John Sciacca Tag

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.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

The Lego Movie 2

It’s been five years since The Lego Movie hit the big screen. That film’s near $500 MM box office take all but guaranteed a sequel, which arrives with a very on-the-nose, Emmet-esque title The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, available on 4K HDR download from Kaleidescape a full three weeks before the disc release.

 

The first film is a popular one in our household, with an incredibly original story that brings together multiple disparate aspects of the Lego universe and features some wonderful cameos and voice acting that make it very rewatchable. I was skeptical a sequel wouldn’t be able recapture the brilliance of the original, but the 2017 spinoff, The Lego Batman Movie, proved the writers could keep it fresh and clever, thus keeping me hopeful.

 

The Lego Movie 2 does what a sequel needs to do, picking up where the story left off and bringing the original gang of beloved characters back and throwing them into new adventures. Returning from the original are the main characters of 

Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt), Wyldstyle/Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), Unikitty (Alison Brie), Spaceman Benny (Charlie Day), and MetalBeard (Nick Offerman).

 

The benefit of a sequel is that you can jump right into the story, which The Second Part does. While viewers of the first movie will definitely get more 

of the jokes, watching the original isn’t a prerequisite. (But if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should.) The sequel picks up immediately after the events of the first film, when President Business/Dad (Will Ferrell) decided to open up his basement Lego sanctuary to his son, Finn (Jadon Sand). Of course, now that Finn can play, that means younger daughter, Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), also gets in on the fun as well.

 

The film then jumps five years forward, keeping both real time and movie time in sync. The kids have grown and have radically different playing—errr, building—styles. Bianca’s Duplo characters come in and wreak havoc on Finn’s Bricksburg, destroying everything new he builds. (For the uninformed, Duplo is the Lego product designed for kids under 5, being larger than traditional bricks, making them easier for little hands to handle and less likely to be swallowed. And, yes, I had to look 

that up.)  This causes the characters to live in a new town, Apocalypseburg—a dusty, unfinished, Mad Max-esque world where everyone has to be cynical and tough to live. Except, of course, Emmet, who remains as optimistic and happy as ever.

 

Sweet Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) soon attacks, capturing our main band of heroes and taking them to the Systar System, where Queen Watevra Wa’Nabi—“Whatever I want to be”—wants to throw a wedding ceremony that will either stop or summon the world-ending event, Armamageddon. 

The Lego Movie 2

Emmet goes off to rescue them, traveling through a portal called The Stairgate to dimensions unknown, where he runs into Rex Dangervest (also voiced by Pratt), a tougher, “Galaxy-defending archaeologist, cowboy, and raptor trainer” who has “chiseled features previously hidden under baby fat!”—a much cooler, braver, alter-ego version of himself.

 

The trick for animated titles is to have jokes, dialogue, and a storyline that plays across a wide range of ages, letting adults and kids enjoy the film equally on separate levels. And The Second Part succeeded here, keeping myself, my 3-year-old, and my 12-year-old engaged throughout. One huge difference between this and the first film is that The Second Part has so many song breaks, it almost plays like a musical. (The ever-aware characters even make jokes about this.) Where the first film had one big song moment, here there are seven. Fortunately, the lyrics are pretty hilarious and the tunes catchy, and as one character advises, “Just listen to the music and let your mind go.” 

 

Sometimes, the film seems to be trying too hard to recapture the formula of the first one. For example, Lego Movie 2 is clearly trying to repeat the earworm success of the first film’s ultra-catchy hit “Everything is Awesome!” This time around the song is literally called “Catchy Song,” with the repeating chorus of, “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head.” And yes, it does.

 

We also get a ton of call backs, cameos, and pop culture references, one wonderfully played by Bruce Willis.

The Lego Movie 2

The Second Part also has Beck’s “Super Cool”—one of the best end-credits songs ever. Featuring Robyn and The Lonely Island, it has brilliant lyrics like, “It’s the credits, yeah that’s the best part / When the movie ends and the reading starts / You can keep your adventure and all that action / ‘cause the credits of the film are the main attraction.”

