Home Theater

The Lower Cost of Luxury

The Lower Cost of Luxury

Ed Gilmore in front of the Planar video wall in his midtown Manhattan showroom

Of all the radical changes happening in home entertainment, maybe nothing is having a bigger impact
than the unprecedented drop in the cost of reference-quality gear. We’ve already established on Cineluxe
that the once unassailable gold standard of the movie theater no longer pertains. The best possible
entertainment experiences are now happening at home. And not only has the quality of gear improved by
leaps, the cost of entry for a complete luxury system has tumbled just as dramatically.

 

But it’s not clear if most people understand how much has changed, and how fast. Today bears little
resemblance to five years ago, and the next three to five years are poised to bring vast changes in home
entertainment that will make today’s innovations seem hopelessly quaint.

 

Wanting to get a perspective on all this from somebody who spends every working day on the luxury
frontlines, I recently sat down with Ed Gilmore, founder and owner of Gilmore’s Sound Advice in midtown
Manhattan. Ed’s high-end clientele is, knowingly or not, at the very epicenter of the entertainment
revolution, and his vast experience in the installation world gives him unique insight into the changing
cost of luxury.

—Michael Gaughn

 

 

Michael Gaughn  What would a typical luxury system have come in at five years ago, and why?

 

Ed Gilmore  Five years ago, we were putting in Runco projectors that were in the vicinity of $40,000, and as much as $100,000. Even today, you’d pay close to $50,000 for a three-chip 1080p projector with a decent anamorphic lens. But you can get a great 4K laser projector for about $30,000, which is definitely a big drop.

 

For people who want to put together a home theater for, say, $30,000 all in, they have a wide variety of choices from projection companies. And they’re not horrible projectors by any stretch of the imagination. SonyEpson, and Wolf Cinema

have laser projectors that are less than $10,000. You can even get a decent projector for $7,000. That’s a huge change.

 

MG  How big will you go with a flat-screen TV?

 

EG  I won’t go bigger than 85 inches. I won’t do 100, because the delta becomes just too big.

 

MG  Do you consider that a media room at that size?

 

EG  Yeah. That’s not a home theater. I don’t think anything with a flat screen is a theater, sorry. Some people want to put a 100-inch TV in there. But if I’m going to put an LED or OLED that big in a room, you’re going to spend at least $60,000, so why wouldn’t you do a projection system?

 

Plus, you have a huge piece of glass sitting in your room. And there’s no way to locate the speakers properly behind that. It’s a compromise.

 

Besides, there have been big improvements in projection-screen technology over the past few years. Before, you had 

to be in a man cave—more like a bat cave, actually—but we’re now seeing decent results with ambient-light-rejection screens, decent enough where people can have a projection system in a room with windows, maybe with solar shades on them, maybe with lights dimmed.

 

Screens are less expensive, certainly, and projectors are plummeting in cost. As for receivers—you can buy a pretty darned well-equipped AV receiver for $1,700.

 

MG  Do you spec any disc players at all?

 

EG  Very rarely.

 

MG  That would be pocket change anyway, right?

 

EG  I think the only one out there that we’d consider a premier brand is the Pioneer Elite.

 

MG  But five years ago that would have still been standard equipment.

 

EG  Absolutely. Now you don’t need it. I mean, everybody is streaming one way or another.

The Lower Cost of Luxury

One of the home theater demo rooms at Sound Advice  (photo by Gusto Multimedia)

MG  It’s amazing how quickly discs died.

 

EG  Yeah. Streaming has really brought the whole world of entertainment to people at their fingertips, for better or worse.

 

MG  You’ve even got YouTube offering great-looking 4K—even 8K.

 

EG  Absolutely. We’re just seeing a huge change in terms of that kind of content availability. And it’s gotten cheaper and cheaper as well.

 

MG  So what’s the typical pricing for a luxury system today?

 

EG  A lot of components are no longer necessary, right? So, if you’re talking about a Kaleidescape and Apple TV, some type of a video and audio processing, then amplification and speakers, and of course, whatever choice you’re using for your video display, you can have a system for as little as $30,000, $35,000 now.

 

MG  That’s with control?

 

EG  Control, add another $1,500 to $2,000 max. If you then move up the ladder to say somewhere between $60,000 and $75,000, that’s a quantum leap actually. Then beyond that . . .

 

In our showroom we have Steinway Lyngdorf speakers, a Barco projector, and a Stewart screen with dual masking. So I have a room right now that’s about $175,000 all in, and it’s a phenomenal experience. I don’t think I could have possibly done that

five years ago. Back then, we were talking about a quarter of a million, easy. That’s a substantial drop in price.

 

MG  If somebody comes in and says, “I have Apple TV,” or, “I’ve got Sonos—or I’ve heard about Sonos,” what do you do to get them out of that paradigm where they think that’s somehow the ultimate?

 

EG  If you’re fortunate enough to be able to demonstrate the difference, that’s the easiest way to do it. With 

music streaming, it’s really difficult to get people who have only experienced Sonos off of it. It’s almost kind of its own cult. But if you can play Spotify or Pandora for them and then play Tidal MQA, they clearly hear that difference. And once they hear that, some of them—not all, but some will say—“Oh my God, I had no idea.”

 

And you can play exactly the same clip—whether it’s a concert or a movie—on an Apple TV and a Kaleidescape, and people will not only see the difference, they’ll hear it as well. And the people who are discerning will say, “Absolutely, let’s do this. Let’s do Kaleidescape. I get it.”

 

But in no way, shape, or form do you say it’s Kaleidescape or Apple TV. It’s always going to be, “I’m going to have Apple TV and Kaleidescape.” I use Apple TV when I want to watch something on Amazon Prime or Netflix or YouTube. But when I want to watch a movie, and it’s something I really want to see, I download it and watch it on Kaleidescape. There’s just no other experience.

MG  Is there still the perception that Kaleidescape is only appropriate for the most expensive installations and Apple TV is OK for everything else?

 

EG  Yes, because Kaleidescape used to be so high priced—$30,000-plus.

 

MG  The first unit was $35,000, wasn’t it?

 

EG  $35,000, yeah. That was a big ticket item for people. And it could go up 

Sound Advice’s work for this Central Park apartment features a completely
concealed home theater with a dropdown screen, a projector firing from
a porthole in the wall, 5 invisible speakers, and a subwoofer vented from
a closet 
 (photos by Gusto Multimedia)

from there. But now with the Strato at much lower price points, it’s really not a home theater until you have one. You can put a great projector and great surround sound system in. But if you’re not feeding it the best possible quality content, it’s like having a really wonderful car and giving it the lowest-grade gasoline. If a client’s already invested even $35,000 in a system, what’s another $7,000 for the 12-terabyte Strato S?

 

Let’s face it, five, six years ago we were putting $30,000-plus Kaleidescape systems in. Some systems were coming out to $50,000, $60,000 by the time all the storage was done. Now we can do the same thing for five or seven grand.

 

MG  How big is movie collecting a factor in all of this? Because when you rely on streaming, movies disappear all the time. You really don’t own a collection then.

 

EG  If you’re going to purchase a movie, and it’s going to cost you $28 or $30 to buy it in a 4K HDR format, then you’re making a commitment. It’s not a huge commitment, but you’re making a commitment to something you want to see time and time again. You’re also expecting that you’re going to see it in bit-for-bit resolution. I think that’s a wonderful trade-off. It’s affordable, and anybody who cares enough about that experience will say, “Yeah, this actually has value.”

