. Details on all the scheduled events can be found on the convention’s website. Two are likely to draw sizable crowds. One hosted by the National Association of Theatre Owners is a panel of financial experts who will be on hand to give exhibitors advice on the pros and cons of self-financing the acquisition of digital cinema technology. A second is a panel of leading exhibitors who will tackle the topic “How to Stay Ahead of the Curve as the Industry Confronts the Future. There will also be social gatherings screenings and a host of awards. Tony Kerasotes chairman and CEO and Dean Kerasotes president and COO of Kerasotes Showplace Theatres will be honored as the ShoWesters of the Year at the 2009 ShoWest Convention. The award presentation will take place on Tuesday morning March 31st in the Theatre of the Arts of Paris Las Vegas.
 Tony Kerasotes has more than 40 years of experience in the film exhibition industry and sits on the executive committee of the National Association of Theatre Owners. In his current position as chairman and CEO of Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatre his primary responsibilities include film licensing real estate and strategic planning. Dean Kerasotes has 25 years of experience with Kerasotes Theatres. As the president and chief operating officer he is responsible for the company’s operation including theatre management human resources theatre design and construction and is a director of the company. He is also active in the National Association of Theatre Owners and NATO of Illinois.  

 Kerasotes Theatres was first conceived when their grandfather Gus Kerasotes opened his first storefront nickelodeon in Springfield Illinois in 1909. He continued to pioneer opening four theatres in Springfield during the transition from the hand-cranked nickelodeon to silent films and finally talking movies. Their company headquarters was opened on the town square in Springfield in 1926. With his four sons joining the business Kerasotes expanded to operate theatres in central Illinois and by 1953 Kerasotes Theatres included 22 theatres and employed more than 600 people. The company continued to grow after Gus Kerasotes passed away in 1960 and operated 220 screens in Illinois Indiana and Missouri by the early 1980’s.

In 1985 the company split in two with Louis Kerasotes and two of his brothers retaining Kerasotes Theatres with 145 screens.   Tony Kerasotes then became CEO and was later joined by Dean Kerasotes as COO. In 1999 their company headquarters were relocated to Chicago where Providence Equity Partners invested in the company in 2003 and the company became Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres. The company has continued to see significant growth concentrating on building new modern multiplex theatres entering suburban markets and acquisitions of theatres. Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres currently operates 95 theatres with 935 screens and is the seventh largest motion picture company in the U.S. Zack Snyder will receive the ShoWest 2009 Director of the Year Award. Snyder’s most recent project is Watchmen the highly anticipated movie based on the award-winning graphic novel. Snyder made his feature film directorial debut with the 2004 horror thriller Dawn of the Dead which topped the box office on its opening weekend. The film brought Snyder widespread acclaim from critics and audiences and was nominated for the Camera d’Or Prize at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Snyder followed up this success with the Warner Bros. 2007 worldwide blockbuster 300. Snyder is the co-president of Cruel and Unusual Films formed with his wife and producing partner Deborah Snyder. In addition to Watchmen Cruel and Unusual films projects include the drama The Last Photograph the fantasy-adventure Sucker Punch and the animated 3D film The Guardians of Ga’Hoole. Other films in development include a feature film adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic The Illustrated Man the zombie film Army of the Dead and the apocalyptic thriller Cobalt 60. Another focal point of the convention is the technology that is driving the transition to digital cinema. Dolby has announced that its latest generation cinema processor the CP750 Digital Cinema Processor would be available for orders at the show. The CP750 is designed to work within the new digital cinema environment integrating easily with preshow servers alternative content and digital cinema servers. The processor has an easy-to-use interface and powerful internal software that facilitates the setup process and can be easily programmed to manage audio settings and configurations. It can play back PCM digital Dolby Digital Dolby Pro Logic Dolby Pro Logic II Dolby Digital Surround EX and analog audio. In addition the CP750 can be monitored and controlled remotely from anywhere on the theatre’s network. “Dolby is committed to simplifying digital cinema for our customers making it easy for exhibitors to upgrade or build a complete digital cinema environment ” says Page Haun senior director of cinema marketing Dolby Laboratories. “The Dolby CP750 is the heart of a theatre’s audio system. It provides the features and functionality that exhibitors need for all content played in digital cinema while also providing the reliability and fidelity that they expect from Dolby and the Dolby brand.”    