 

Modern computer animation nearly always looks fantastic on home video, and the 4K HDR video here just looks stellar. Every closeup reveals remarkable detail from the mini-figs or bricks being played with, showing minute scratches, fingerprints, wear, and pebbly or plastic texture. The lighting is also amazingly well done, revealing subtly different features and details in the bricks and characters as they move and rotate. As a result, nearly every frame is a feast for the eyes. The colors also really pop, especially the deep, vibrant reds, with HDR highlights used throughout.

 

Sonically, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is not the most aggressive ever, but it does a good job serving the onscreen action and offers a lot of directional audio placing sounds all around the room. The overhead height speakers are called into action in key scenes, further adding to the immersive experience and expanding the sonic space or environment of the scenes. Dialogue also remains clear and intelligible throughout. 

 

The Blu-ray-quality download (included at no charge with the 4K HDR version) includes a variety of extras and features, including some making-of docs, deleted scenes, the short “Emmet’s Holiday Party,” and the full-length “Everything Is Awesome Sing-Along Version” that makes for a fun second (or third) viewing, with a lot of trivia and extras littered throughout.

 

While the jury is out on whether The Lego Movie 2 will have the replay value of the first film, one thing that isn’t in question is how well this movie looks on a quality 4K HDR display. This makes a fantastic option for gathering the family together for a fun movie night.

John Sciacca

The Lego Movie 2

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. 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

CLICK THE CHART TO ENLARGE

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.

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams

Nothing shows you how much time has passed more than when you wake up one morning and see that one of your favorite movies is celebrating its 30-year anniversary! Yep, Field of Dreams turns 30 this year, and as a gift to fans, Universal Pictures has given the movie the full 4K HDR restoration makeover. While disc purchasers will have to wait until May 14 to grab a copy, Kaleidescape owners are able to download and enjoy the film more than a month ahead of time.

 

Field is one of my favorite films, and I’ve seen it multiple times over the years, though I actually missed it during its theatrical release. Perhaps the trailer didn’t catch my 19-year-old attention, or maybe it had a limited initial run,. But I can remember watching for the first time on a rented VHS tape at a friend’s house and absolutely loving it. I bought the DVD when it was released, but that transfer was never terrific looking, featuring a lot of noise and soft images.

 

It’s tough to think any movie lover wouldn’t be familiar with the plot at this point, but I’ll keep it spoiler-free just in case. Baseball-loving Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner, starring in his second consecutive baseball film following Bull Durham) marries college sweetheart, Annie (Amy Madigan), and they move to Iowa where they buy a farm. One day while in the cornfields, Ray hears a mysterious voice. “If you build it, he will come…” Build what? And who will come? After the voice won’t go away, Ray has an epiphany one evening: The voice wants him to plow under most of his cornfield and turn into a baseball diamond where players from the notorious Chicago Black Sox (who threw the 1919 Series) will return to play ball. (My wife was quick to point out how surprisingly supportive Annie was of this seemingly insane idea.) The voice continues delivering cryptic 

Field of Dreams

messages, sending Ray off on a quest to right some past wrongs and meet a group of interesting characters including Shoeless Joe Jackson (an incredibly young-looking Ray Liotta), Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones), and Dr. Graham (Burt Lancaster).

 

Field is considered one of the best sports films ever made, and was nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, Best Writing (adapted screenplay), and Best Original Score. In a time when most movies rely on special effects, 

explosions, elaborate schemes, and confusing plot twists, Field of Dreams is an entirely story and character-driven film with virtually no effects or gimmicks. The movie works because it keeps you genuinely interested, has you caring for the characters, and has so much heart that the ending leaves me teary-eyed every time.

 

As bad as my DVD version looked, I hadn’t been in a real hurry to revisit the movie, so this was not only an opportunity to see one of my favorites, but also the perfect opportunity to share it with my 12-year-old daughter for the first time. Not a sports fan at all, I was hoping she’d be caught up in the story, and she was. (She also now understands why it means a lot to me when I ask her to go and have a catch.)

 

While the new 4K HDR transfer isn’t perfect, I dare say this is the best that Field will ever look. The film has many outdoor scenes, which often exhibit wonderful detail and sharpness. Fortunately, they didn’t take too heavy a hand on the cleanup, leaving enough grain to let you know this is inherently from 35 mm stock. The detail is some scenes is fantastic, such as being able to see the wooly texture in Shoeless Joe’s cap, or the blades of grass and dirt on the baseball diamond, or the clear detail in the rows of corn. As a comparison, I checked a couple of scenes from the DVD, and they were all soft, grain-filled mush. While the HDR pass was pretty light, there are some nighttime scenes in Boston that benefit, as do some of the night ball games. Equally important, black levels are deep and clean throughout. I also noticed that the reds in some scenes were very saturated, likely pushing the color boundaries from previous releases.