 

If you look at the Kaleidescape experience from five years ago, we had clients who were buying discs and then ripping them into their system. And then there was that period with Blu-ray where you had to buy the carousel to do it. I think people lost interest in doing that. Plus it kind of defeated the whole purpose of having a server.

 

So, when you could start downloading Blu-ray, there was a little bit of a shift in terms of the value. Then the prices started coming down, and the Movie Store became accessible. I think there’s a lot of excitement about Kaleidescape now.

 

The biggest difference between now and five years ago with me and my clients is that you had to justify making a $30,000 investment. It was easier for people to say, “I’ll just buy a disc. I’ll have a bunch of discs.” Then there was Apple TV. So, “We’ll

rent a movie instead of buying it.” It’s much easier now for them to wrap their heads around the fact that they can start building a collection of their favorite movies, movies they want to see with their family and friends.

 

My clients aren’t necessarily making huge decisions about something that’s four digits anyway. I mean, they’re making $100,000 decisions, or $1 million decisions. They’re not making an under $10,000 decision. That’s just not part of their M.O.

 

MG  Can you think of anything else, when you’re spec’ing stuff in, that still carries a similar stigma?

 

EG  Control systems. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them. There never was. But a lot of people feel badly scarred by their experiences.

 

MG  It all hinged on the competence of whoever was doing the programming, right?

 

EG  Yeah. The client may have not had any real say, in terms of that engineering. Or they might’ve been ignored. Because let’s face it, when you’re creating a program pretty much from scratch, you’re going to put your own things in. You’re going to have it somewhat templated, and it may not jibe with what the client really wanted.

 

On top of that, you have a third-party control system. You’re trying to control components that have zero standardization, and that’s a recipe for frustration. People don’t like being frustrated. So that’s something where we have to push back all the time.

 

MG  What do you tell people is the current state of control, based on whatever their past experience was?

 

EG  Most of these systems are now app-based. So they already have those instruments in their hands. Whether it’s an iPad or an Android device they’re carrying around with them, that’s what they’re typically using to control the system. Remote controls still exist, especially for video

rooms. We think it’s a good idea. And in some cases, touch panels still exist.

 

But even the prices of these things have really plummeted. So you’re not talking about a $60,000 to $80,000 investment for a control system anymore. You’re talking $5,000, $6,000.

 

But even if a control system doesn’t cost a lot of money, the first time something doesn’t work, the client starts to question the wisdom of that investment. So if you’re talking about equipment that’s reliable, there’s this little thing called Kaleidescape that always works. It’s bulletproof.

 

MG  With Apple TV, Roku, or whatever, you don’t have system monitoring going on.

 

EG  Not at all. You’re in the dark with it. But Kaleidescape is really proactive when there’s an issue. They’ll let us know—we’ll know on our extranet, then get email notifications, telling us what condition that equipment is in.

 

Apple TV, you’ll get a client calling saying, “I have a spinning wheel here, and I don’t understand what’s going on.” You know how that usually translates, right? “I get the spinning wheel—I hate the whole system.”

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, The Rayva Roundtablemarketing, product design, some theater designs,
couple TV shows, some commercials, and now this.

Why We Don’t Deserve Day & Date

Why We Don't Deserve Day & Date

John Sciacca has been on a tear as of late with respect to breaking down the nitty-gritty behind day & date film releases. For those of you who don’t know what day & date is, in a nutshell it refers to the ability to watch the premiere of a film in your home the same day it hits theaters. Simple. Now, John tackles the subject from a rather logical place—price. Only he makes the mistake of asking enthusiasts–you know, people like you and me–what we’re willing to pay for it. An overwhelming majority who took John’s survey replied that they would be willing to pay between $25 and $49 for the privilege of enjoying a day & date release in their home. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said this.

 

Fifty-five percent of enthusiasts are bald-faced liars. Allow me to explain.

 

At $25 to $50 a pop, enthusiasts are basically saying that they want to enjoy premium content in their home for less than what it costs to travel to a specialty location in order to have a premium experience. (Throw out the argument that every theater experience is premium.) The fact that enthusiasts are willing to pay less for more is, well, not shocking at all! Had there been 

an option to pay under $25, that would have won. Because enthusiasts want to have their cake and eat it too, as well as be allowed to walk out with the silverware, dishes and linens, if they feel like it.

 

Asking an enthusiast of anything what they think something is worth, and you’ll get a rather lopsided answer–one that clearly favors the enthusiast and to hell with everything and everyone else. This is why day & date continues to stumble, despite its eventual eventuality. Studios are willing to provide day & date to the one percent, but what industry the world over doesn’t bend over for the one percent?

 

Truth is, enthusiasts don’t deserve day & date. Sorry. They’ll get it, and sadly they will still find a way to bitch about it too. The current state of content delivery is better than it has ever been, with more choice and quality at our fingertips than ever before. Entertainment is instant . . .  and cheap! But say “streaming” to an enthusiast, and brace yourself. Say “UHD Blu-ray and physical media are dead” to an enthusiast, and watch as their head explodes. Say “Netflix is raising its prices $2 a month,” and watch them rage.

So if enthusiasts can’t be happy with what we have currently, what makes us think they will be happy with day & date? It likely will never be cheap enough. And if it is, it won’t be 4K enough, or possess the billion point two billion channels no one has but demands, and so on and so forth. If day & date is to be a reality, it’s coming via streaming, and if you have an issue with streaming, DRM, or what have you now, hang on to your hat ‘cause ain’t no way Disney is letting you watch Endgame without some hefty assurances.

 

Day & date is coming like a freight train in the night. There is no stopping it. The proof isn’t in the starting of all these cottage businesses pushing expensive players to the one percent; the proof is in the diluting of the time window between theatrical and home video release. In the old days (circa early 2000s and before), the minimum window was 120 to 160 days. That’s four to six months from the last date of theatrical release to when a film was allowed to be put on sale for home viewing. Now, that agreed-upon window is 30 to 45 days. It will be down to 7 to 10 days inside of two years. And at that point, you’ll have day & date.

Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson is a photographer and videographer by trade, working on commercial
and branding projects all over the US. He has served as a managing editor and
freelance journalist in the AV space for nearly 20 years, writing technical articles,
product reviews, and guest speaking on behalf of several notable brands at functions
around the world.

How Much Would You Pay for Day & Date? Pt. 2

In Part 1 of this post, I referenced comments from users of the Kaleidescape Owners Forum who answered my question, “How much would you be willing to pay for Day and Date?” I expected these luxury system owners to have no problem with paying a substantial amount for the ability to see a movie at home the day it opens in theaters. But even among this group, not a single person was willing to pay even the minimum amount—$500—Prima Cinema charged and Red Carpet Home Cinema expects to charge for day & date viewing.

 

Casting the net to a wider audience, I ran a poll on the Sound & Vision website, which caters to enthusiasts of all income levels, where I again asked what they would be willing to pay for day & date. After nearly 350 responses, it’s clear that the

How Much Would You Pay for Day & Date, Pt. 2

Table 1

How Much Would You Pay for Day & Date?, Pt. 2

Table 2

How Much Would You Pay for Day &was Date, Pt. 2

Table 3

How Much Would You Pay for Day & Date?, Pt. 2

Table 4

click on the tables to enlarge them

vast majority of people aren’t willing to pay a very high premium at all.

