Leading global exhibitor Cineworld Group with over 9,500 screens has struck a deal with Cinionic, the Barco, CGS and ALPD joint venture, to roll-out over 1,000 Barco laser projectors over the next 18 months. The deal will include a range of Barco laser projectors including the recently launched Barco Series 4 projector line which offers 4K, HDR and capabilities for wide-color gamut through Barco Colorgenic. The deal also includes Barco Alchemy servers and maintenance over a ten year period through Cinionc service agreements.
Cinionc was also involved in another first through a strategic relationship with Cineplexx, the largest circuit in Austria, which in turn operates across other southern European markets. The terms of the alliance will see Cineplexx become the first all-laser circuit in Austria. The deal is in colloabration with CinemaNext and will see Cineplexx upgrade to all Barco laser projectors over the next three years. Cinionc has deployed over 15,000 laser projectors to date including a range of RGB and laser phosphor models.
Leading group Cineworld Group has also struck a deal with Christie to acquire more than 1,000 Christie RGB pure laser cinema projectors incorporating Reallaser technology. The roll out is scheduled to start with Cineworld assets in the US through Regal cinemas over the next few months although the deal is global in nature being allocated to select global cinema venues. Christie’s RGB laser is an all in one projector which delivers more than 95% of Rec 2020 specification without filtering alongside visuals in 2K and 4K.
Cineworld, through its recent agreements with both Cinionic and Christie is now spearheading the drive towards replacement of earlier generation projectors from a major exhibitor standpoint and will therefore have a significant impact in terms of setting a competitive benchmark. In terms of both agreements, it is also clear that laser whether RGB laser, laser phosphor or a combination of the two, is the leading technology for the second wave replacement of digital cinema projectors. Cineworld was also behind a similar deal announced in 2018 with Cinionc for 600 laser projectors earmarked for both new screens and replacements over the next three years, although it is not known how far this has already been fulfilled.
Cineplexx in Austria is one of the first exhibitors globally to fully adopt laser throughout the entire cirucit with a couple of other recent examples in Europe such as CGR in France with Christie RGB Reallasers. Early digital pioneers are more likely to embrace replacement earlier due to the higher proportion of Series 1 machines as was the case for both CGR Cinemas and also Cineplexx Austria.
In terms of benchmarking, it is clear that the replacement wave has yet to come to fruition on a bigger scale in terms of multiple screens and multiple exhibitors although these deals are very positive in marking the start of a such a wave and opening up the market for new business (as well as repeat loyalty) based on technology proposition.
The beginnings of a wider push towards replacement is occurring at a time when laser is the stand out technology in terms of balancing cost over performance. LED Cinema through Samsung Onyx is now a reality with close to 40 global screens, but arguably the products and the technology are not at a phase to compete in terms of bulk deals and exhibitor wider acceptance for widespread replacements.
Cineworld has earmarked a total of 2,000 screens to laser over the next few years which will equal approximately 21% of its total screen estate. The earlier deal for 600 screens with Cinionc is not included in this calculation partially as it included new screens. Cineworld through Regal will most likely be looking to replace its Series 1 estate initially but also announced it would also focus on US screens (through Regal) where it also has a high proportion of Sony SXRD projectors. The deals also show that complete upgrades will be phased in gradually over a number of years, particularly for larger circuits. Even for smaller exhibitors such as Cineplexx the timeline of the deal also show this will happen steadily over a multi year transition.
In summary, the replacement market is now being embraced in terms of a first mover advantage where older Series 1 generation projectors exist but over a steady transition phase based on size of the estate.