Sami Haddad is the founder and president of Digital Light Sources and has more than thirty years experience in specialty lighting in various industries including cinema, entertainment and science. DLS was established roughly one year ago as a niche provider of lighting, projection, audio and video products and disinfection services to cinema and entertainment markets. When it became obvious that movie theatres were going to be in need of highly-specialized cleaning services when they reopen in the wake of the COVD-19 pandemic, his company formed an exclusive and strategic partnership with American Ultraviolet, a company that uses ultraviolet C lighting to disinfect businesses of all kinds. Our conversation started there.
Digital Cinema Report: Earlier this year you formed a relationship with American Ultraviolet. Talk about that agreement and what it means for the motion picture industry in general and exhibitors in particular.
Sami Haddad: Being proactive against COVID-19, the mutual enemy of our core cinema industry, we negotiated and secured a multi-year distribution agreement with the largest manufacturer of UVC disinfection solutions in the United States to provide their UVC equipment and fixtures exclusively to U.S. movie theatres. The arrangement can only emphasize our passion and commitment to see that moviegoers can head back to the theatres confident that exhibitors are taking proper preventative measures to ensure their safety and well being.
DCR: More recently, you partnered with the Independent Cinema Alliance and the Cinema Buying Alliance to launch the first UVC air and surface disinfection program for facility-wide theatre complexes. How did that partnership come about?
SH: We had previously worked with ICA and CBA when we jointly launched the first ever energy saving LED retrofit program that offered LED products in collaboration with world leading brands such as GE, Philips, Cree Lighting and LED Vance-Sylvania. With recent events, it made perfect sense to add UVC disinfection to their preferred program, which has been tailored to help independent exhibitors reopen and maintain sustainable business in these ever challenging and unprecedented times.
DCR: Talk about the process involved in ensuring that a movie theatre is microbe free.
SH: We offer several air and surface disinfection solutions to movie theatres. For heating, ventilation and air conditioning we have two options. We can place a UVC fixture next to the air conditioning coil and drain pan to prolong coil life and kill mold, spores, bacteria and viruses before they enter or circulate through the facility. As a second and important preventative measure, we can place a UVC fixture inside the HVAC duct, which ensures that the air entering the theatre is fully sterilized.
We also offer upper air disinfection that can be installed on walls or corners where louvers direct UVC light upwards away from patrons and employees. These help clean and sterilize the air around people in large gatherings and can be considered for use in lobbies, hallways, bars, restaurants and even non-occupied auditoriums. We also offer fully sealed upper air units where the UVC light does not shine out but built-in fans circulate the air once it has been fully sterilized. These are great for offices, meeting rooms and can be installed at any height since UVC light is sealed inside them.
We also offer UVC units that can be controlled remotely and moved from room to room. These disinfect and sterilize both air and surfaces.
Finally, we offer the Blade, a powerful handheld UVC device that disinfects surfaces like countertops, keyboards, packaged goods and cans, tablets, phones and even toilets.
DCR: How long does the disinfecting process take?
SH: The HVAC equipment runs 24/7 and, as such it is always disinfecting. The in-duct units can disinfect air within ten feet in each direction passing by it. So disinfection takes a few seconds. The same applies to upper air units running all the time.
For mobile room units it takes thirty minutes to completely disinfect air and surfaces combined in a 400 square foot room. Keep in mind only surfaces that the light reaches will be disinfected. Any surface out of sight does not get sterilized at all. This is the science and nature of UVC light.
The handheld blade will disinfect surfaces one-two inches away in only 30 seconds.
DCR: Do you train movie theatre employees in how to disinfect their facility?
SH: All of our units come with operation manuals and can be installed by either the theatre maintenance staff or local electricians.
DCR: How often do theatres need to use your service?
SH: Both the HVAC and upper air units typically run continuously and all models have a 17,000 hours or two year warranty on the lamps. The mobile room units and handheld blade are used as needed depending on the traffic and type of surfaces being treated.
DCR: How do you determine the costs of cleaning and sterilization?
SH: These types of equipment fall under capital expenses, but there are many factors to include when costing such projects, which makes that a very difficult question to answer. However, I can say this. UVC fixtures vary in price from as low as $500 to as high as $25,000 depending on the fixture type and applications. Other factors are facility size, options, models and number of fixtures and AC units. A typical cinema installation is usually between $1000 and $5,000.
The cost of lamp replacement is very economical: $49-$175 per lamp every two years, depending on the power and length of the lamp. These are linear low-pressure mercury germicidal lamps. The longer the lamp the more energy it puts out. They represent energy consumption similar to a normal light bulb and represent a long term and sensible investment considering the new norms we are facing in the wake of COVID-19.
DCR: How many theatres have you and the ICA and CBA worked on to date?
SH: Theatres have yet to reopen in large numbers but CBA members continue to opt-in to join both the LED and UVC programs as they prepare for that eventuality.