 

In fact, the enthusiast responses from Sound & Vision far more support the likely pricing for movies available at home a week or two after they premiere in theaters than the $500 low end of the current day & date pricing schemes (see Table 1).

 

As you can see, out of 348 answers, only 43 people (roughly 12.6%) were willing to pay $100 or more. But when you go down to the $50 to $99 range, the group jumps to over 32%. This is a pretty large crowd, and a price that might be realistic three to four weeks after a movie hits the cinema. When you get to $25 to $49, more than half the responders would bite.

 

Is this an unrealistic price? Perhaps. But consider this: The current state of the art for home video viewing is 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, most of which sell for around $20 to $35. Since this is what you now pay to own a movie and watch it as many times as you’d like, would it be so unreasonable that the movie studios would let you watch it once for $49 at some point later in the movie’s theatrical window? Maybe not . . .

 

A common theme among the Kaleidescape owners was that they want this premium rental to also come with the right to own/download the movie when it goes into mass release on home video. When asked if they’d be willing to pay more for this right, the responders were almost split in thirds (see Table 2).

 

Almost 39% said they would actually pay more. So, maybe at $125 to $150, you would get to watch the movie once while it’s still in the theater and would then be able to download it as soon as it’s in wide release. That seems like a pretty palatable choice that also wouldn’t erode the studios’ profits from traditional home releases.

 

Finally, I asked how often they would actually rent a movie if it were priced at just $50 (see Table 3). I was surprised to find that most enthusiast owners wouldn’t do it very often.

 

Slightly more than 5% would do it once a week, with about half saying they would rent a $50 movie once or more per month. Shockingly, more than 45% said they’d only do it a few times per year. And remember, these are audio/video enthusiasts responding to a hypothetical day & date price of just $50.

 

As for the necessary hardware, with Prima at $35,000, Red Carpet at $15,00, and Kaleidescape starting at $4,500, the systems required to play these movies aren’t cheap, which was another huge barrier for entry for many.

 

When asked how much they would pay for the hardware needed for day & date playback (see Table 4), more than 50% said they would only pay less than $500. Again, that seems highly unrealistic, especially when you consider the security measures that need to be employed, but it does bode well for Xcinex, which says its Venue will come to market for less than $30.

Also, these prices address the per-viewing model, which means it’s the same cost whether there are 1 or 50 people watching. The other option is the same per-viewer or per-ticket model theaters use, which is how Xcinex plans to operate. Other than the potential issues and privacy concerns with a sensor monitoring and counting viewers, it again seems difficult to believe Xcinex could come to market and offer day & date viewing at literally fractions of what the other companies are charging. But the company says it’s firmly committed to launching by the end of this year, and that it will have content and deals in place, so time will tell.

 

What impact will day & date have on your movie watching habits? And how much would you be willing to pay for the privilege?

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

How Much Would You Pay for Day & Date? Pt. 1

How Much Would You Pay for Day & Date?, Pt. 1

Wrapping up my recent series of posts on day & date, I thought I’d cut right to the heart of it: How much is day & date worth? In other words, how much would you pay for the privilege of watching a first-run film in the comfort of your own home, either on opening night or some short time later?

 

As I wrote in “Why Kaleidescape Could Own Day & Date, Pt. 2,” at the moment it appears Red Carpet Home Cinema has set the benchmark for what it will cost, at somewhere between $500 and $3,000. This is up from Prima Cinema’s $500 for each 

viewing. It could be that the Prima folks were better negotiators than Red Carpet, or that Hollywood has decided day & date is worth more now that it was a few years ago. We won’t know for sure until we see if Prima is able to return to operation.

 

But the simple truth is that, as much as we might want to be able to watch movies at home instead of going to the theater, most of us can’t afford these prices.

 

This is where I see a sliding scale coming into play. If you want to watch the movie on opening night, you’re gonna have to pay the ultra-premium price Red Carpet is demanding. But, if you’re willing to wait a week . . . or two
. . . or four, as theater audiences have slacked off to nearly nothing, the studios might allow for more affordable pricing.

 

This is why some kind of premium window for early theatrical release might be a more realistic hope for luxury home viewing than actual day & date. At least at first.

 

That conclusion was echoed by several commenters on the Kaleidescape Owners Forum when I posed the question:

 

“How much would you be willing to pay for Day and Date?” Here were some of the responses:

 

• I would like to see a sliding scale based on timing:

Week 1: $300

Week 2 to 4: $150

Week 5 to 8: $75

• I for one would also be willing to pay a premium for the privilege of watching movies at home
while they’re still out in the theater. That would be an awesome feature if it could be incorporated
into existing hardware.

 

• As for how much, it would depend upon the movie. [Star Wars]—maybe $300, other blockbusters,
maybe $150, comedies and “chick flicks” $75-100.

 

• I would pay maximum $75-$100 to watch with just my wife or kids, and maybe $200 once or twice
a year and invite friends over.

 

• With 4-8 $25 seats and a $100 fee for download etc then $200-300 on day one, week one is a
good no loss to the studio price point.

 

• I’ve said it before, I will say it again–I would pay $500 to watch any theatrical movie in my home
on opening day, even without the ability to stop/pause/rewind or be given a digital copy. Watching
Star Wars opening night on my couch is cooler than a sports car IMO.

 

• $500 for one viewing at midnight the release date. Watching [Star Wars] in my living room would
be incredible.

 

Remember, these answers all came from people who already own luxury entertainment systems, and have shown their willingness to invest in premium-price hardware like a Kaleidescape. (An entry-level Strato system—the unit most likely to support day & date—currently costs $4,500.) And none of them said they’d be willing to pay more than $500. That is why

I wonder if Red Carpet’s exorbitant pricing will be able to find traction even among the ultra-wealthy.

 

I first started thinking about what I’d be willing to pay for this experience six years ago, when I had the chance to live with the Prima Cinema system.

 

When I see a movie, it’s almost always with my wife and frequently with my 12-year-old as well. So, figure we’re in for around $30 in movie tickets. (I realize this is at the low end of the market, with many parts of the country paying upwards of twice that.) Then factor in popcorn, drinks, and snacks for another $20 to $30. Since we have a 3-year-old, figure another $20 to $30 for a babysitter. I don’t have to deal with parking (or hiring a car service), but for many this is another cost of movie-going. So, for me, a $100 movie purchase is something I would consider for many films.

 

And after my recent lackluster experience seeing Avengers: Endgame at my local cinema—where I didn’t eat or drink anything for 8 hours prior to showtime to ensure I could make it through without a bathroom break—with all of

the popcorn rustling, drink slurping, side conversations, an infant watching YouTube videos on an iPad (not kidding), and a very noticeably blown subwoofer that totally took me out of every bass-heavy moment, being able to watch at my own home almost sounds worth any price.

 

In Pt. 2, I’ll give you the surprising results of an extensive survey I conducted to find out how much home theater enthusiasts would be willing to pay for day & date.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

What Makes a Good Control System?

What Makes a Good Control System?

A good control system is the backbone of any high-end home entertainment system, whether that system resides in a dedicated home theater space or in a multipurpose media room. No matter how great the picture quality, how immersive the audio, how effective the lighting control, the experience falls apart if the control system falls short. If people don’t enjoy operating the system, they won’t enjoy using the system.

 

But what makes a good control system? I pondered this question recently as I reviewed a pair of universal remote controls sold directly through retail channels. Both remotes shared a common goal: Simplicity. There was simplicity in the design of the remotes themselves. Both had a minimalist layout, stripping out a lot of the buttons found on your typical universal remote to produce a clean, unintimidating look. And there was simplicity in the setup process, making it as easy and clear as possible for the average consumer to program the remote to switch between activities and control a variety of components.

