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Imax Acquires Stake in VOD Platform

28 Oct, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey, Erik Gruenwedel

Theatrical distributor eyeing releasing movies in the home day-and-date with box office launch — in China

Imax Corp. Oct. 28 said it has acquired a stake and significant option position in Carlsbad, Calif.-based Prima Cinema, an authenticated digital platform that can deliver theatrical releases into broadband homes.

Prima Cinema, which transmits theatrical releases from Paramount, Universal and others to homes via a set-top box that can hold 50 films and offers 3D capability, is financially backed by Best Buy Capital, Universal Pictures, Syncom Venture Partners, Imax and select private investors.

Imax said it received a five-year window of exclusivity to distribute and resell Prima systems in China. Imax will also maintain a seat on Prima’s board of directors.

With China (and Europe) the new frontier for Hollywood theatrical releases and home entertainment, it appears there is also interest in reviving the prospect of premium video-on-demand.

Premium VOD met a high-profile demise in the United States in 2011 with wide-release box office titles after Universal Studios attempted to shorten the theatrical window by four weeks, making available in the Ben Stiller home action comedy Tower Heist at a premium price.

Theater operators revolted, threatening not to exhibit Heist, in addition to pulling in-theater signage for any movie earmarked for premium VOD. Universal relented, and premium VOD disappeared.

China, apparently, could be a different story.

“Today's agreement with Prima enhances our ability to deliver a premium, end-to-end in-home entertainment experience, combining the best of Imax's immersive image and sound technology with the delivery of current theatrical titles,” Imax CEO Richard Gelfond said in a statement. “In addition to using Prima Cinema in our Imax Private Theatre systems, we are also exploring ways to integrate Imax's proprietary technology and Prima Cinema's delivery system into other premium in-home applications.”

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