The CP750 accepts up to eight PCM channels from the digital cinema server. Three additional digital inputs accept PCM or up to 5.1-channel Dolby Digital from preshow and alternative content sources. An eight-channel analog input can accept audio from existing sound processors for hybrid film/d-cinema installations. In addition the CP750 can process a narrative soundtrack for the hearing and/or visually impaired. By allowing the theatre’s integrator or network operation center to manage the system the CP750 can be monitored controlled and upgraded from one centralized location. It also integrates easily with Dolby’s Theatre Management Software. Other capabilities include the ability for the CP750 to respond to digital input selection and volume cues within a show to enable real-time volume control and to recognize ASCII commands from third-party TMS controllers. Doremi Cinema will feature the availability of its CineAsset software for digital cinema and presentation applications. CineAsset is a media asset management software solution that converts common computer files such as QuickTime AVI JPEG and TIFF to JPEG2000 MFX wrapped files for playback on any digital cinema server including Doremi’s DCP-2000 and DCP-2K4. Designed for smaller regional theatre chains with digital cinema systems CineAsset software allows statutory messages custom slides and local commercials to be quickly and easily produced in-house without any prior experience in digital cinema mastering giving exhibitors and advertisers more flexibility on pre-show content file preparation and delivery.   “With CineAsset the JPEG2000 conversion and MFX wrapping happens as a software solution and creates DCI compliant content that can be ingested and scheduled directly on the server” says Michael Archer vice president of Doremi Digital Cinema  “This takes full advantage of the high quality 2K digital cinema experience without the added expense and time of off-site mastering”. The CineAsset interface guides the user through the process of converting JPEG and BMP images Flash animations and AVI and QuickTime movies into standards compliant DCPs in the DCI JPEG2000 format.   CineAsset runs on any desktop or laptop computer capable of running Windows XP Pro.  A Mac OS X version will also be available in the future.   Harkness Screens plans to showcase its Perlux 220 3D screen. The Perlux 220 offers increased screen brightness for larger screens with active and passive 3D technologies (not using polarized light) such as Dolby 3D. With a peak gain of 2.2 and specifically designed for 3D systems the Perlux 220 enables higher brightness levels on larger screens when showing 3D with an acceptable viewing angle in 2D mode which is useful when there is mixed programming. The half-gain angle is 25 degrees. The Perlux 220 screen is also suitable for very large 2D screens where the highest possible gain is required and screens up to 26.5 meters wide (87 feet) are available. Perlux 220 has been used already in conjunction with Dolby 3D systems in several locations. 
 Royal Philips Electronics will be highlighting the news that the Philips XDC-3000S and Philips XDC-4200S cinema xenon lamps are approved by Sony Corporation’s B2B Solutions Business Group as meeting all strict requirements for the digital cinema market and that the lamps are authorized to be used in all Sony’s SRX digital cinema projectors worldwide. Cinema audiences demand pictures with sharp resolution and the highest quality. These advanced lamps meet the new requirements of the rapidly increasing number of 2D and 3D digital cinemas.  Philips xenon lamps enable the digital cinema projectors to consistently achieve high brightness and reliable operation while sustaining long life. QSC will unveil the DCP 300. The unit combines the power of 24-bit 16-channel digit cinema processing with digital signal processing crossover functions and remote Ethernet-based monitoring and control features capable of giving guidance to entire audio systems. The rackmount device can receive up to eight AES pairs of input from D-Cinema servers on two DB25 connectors. Network digital audio transport is facilitated as well via CobraNet to accommodate future expansion. Full compatibility with QSC's DCA amplifiers allows the DCP 300 to be added to applications converting to digital projection without the need for replacing existing amps. The DCP 300 additionally offers full one-third octave graphic EQ on all channels (except subwoofer) a master volume and master mute and an internal pink noise generator. Ten channels of analog inputs have also been provided for legacy 35 mm film processors. Dual power supplies further complement the package along with complete parameter backup via SD memory features designed to keep you on-screen or get you back up quickly. The DCP 300 has a suggested retail price of $8000.