 

Simplicity seems like a good goal, but in the world of system control, it’s definitely possible to make something too simple. While I found both remotes easy to set up and pleasant to use, neither could perform all of the advanced functions or accommodate all the use cases I needed. They were great for controlling my basic living-room system, which consists of a 

TV, streaming media player, gaming console, and soundbar. But when asked to handle my more advanced home theater setup, built around an AV receiver and usually including some lighting control, they were just too simplistic to get the whole job done.

 

The trick in system control is finding the sweet spot between simplicity and functionality. You need a system robust enough to handle anything and everything you might want to do, but also simple enough that anyone and everyone in the house can use it. And that sweet spot is different for each person, which is exactly why universal remotes have an inherent disadvantage compared with control platforms like Control4 or Crestron. A universal remote locks you in to someone else’s idea of what’s

What Makes a Good Control System?

Logitech Harmony Elite universal remote, with hub and app

intuitive, both in the setup process (which has to be simple and scaled down enough that anyone can do it) and in the remote design. Sure, you can reassign buttons here and there, maybe choose some specific functions to show on the small touchscreen at the top of some remotes, but for the most part you have to work within a one-size-fits-all grid.

 

The Harmony remote brand revolutionized the direct-to-consumer universal remote by making it so much easier for the average person to program complex macros and present them as simple activities anyone would understand. But how many times have you programmed a Harmony remote to work exactly the way you want it to, sat back all pleased with yourself, and then watched a family member pick up the remote and stare at it blankly, uncertain what to do next? It has happened to me a lot.

 

And that’s just AV control. If you want to add elements like complex lighting scenes, shade adjustment, and temperature control, a universal remote simply isn’t built to handle that load.

What Makes a Good Control System?

In the world of luxury home cinema, you don’t need universal control. You need personalized control. That’s really what you’re paying for when you choose to step up to Crestron or Savant or Control4. You’re getting a team that’s been trained to perform all that complex, behind-the-scenes programming so you don’t have to, and you’re getting a system that’s flexible enough to accommodate your idea of what’s intuitive.

 

You can get the handheld remote with a preset button layout, but you can also get the touchscreen controller, 

with fully customizable screens in which the page layouts and button names make sense to you. You can add customized in-wall keypads to quick-launch lighting/room scenes right when you walk in the door. It’s all about putting the right control options in the right place for you and your household—and you should absolutely include the whole family in the discussions with your custom installer.

 

Of course, just like in the world of DIY control, an advanced control system is only as good as the people who set it up, so don’t treat this step like an afterthought. Do some research on your local installers and what control systems they’re trained to program. Check references. Ask questions. Be involved. After all, what’s the point in paying more for personalized control if you don’t take the time to truly personalize it?

  —Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer than she’s
willing to admit. She is currently the 
AV editor at Wirecutter (but her opinions here do not
represent those of Wirecutter or its parent company, The New York Times). Adrienne lives in
Colorado, where she spends far too much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough
time being in them.

Why Kaleidescape Could Own Day & Date, Pt. 2

How Kaleidescape Could Own Day & Date, Pt. 2

In Part 1, I gave some of the technical reasons why I think Kaleidescape is better positioned than companies like Prima Cinema and Red Carpet Home Cinema to make day & date—the ability to watch movies at home the day they debut in movie theaters—a success. Here, I’ll focus more on the logistical and strategic reasons for why I think it has the potential to be the most viable day & date provider.

 

6) CONTROLLED ROLLOUT

Sure, there are bigger companies than Kaleidescape out there—like, say, Apple or Vudu—that have a lot of studio agreements in place and are set up to handle secure transactions, but day & date isn’t going to be rolled out wide to a mass-market audience.

 

The movie studios want to release this in a very controlled manner so if there’s a problem, they can shove the genie back into the bottle as easily as possible. That just wouldn’t be possible with a $149 mass-market device like an Apple TV.

 

Even if Kaleidescape made day & date available to every one of its customers worldwide on Day One, we’re still talking thousands of systems, or a very small percentage of the movie-watching population. But day & date will probably begin in the US, which would cut the number down considerably. And, it probably wouldn’t be rolled out as a firmware update for all 

Kaleidescape users, but would likely be offered to a very select beta of 50 to 100 power users, whose systems would be updated with new firmware and then monitored during the beta period.

 

Another possibility would be for Kaleidescape to approach existing Bel Air Circuit members to become system owners (or be loaned beta-enabled systems). What group to better give day & date access to than one that already has it?

 

And, while the company won’t publicly comment on system owners, it’s pretty well known that Kaleidescape systems are already owned by many Hollywood A-listers. This 

would be another avenue for a controlled rollout, targeting a select group of influencers who could experience the system in action and become more comfortable with supporting day & date releases.

 

7) ALREADY OWNED BY MANY CINEPHILES

You know who’s going to be the most interested in buying day & date content for viewing at home at premium pricing? Luxury cinema owners who love movies. And you know what system many luxury cinema owners and movie lovers already own? Yup. Kaleidescape.

Why Kaleidescape Could Own Day & Date, Pt. 2

And for those who currently aren’t system owners but who love the idea of enjoying first-run content at home, the price of entry is far more obtainable with Kaleidescape than with Prima or Red Carpet. For under $4,500, someone could buy a Strato S 4K Ultra HD movie player (shown above) with 6 Terabytes of storage, enough to hold about 90 4K Ultra HD movies. This would be affordable for far more people than the .1% targeted by Prima and Red Carpet, and not an unreasonable amount to spend in a luxury media room costing $25,000 or more.

 

8) INTEGRATION PARTNER CHANNEL

End users aren’t going to be able to just stroll into a Best Buy, pick up a day & date system, take it home, and install and activate it themselves. Something this sophisticated and bulletproof requires professional integration and handholding.

 

While I’ve no doubt Red Carpet will be able to find a dealer base—though Prima might have a harder row to hoe should they return to operation—Kaleidescape already has an established and reputable dealer network.

 

Since its inception, Kaleidescape has worked hand-in-hand with the custom installation channel, having some of the best CEDIA and HTA-certified members in its ranks, ensuring that its hardware is properly installed and configured. Realizing that its systems are only as good and stable as their installation, Kaleidescape only sells through a network of custom installers that can handle complete installation and system integration. This also ensures that the system works with the customer’s control system and is calibrated with their video and audio system, and that the network is configured for a stable experience.

 

9) PROVEN LUXURY TECHNOLOGY

When Kaleidescape hit the market in the early 2000s, the first system sold for more than $30,000, which obviously meant only a small subset of home theater owners could afford it. Almost 20 years later, the luxury market remains Kaleidescape’s core demographic.

Kaleidescape systems also have a phenomenal reputation for bulletproof operation. Every system includes dealer tools like remote system health monitoring and automatic notifications should a system have an issue such as loss of network connectivity, overheating, or hard disc trouble. This allows dealers to address problems proactively before there’s a loss of operation.

 

Unlike other companies, which are outsourcing their hardware or software, Kaleidescape has end-to-end control over every aspect of its system. It runs its own Movie Store and handles all movie encodes (see “How Kaleidescape Makes Movies Look Amazing”), and has 

dedicated engineering and tech support teams. In short, if there’s ever a problem with any aspect of a Kaleidescape system, there’s one clear route to getting it resolved.   