 

As I said, the transfer isn’t perfect, and there is still some excessive noise and grain in some of the dusky, twilight sky scenes, when the sky hits a faded, powder blue/grey color that reveals a lot of noise, likely from the original film stock. Also, there were a couple of scenes where faces looked a bit too red.

 

Not much has changed on the audio front from the Blu-ray release 10 years ago, as we still get a 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master mix. (The 4K disc will include a new DTS:X immersive audio mix, that hopefully will find its way to Kaleidescape at some point, NBCUniversal willing.) Even so, I found the dialogue to be very well recorded, important for a film that is entirely story-driven, and James Horner’s score shines through nicely. I did notice that my Dolby Atmos upmixer did a nice job lifting the Voice up into the ceiling speakers, creating a nice, other-worldly effect that worked well.

 

I can’t recommend this movie enough, whether you’ve seen it or not. Field of Dreams is a timeless classic that is suitable to share with family member of all ages, but it especially translates well to watching with your dad or your kids. And at $15.99 from Kaleidescape, it should be a part of everyone’s collection.

John Sciacca

Field of Dreams

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.

Glass

Glass

There was a time when writer/director M. Night Shyamalan was considered the virtual heir to Hitchcock’s throne. He had a way of crafting intricate stories with unpredictable and shocking endings that left moviegoers talking for days afterwards. (He also adopted the Hitchcockian move of including himself in all of his films.) And from 1999-2002 when he delivered The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs, Shyamalan was a guaranteed box office draw and one of the hottest tickets in Hollywood.

 

But then . . .

 

Well, in golf we had a saying for what happened to M. Night: “The wheels came off.” His next string of films—The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth—were all critical and box office bombs.

 

He had lost not only his magic touch but also seemingly his way, and now his name was more of a punchline for bad endings you see coming a mile away.

 

But then something truly unexpected happened in 2016—he gave us Split, which featured a fantastic performance by James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder, with 23 distinct personalities known 

collectively as “The Horde” that abducts teenage girls. Beyond McAvoy’s change-on-a-dime performance and an engaging story, Split finished with a total WTF?! moment—an end credits scene that delivered a fantastic callback to Unbreakable, arguably one of Shyamalan’s best films.

 

With that single scene, M. Night delivered Hollywood’s first stealth sequel and placed Split firmly in the  

Unbreakable world, where superhuman vigilante David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and his archenemy—criminal mastermind with extremely brittle bones Elija “Mr. Glass” Price (Samuel L. Jackson)—still live and breathe.

 

This set the stage for the highly anticipated Glass, the third film in the Unbreakable series.

 

Glass takes place 15-19 years after Unbreakable (both times are mentioned in the film), but only weeks after Split. It begins with four cheerleaders being held captive by Crumb in an old warehouse, and with the city of Philadelphia in a panic over a recent string of murders.

 

Dunn now owns a security firm he runs with his son, Joseph (with Spencer Treat Clark reprising his Unbreakable role), where he continues his covert, rain poncho-wearing role as “The Overseer,” walking the city streets looking for evildoers to beat some justice into. (This also sets the stage for a rather forced cameo by Shyamalan, who returns as his role of Jai from Unbreakable.)

 

Dunn ultimately happens upon Crumb, who transforms into “The Beast,” a dominant personality with cannibal tendencies and superhuman abilities that is an amalgam of various zoo animals. After a massive fight, both end up being captured by a special police division and sent to a woefully understaffed institution for the criminally insane. There they are studied by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson, returning in her role from Split) who keeps them locked in isolation cells designed to control their powers. It’s soon revealed that this is the same institution that has been housing Mr. Glass for the past number of years, and that Dr. Staple is working on a special branch of psychology where she tries to convince people who think they’re superhuman that they’re actually normal.

 

While Jackson’s Mr. Glass is the titular character, he spends more than half of the film saying and doing nothing, heavily medicated and slumped in a wheelchair. When Glass finally encounters Crumb, he decides to waken The Beast and have him fight Dunn in a massive public battle that will finally reveal the existence of superheroes to the world.