 

10) COULD CO-EXIST WITH OTHER PREMIUM OFFERINGS

In my conversation with Red Carpet’s Fred Rosen, he said they asked the studios, “What will it take to make this happen? You set the price and terms.” So presumably the studios feel day & date content is worth somewhere in the $500 to $3,000 range.

 

Frankly, these prices seem untenable for most Kaleidescape customers, and I question how many among even the ultra-wealthy are willing to buy a movie for viewing at such a massive premium. Or how often they would choose to do so beyond a once- or twice-a-year novelty. (Honestly, for $3,000, you could just call up a theater, buy every seat, and have your own private screening.)

 

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Red Carpet—and even Prima, upon return—establishes this as the price for day & date viewing. Kaleidescape could then decide to establish itself as a premium video-on-demand solution for early theatrical release, offering movies just after that first week or two when most films bring in about 90% of their box-office take.

Let Red Carpet and Prima charge $500 to $3,000 for the privilege of being able to see a movie at home on opening day. Kaleidescape could then make it available after the first week for, say, $300, then maybe $200 after the second week, dropping to $100 after the first month. At these tiered prices, Kaleidescape owners could regularly consume premium theatrical content without having a significant impact of the theater owners’ bottom line.

 

Think of this as being akin to air travel. You have the money-no-object group of private jet owners who think nothing of dropping millions on the plane itself and then thousands in operational costs for each flight. That is the Bel Air Circuit crowd. Then you have those who prefer fractional jet ownership via companies like NetJets. While by no means inexpensive, this has far lower buy-in and pay-by-hour operation costs. This would be the Red Carpet and Prima customer. Then there are people who still want a luxury travel experience but don’t care to shell out the ultra-premium costs for private travel, opting to fly First Class instead. This would be the Kaleidescape customer.

 

 

When I asked Kaleidescape about possible day & date plans, the company’s official response was, “We won’t comment on any speculation or rumors.” But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to connect the dots and realize that the company would be keenly interested in pursuing this potentially game-changing feature. In fact, one need only read the comments CEO Cheena Srinivasan gave in an interview a couple of years ago. When asked about Kaleidescape’s possible involvement with day & date, he said:

 

I believe in the concept of offering new-release movies still playing in the neighborhood theaters to luxury home cinema customers. It will become a reality.

 

According to a recent survey by MGM Resorts, watching movies in a movie theater was cited as the most popular way to be entertained, followed closely by watching movies at home. People who own a luxury home cinema have little need to go to a theater. They would rather wait until the movie is released for home viewing.

 

Since theater owners lose no revenue from people in this category, a premium-priced rental for this audience during the theatrical window won’t cannibalize the exhibitors’ revenues. For the content owners, monetizing content from this audience makes good business sense. We’re well positioned to offer such a service—it is not a technological barrier, as Kaleidescape is already regarded as a respected supplier of both products and content designed with the highest content-protection safeguards available in the market today.

 

Again, all of my comments here are just speculation and conjecture, but movies are being made available at home sooner and sooner after they’re in theaters, and premium day & date services already exist. So the big question isn’t whether day & date is going to happen, but who’s in the best position to offer it securely and reliably over the long run.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Why Kaleidescape Could Own Day & Date, Pt. 1

Why Kaleidescape Could Own Day & Date, Pt. 1

After my last two posts—”Day & Date Finally Get Real, Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2“—where I explored the current and proposed options for viewing movies at home on the day and date they’re released in theaters, I thought I’d offer a bit of speculation on why I think the best approach to this might already exist with Kaleidescape.

 

When you consider the various boxes that need to be checked to make day & date a success—something I’ll do here by comparing Kaleidescape with the existing options—it can be argued that they already have enough of the pieces in place to be the strongest contender.

As a Kaleidescape owner, reviewer, and dealer, I feel I’m in a pretty strong position to make this claim. I’ve been following the company virtually since its inception, with my first review published in Sound & Vision magazine back in 2003. Since that time, I’ve lived with or reviewed virtually every product the company has produced, been involved in beta testing, and currently own a Strato 4K HDR player along with a Premiere system with players in two locations and with two disc storage vaults managing my collection of approximately 500 movies. 

 

So here are ten reasons why I feel Kaleidescape could own the day & date market.

 

1)  STUDIO AGREEMENTS

One of Prima Cinema’s biggest initial drawbacks was the lack of studio agreements—something that could hinder Red Carpet Home Cinema as well. The number of studios on board determines the movies you can watch. In short, no studios, no movies.

 

Prima launched with only three major studios. Red Carpet is coming to market with four majors and one minor, Annapurna Pictures. (The company lists 20th Century Fox as a licensee, but it currently offers no films from them. When I asked CEO Fred Rosen if the recent Disney acquisition of Fox would affect this relationship, he coyly responded, “Only the Shadow knows . . .”) This means there is often a real shortage of content to watch. For example, you won’t be watching the blockbuster Avengers: Endgame in any Prima or Red Carpet cinema.

 

Kaleidescape, on the other hand, has agreements with 38 studios. This includes all of the majors except MGM, as well as a host of minor, independent, and foreign companies. And, yes, it includes Disney and all its properties: Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Disney Animation.

 

These existing relationships put Kaleidescape in a strong position to negotiate for day & date terms, and to have an unmatched amount of content on hand for viewing.

2)  ROBUST COPY PROTECTION

Hollywood is (rightfully) very paranoid about protecting its content. I mean, if you invested $100-million-plus in something with a potential $1 billion return, you probably would be too. So any technology that will let you watch this precious content in the privacy of your home is going to require some pretty hefty safeguards to prevent piracy.

 

When it comes to security protocols, I don’t believe any consumer electronics device in history is more locked down than Prima. Since I described those protocols in detail in “Day & Date Finally Gets Real, Pt. 1,” I won’t recount them again here. 

But Prima does do everything imaginable to ensure that no piracy takes place on its watch. 

 

They also require every installed location to have a static IP address that’s registered and white-listed with them. (Red Carpet has the same requirement.) This ensures that the system is only being used at your home. While Kaleidescape doesn’t currently require this level of security, its system doesn’t have any hardware and technology limitations that would prevent it from being implemented if the studios required it.

 

Prima and Red Carpet also employ digital watermarking, which means every presentation is uniquely tagged and can be identified back to a specific viewing session if it’s illegally recorded and released. Kaleidescape is also ready to do this, having signed a deal with Nagra to implement its NexGuard technology, called “the world’s leading forensic watermarking technology.”

 

Of course, 100% piracy prevention is impossible, as shown by the fact that Avengers: Endgame was released to Chinese Torrent sites within hours of the film’s premiere in China. But Kaleidescape has been fanatical about protecting content, securely storing movies on its servers 

for years without a single report of the system being hacked or exploited, so its proprietary hardware and software should pass Hollywood muster.

 

3)  NOT A ONE-TRICK PONY

Perhaps the biggest differentiator between Kaleidescape and systems like Prima and Red Carpet is that the latter exist solely to provide day & date content while, with Kaleidescape, day & date would just be icing on an already fully-featured and delicious cake.

 

When Prima went dark back in 2016, system owners were left with a $35,000 paperweight. Movies stopped downloading, and the system effectively ceased to function. (The company expects to make an announcement in July following a round of funding in June, so hopefully this will bring existing systems back to operational status.) Should Red Carpet fail, or the studios decide to cease support, one would assume that its $15,000 hardware would also become just another expensive conversation piece.

 

But Kaleidescape has nearly 20 years of proven service. Even if studios decided that day & date was a horrible mistake (unlikely), Kaleidescape owners would still have a system that functions 100% the way it does today, and any movies already bought and downloaded would continue to play. And instead of being limited to a single (expensive) viewing of a film or a brief viewing window, Kaleidescape owners can accumulate a library of content they can watch at any time.

 

4) EXISTING INTERFACE FOR SECURE TRANSACTIONS

While Prima’s biometric fingerprint reader for authenticating purchases might seem extreme, it does prevent your 10-year-old from firing up the theater and ordering a bunch of movies at $500 a pop. But it also means nobody else in the family can use 

the system if the enrolled fingerprint member is away.

 

Red Carpet doesn’t need fingerprint authentication for purchases, but does require customers to have a credit card on file with a limit of “at least $50,000.”

 

Kaleidescape’s Movie Store already provides a secure way to handle 

Why Kaleidescape Could Own Day & Date, Pt. 1

transactions. Customers have been buying movies online and downloading them from the Store for years, so a system for shopping, billing, and delivery is already up and running, and works.

 

With its recently introduced iOS app, Kaleidescape customers can make purchases using an iPhone or iPad that can be authenticated by a fingerprint or Face ID. This system is fast, secure, and effective. Buying movies via the onscreen interface requires just a PIN code to complete the transaction.

 

If Hollywood required customers to have a registered fingerprint reader for added security, Kaleidescape could probably easily add this feature. Every Strato player has a currently unused USB connection. With a firmware update and a sub-$100 USB fingerprint scanner, this feature—like whitelisting an IP address—should be something that could be added.

 

5)  SUPPORTS HIGHEST-QUALITY AUDIO & VIDEO

While Prima’s video was considered stellar at the time the system was introduced, delivering better-than-Blu-ray quality 10-bit 4:2:2 images, it was limited to 1080p resolution, which trails behind the premium experience available on today’s 4K Blu-ray discs. The company had plans to release updated hardware (reportedly selling for $50,000, or a $15,000 upgrade to existing owners) that would support 4K HDR video and lossless audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but that has yet to come to fruition.

 

Red Carpet will presumably be delivering films in 4K HDR with lossless audio via Vubiquity, a premium content distributor that supports this level of delivery.

 

Meanwhile, the Kaleidescape Movie Store features hundreds of titles in 4K HDR resolution, many with lossless Dolby Atmos soundtracks. And unlike streaming content, which requires heavy compression to get through a narrow network pipe, Kaleidescape’s content is 100% downloaded to a local server, similar to how both Prima and Red Carpet operate. This already exceeds the presentation found in most commercial cinemas, and also exceeds the very best experience offered by 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays—without the storage limitations of a physical disc—and would likely be the quality provided for day & date releases.

 

 

In Part 2, I’ll talk about how, unlike services like Red Carpet and Prima, Kaleidescape already has a significant customer base with both the hardware and the financial means to support day & date in a big way right out of the gate.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno
Theo's Corner

Rayva CEO Vin Bruno has been key in taking my desire to stem the decline in home theater and
help turn it into a viable company offering turnkey entertainment-room solutions. I recently talked
with Vin and Cineluxe editor-in-chief Michael Gaughn about the factors that led to Vin joining the
company and about what we’ve been able to accomplish since he came on board.

—T.K.

 

 

Michael Gaughn  My understanding, Vin, is that Theo recruited you to be Rayva’s CEO. How did that come about?

 

Vin Bruno  When I was the CEO of CEDIA, I was two weeks into the job, giving a presentation at our awards banquet, and amongst the 300 attendees, I spotted Theo. After the banquet was over, I went to find him and say hello, and he expressed his concern about the decline of home theater. The very next week, I went to Theo’s apartment in Brooklyn to see what we could do, as CEDIA and as an industry, to reverse that decline. And that was when Theo presented his vision for Rayva to me. And I thought, wow, this is the right thing to do. This is a great initiative. It will drive lots and lots of business and profitability to CEDIA’s members if they help implement Theo’s vision.

MG  Theo, how well did you know Vin before you approached him about Rayva?

 

Theo Kalomirakis  Vin and I have been friends forever, and he had me work with him to develop the theater experience for Crestron. To me, Vin represented a very, very fresh perspective in how you reach out with an idea. When we met after that CEDIA event he described, he impressed me with a story he told. He was in Dallas, and he found out that there are about 800 integrators in that city, and only about 10 of them were CEDIA members. So Vin recognized the opportunity for reaching out to these people to educate them and make them our partners in selling home theaters. I love that approach because it thinks outside the box and sees the potential that exists beyond what is easily within our reach.

 

I wanted everybody in Rayva to have that kind of vision. Vin is so important to the company because he has the trust of everybody. And they may not buy into my vision because I’m very passionate and sometimes I don’t communicate properly or people are threatened by me. But Vin does it methodically from a business perspective without losing his vision that the world out there is much bigger than what we can get by working hand-in-hand with just the integrators at CEDIA. That’s a finite effort that’s not going to get us far.

 

Vin is my partner and ally in this venture because he embraces the same values and the same bigger vision that will eventually allow us to reach out to the people who are specifying theaters—designers and architects—and eventually to the end user. That’s our biggest goal, to reach the end user directly and teach them what the benefit of a home theater is and how it can enrich their lives.

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno

ABOUT VIN BRUNO

A veteran of the custom integration industry, Vin Bruno joined Rayva’s board of directors in 2017. He is now the company’s CEO, leading promotions and marketing initiatives meant to educate architects, builders, and technology integrators about Rayva’s turnkey home theater solutions.

 

Vin has had a number of leadership positions in the AV industry throughout his career. He helped Crestron double its sales revenue during his tenure as Director of Marketing, and his marketing efforts helped rejuvenate CEDIA during his time there as CEO.

 

He has also served on the advisory council for the Harvard Business Review and on the Consumer Electronics Association’s TechHome Division board.

MG  Theo, tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems like Rayva really hit its stride within the past year, right around the time Vin came on board.

 

TK  Yes, that’s true.

 

MG  I know the company went through a lot of struggles early on, and there was a lot you needed to figure out. What did both of you need to do to get on the same page? How much did rethinking the whole engineering process and the effort to productize theaters have to do with that?

 

TK  Realizing the need to rethink the engineering happened organically about a year ago when we realized that the way I had defined the product was not repeatable and was not productized enough to create a consistent offering that could be deployed successfully every time a client wanted a theater. Essentially, I woke up one day and said, “We missed it.” That was a rude awakening when I saw things being installed, and they were not consistent with my vision. I saw face-to-face what other people couldn’t see, that this product needed severe attention to detail that it didn’t have.

I was trained as a custom designer. My eyes aren’t trained to go beyond the surface and see what it takes to make that surface stand and work. So that was the evolutionary change that began a year ago when the first theaters were being installed. That realization put us in overdrive to develop an efficient way to deploy the theaters that would guarantee our success and our repeatability as we reached out to designers and architects, and expanded to other countries.

 

VB  As for the first theaters we deployed, I think you’re absolutely right. We took a product and we delivered it as if it were a custom job. And we then stepped back and said, “Well, this isn’t scalable and it’s a lot of work.” We wanted to minimize the effort for our technology integrators in installing a Rayva theater. So the work Theo and the engineering team he put together has created is patentable—and we are going to pursue patents on these products and these methods. He’s made delivering a Rayva theater as consistent as buying pencils at Staples. It’s that simple to take delivery of a theater and take the elements out of the box and install them on the wall.

 

MG  Now that you’ve worked out the product, what do you think it’s going to take to create a renewed demand for dedicated home theater rooms?

 

VB  We need to inform both integrators and potential customers. People don’t know what they don’t know. There are technology integrators that don’t know they can be in the business of deploying home theaters. Homeowners don’t know they can have a home theater in their house. Most people think that it’s over the top, expensive, complicated, and lots of changes need to happen. They don’t realize we can take any spare room they have and turn it into their relaxation space where they can sit and listen to music or watch movies or have their kids or grandkids play video games, and keep those lovely sounds of the video games in that room. So that will be the service 

we can provide—to let people know that this business, and the profitability of this business, is within their grasp. It’s accessible to all technology integrators and it’s accessible to homeowners who think a theater is out of reach.

 

MG  It seems like any resurgence in home theaters would have to be spurred not so much by a love of movie theaters or watching movies on discs, but by the popularity of online movie services.

 

TK  I agree, and I’ll use myself as an example. I used to use my own home theater much more rarely than I do now because it required an effort to go and find a disc and put it in. I found that cumbersome. Only making the time to watch the latest release on disc made it a unique, singular, one-off experience. But streaming has revolutionized the way I watch movies, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for other people. I watch movies every day because no more discs. I turn on the TV, and I look at 

Creating Rayva: Vin Bruno

my Kaleidescape screen, my Netflix screen, my Amazon screen. The fact that there’s such an abundance of content—such an abundance of good content—has made the use of my theater not so archaic and so kind of specific. Online content has really opened up the flexibility of a dedicated room to a degree that wasn’t available before.

 

VB  We can see that same phenomenon as a company, which is why we as an industry are so important to the ISPs. We’re providing a way for people to enjoy streaming content in the best way possible. Instead of viewing it on tablets or phones, we actually now deliver it to big screens.

 

Ultimately, home theaters are in the best interest of technology integrators and their businesses, and home theaters are in the best interest of families and their homes. Enjoying entertainment in a dedicated room is an enjoyable and valuable way to spend time together. And, to bring our conversation full circle, that’s what inspired me to join Theo in his efforts at Rayva.

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is also an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,000 discs. Theo
is the Executive Director of Rayva.

Day & Date Finally Gets Real, Pt. 2

In Part 1, I talked about companies that either currently offer or are about to offer the ability to watch movies at home the day they’re released in theaters. Here, I’m going to look towards “things that are coming,” and discuss a service on the horizon called Xcinex (pronounced See-nex).

 

I’ve already written a couple of posts about this company—you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here—but here’s a quick look at what they’re up to. Xcinex is a Silicon Valley startup that, unlike Red Carpet Home Cinema, is definitely looking to disrupt and change the whole movie delivery model. While Red Carpet requires a hefty $15,000 buy-in, Xcinex wants to sell you its Venue hardware for an almost unbelievable $29.95. (That’s not a typo.) And instead of paying thousands per movie, Xcinex expects its pricing to be similar to what you pay now when you go to a movie theater.

 

It’s been over a year since I wrote my original post on Xcinex, so I reached out to Founder and CEO Cihan Fuat Atkin, to see if they’re still on track for launch. According to Atkin, they expect to begin selling Venue by the end of 2019 at $29.95, and to have content available for purchase at that time.

Day & Date Finally Gets Real, Pt. 2

One of the biggest differences between Xcinex and the other options—short of hardware costing fractions less—is its per-viewer pricing model. For example, while you pay $500 to watch a movie with Prima Cinema whether you’re watching alone or with a houseful of guests, Xcinex will follow the movie theater model of charging per each set of eyeballs. This also enables studios to have a more accurate count of how many people are actually watching a film.

 

How does Xcinex do this? The Venue set-top box has a sensor that monitors the room while a movie is playing to see how many people are watching. It also keeps piracy at bay by looking for any devices that could be recording the film.

 

This obviously raises some privacy concerns, since most people aren’t keen on having a sensor keep tabs on them while they watch movies. Atkin said Xcinex has redesigned its hardware since my last conversation to address this. Venue is now 100%

Bluetooth, which means it no longer has a network connection and can no longer be remotely accessed or send any images. All image analyzation is now done locally, in real time, without being stored or submitted.

 

Xcinex is proposing a 95% revenue payback to studios, which can then distribute a share of the money back to the local theater, cutting them into the sale just as if someone had gone there and bought a ticket. Viewers can select a theater if they’re part of its loyalty program or Xcinex can send the revenue to the nearest cinema. 

 

Atkin said Xcinex is looking to “bring the 1% experience to the masses,” and that his company will be applying for app approval on all major services, including Apple, Roku, and Android; smart TVs; and game consoles like PlayStation and Xbox.

 

While he expects to have content available at launch, Atkin couldn’t name any studios that had signed on to support Xcinex. He did say he fully expects to have a mix of independents, foreign, and live content, and that while day-and-date availability will be up to individual studios, that is his company’s ultimate goal. “We wouldn’t have spent the past five years working on this if we didn’t expect it to be a reality,” Atkin said.

 

Over the past year, Xcinex has been busy streamlining the process for using its product, simplifying operation and the movie selection and purchase process, which will now all be completed via the onscreen app instead of requiring a separate phone or tablet.

 

Atkin did share some information that some might find more than just a bit invasive. Xcinex plans to be able to supply data to content providers on viewer behavior during films. To help studios know how content is performing, the sensor would be able to analyze audiences and share whether viewers laughed, cried, or got up during a scene. And while it wouldn’t be sharing specific information such as “John laughed, at 2 minutes 10 seconds in,” it could share information like “two out of four viewers laughed.” He said this feature won’t be active at launch, and users could opt out of sharing this data when it becomes available.

At its bargain-basement pricing, Xcinex could find itself successful even if it never gets a single studio to sign on for early-release windows. In fact, it might ultimately find more success in selling access to live events like concerts, sports, or plays. Imagine being able to buy a ticket to watch Hamilton or see Taylor Swift when the event is happening hundreds of miles away or sold out? Or being able to view indy or foreign films that don’t get a wide release?

 

Finally, you can’t have an article on day-and-date services without mentioning The Screening Room. This was the brainchild of Sean Parker of Napster and Facebook fame announced back in 2016 that created a wildfire of buzz in the industry for about two months.

 

Parker’s idea was that hardware would cost $150, and viewers would buy films for $50, giving them access to a 48-hour window. Of that $50, an equal share would go to both the studios and the local theater chain, cutting everyone in on the action.

 

Adding to the buzz, the service had vocal support of some pretty big Hollywood influencers like J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, and Ron Howard. But it had an equal if not greater number of people—including Cristopher Nolan, James Cameron, M. Night Shyamalan, and Kevin Tsujihara CEO of Warner Bros.—speaking out against it, not to mention theater chain owners

 

But just like a shooting star that shines bright and burns out quickly, as fast as The Screening Room came to attention, it seems to have completely disappeared into the ether. Since June 2016, there has been almost no news or information on the company. One small update from The Wrap in March 2017 said the company was working on developing new security protocols to address piracy concerns and that The Screening Room planned on attending CinemaCon. There has been nothing about the company since.

 

With companies like Netflix and Amazon pushing release windows and creating Oscar-worthy content directly for streaming, it seems that day-and-date releases are inevitable, and at this point it seems more a question of when and who rather than if.

 

—John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.

Day & Date Finally Gets Real, Pt. 1

Day & Date Finally Gets Real

Ever since the home video market was effectively born in 1977 with the launch of the VHS player and the release of The Sound of Music, M*A*S*H, and Patton, people have been eager to watch movies at home as soon after they appear in movie theaters as possible. While it used to take months or even years for a film to see a home release, the theatrical window has been increasingly shrinking.

Movies now typically play exclusively in the theater for a month or so before going to premium video-on-demand (PVOD) services such as pay-per-view or airlines, then to an online digital release such as Kaleidescape or Vudu, then a disc release about 14 weeks after the theatrical run, then to home video services like HBO a couple of months later, and then finally to non-pay TV services. For example, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was released theatrically on February 8 2019, and was released for digital download on April 16, with the disc release scheduled to arrive on May 7.

 

But these shrinking release windows still haven’t been enough to satisfy the desire to see movies soon after they’re released in theaters. The biggest thing keeping windows from getting even shorter is the delicate relationship between the movie studios and the theater owners. Studios make millions—sometimes billions—from the main commercial release, and they don’t want to do anything that might hurt the goose that lays their biggest golden egg. Regardless, a few companies have been working hard to have movies available at home the day they’re released.

 

Bel Air Circuit

At the top of the pyramid is the Bel Air Circuit—an invitation-only group of individuals consisting mainly of Hollywood A-list actors, directors, producers, and studio executives who receive just-released movies to enjoy in their personal screening rooms. While this used to require delivering film reels via courier and having a projectionist on site to handle 

the reel-changing chores, members now receive the same digital files sent to commercial theaters. The upside is that most studios make their films available for viewing to Circuit members at no charge. The downside is that unless your name is Spielberg, Tarantino, Stallone, or Cruise, you won’t ever be invited to join.

 

Bel Air Cinema

Very similar in concept to the Bel Air Circuit is Bel Air Cinema. The biggest difference is that unlike an invitation-only, private club comprised of a Hollywood who’s who, anyone with a big enough checkbook can inquire about becoming a customer.

Bel Air Cinema requires the kind of commercial cinema
projection equipment shown here

But your regular home theater need not apply. In fact, even high-end, luxury home theaters aren’t compatible, because Bel Air Cinema is less about home theater and more about creating a commercial theater in your home. That requires a Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI)-compliant projector and movie server costing $100,000 or more. (Feel free to read the latest Digital Cinema System Specification, Version 1.3—it’s only 155 pages.) And expect to shell out $5,000 or more for the privilege of watching a film, plus annual fees.

Prima Cinema

The first company to make a real go of the day-and-date concept was Prima Cinema. Launched in 2012, with financial backing from companies including Universal Pictures, Best Buy, and IMAX, Prima lets you watch movies at home the day they hit the theaters.

 

Unlike the Bel Air systems, Prima’s hardware works with any home theater technology, providing an HDMI output that can be connected to any brand of AV receiver or processor and any TV or projector. The system includes a massive array of security features, including accelerometers to prevent moving the hardware, unique watermarking for every viewing, and a fingerprint scanner with “liveness” detector. 

Day & Date Finally Gets Real

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Prima initially had agreements with just Universal, Lionsgate, Focus Features, Cinedigm, and Magnolia. But after a couple of years in operation, this list expanded to include Paramount, The Weinstein Company, Relativity EuropaCorp, Roadside Attractions, Gravitas Ventures, Samuel Goldwyn Films, IFC Films, and Open Road, meaning a far larger number of titles was available for viewing. 

 

But Prima isn’t cheap. The hardware alone costs $35,000, with movies running $500 per viewing. I have the unique experience of having been the only reviewer to live with Prima—not once, but twice—so I was able to experience the system 

firsthand. And I can confirm it has a wonderful interface for browsing and choosing movies, and delivers pictures in beautiful, better-than-Blu-ray 4:2:2, 10-bit quality.

 

Unfortunately, around 2016, Prima seemed to fall off the map. Movies stopped downloading, and dealers couldn’t get a hold of the company. Prior to this post, I reached out to a new contact listed on the company’s redesigned webpage: Richard Jenkins, Head of Content. According to Jenkins, “We are still operating and hoping to close our current

Day & Date Finally Get Real

investment round by the end of June; once new funding is in place we will then be making an announcement in early July, so please standby—we will update you as soon as we can.”

 

Red Carpet Home Cinema

Earlier this month, the New York Times ran a story heralding the launch of a brand new company in this space: Red Carpet Home Cinema—the brainchild of Fred Rosen, the man behind Ticketmaster, and Dan Fellman, past president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. Red Carpet is more Prima Cinema (of which Rosen sat on the board of advisors) than Bel Air Cinema since it will work with any traditional AV system but requires a $15,000 piece of proprietary hardware (loaded with security provisions to keep Hollywood content safe from piracy). According to the site’s FAQ, “Movies will be variably priced with the most current films in the low thousands—no movie will be priced below $500.” The Times article mentioned that films will cost $1,500 to $3,000, which will include two viewings within a 36-hour period.

 

I recently spoke to Mr. Rosen, and found him incredibly forthcoming and straightforward about his new company’s plans. He repeatedly said Red Carpet isn’t looking to disrupt the current cinema model, but rather wants to provide a luxury option for

Day & Date Finally Gets Real

Red Carpet Home Cinema co-founder Fred Rosen

home viewing to people willing to pay for it.

 

Rosen said: “We asked the studios, ‘What will it take to make this happen? You set the price and terms.’ The studios said I was the first guy to come in and not try to tell them what they could charge, not tell them how it was going to be.”

 

Red Carpet lists studio support from 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, and Annapurna, with five titles currently available for viewing: Pet Sematary, Missing

Link, Hellboy, The Curse of La Llorona, and Shazam! But Rosen says he feels pretty comfortable they’ll be able to add more studio partners.

 

“This is a luxury product, of something that is very limited and difficult to get,” he said, “and our customers are willing to pay for the convenience and privilege.” The company isn’t looking for mass sales, but would like to sign up a limited number of affluent clients, saying it would be happy to have hundreds of members in New York and LA, and about a hundred more in each of the largest cities throughout the US.

 

Rosen said there are luxury options available for virtually every other kind of product or service, and Red Carpet wants to provide athletes, movie stars, and just “regular” wealthy people with the freedom to consume content when and how they want. “If a kid can watch a movie on their phone 90 days after it is released for $.99, why can’t there be an early option for the luxury market that is willing to pay for it?”

 

According to Rosen, people last year spent $70 billion on private planes and $60 billion on private yachts. “I’m not saying that’s good or bad, it just is what it is. And if those people want to spend $3,000 to watch a movie in the privacy of their own home, why shouldn’t they have that as an option like any other luxury purchase?”

 

Red Carpet is currently in beta, with several systems installed in both New York and California. When I asked Rosen when the service would come out of beta, he said, “As soon as we make a sale! It’s ready to go now.” For those with the means, Red Carpet Home Cinema is available now throughout the country.

 

In Part 2, I’ll talk about the current status of the much-hyped day-and-date startup The Screening Room, and provide an update on Xcinex, which plans to sell its hardware for a mass-market-friendly $30 and charge for viewings based on the number of people in the room, like at a movie theater.

John Sciacca

Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is
co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing
for such publications as
 Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at

@SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.