 

The film has a 129-minute run time, but I felt it was well paced for a long film, with a story that held my interest and attention. Shyamalan also did a nice job of marrying the two stories, coming up with a film that brings the characters together in a believable manner, though the pacing and style make it feel more a sequel to Split than to Unbreakable. The ending was a bit lackluster, but it did pave the way for future spinoffs.

 

McAvoy is again fantastic in his portrayal of Crumb, deftly switching between completely different personalitie, often multiple times within a single scene. These changes are not only in his voice and mannerisms, but in his physical appearance and emotion. It was also nice to see Willis back in his Unbreakable role, albeit he doesn’t get as much screen time as fans of the original would hope.

 

You can’t fault Glass for is its picture quality, which is terrific. Shot on ARRIRAW at 3.4K resolution, this transfer is taken from a 4K Digital Intermediate, and the image is sharp and clear, with tons of detail and definition. Edges are all razor sharp, and fine detail abounds in closeups, showing nearly every hair and pore on the actor’s faces (once revealing too-much makeup on Dr. Ellie), single-stitch fabric texture in garments, and micro-scratches in metal surfaces. HDR isn’t used extensively, but there are several low-light night scenes where its benefits are visible and welcome.

 

Audio on the Kaleidescape download is 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master. M. Night films are not big on typical superhero bombast and explosions, but the soundtrack serves the film well, with some nice directional cues and other ambient sounds and effects to place you in the right sonic environment. Of equal importance, dialogue is well recorded and clear.

 

Glass is available now from Kaleidescape, a full two weeks before its 4/16 disc release.

John Sciacca

Glass

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.

Welcome to Marwen

Welcome to Marwen

On paper, Welcome to Marwen should have been a hit. Helmed and co-written by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Contact, Polar Express), starring Steve Carell and Leslie Mann, with supporting performances from Gwendoline Christie, Diane Kruger, and Eiza Gonzalez, and featuring some fantastic visual effects, this could have been a call-back to the brilliance of Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump.

 

Unfortunately, what we got was an estimated $50-60 million loss for Universal Studios, largely due to a bevy of poor reviews spurred by clumsy and disjointed storytelling that makes it difficult to connect with, learn about, or even care for any of the characters. Also, Zemeckis seems to have gotten too caught up in relying on the effects-laden scenes rather than telling a great story.

 

Marwen is based on the tragic real-life events of artist Mark Hogancamp, played here by Carell. (The acclaimed 2010 documentary Marwencol also examined Hogancamp’s life and art.) Back in 2000, Mark was out drinking one night when he casually admitted that he likes to collect and wear women’s shoes to feel closer to their essence. This admission was overheard by a group of five guys (portrayed as white supremacist, neo-Nazis in the film, but actually homophobes in real life) who took him outside and brutally beat him, leaving him for dead.

 

The beating left Hogancamp in a coma for nine days and brain damaged, with absolutely no memories of his life before. Barely able to even write his name following the incident, it also robbed him of his ability to draw. Hogancamp turned to photography instead, where he created the elaborate, fictional World War II-era Belgian city Marwen where he stages dolls in elaborate sets and situations, all to perfect 1/6-scale.

 

The film begins a few years after the beating, where Mark is established in his photography career, and has an upcoming exhibition. Also looming over him is the trial of his attackers, which his lawyer wants him to attend to read a victim’s impact statement to ensure it’s entered into the record so they don’t get off lightly.

 

On the one hand, I understand what I think Zemeckis was going for in his story. Mark can’t remember anything about his life prior to the attack, so we’re given only very limited information about him from before. What we do glean is from quick snatches of images flipping through old scrap books, or snippets of conversations overheard from others. Old Mark apparently drank a lot, served in the Navy, and was an illustrator for some comics.

 

Current Mark suffers pretty severe PTSD from the beating. He is shy, awkward, afraid, closed-off, and fairly heavily medicated. We get the sense he could die in his home and no one would notice for days. He also leads a very controlled and structured life, with his only pleasure coming from photographing Marwen and wearing his massive—more than 280-pair—collection of women’s shoes. Carrell does a great job in the role, rising above the uneven storytelling, showing us Hogancamp’s pain and vulnerability, with nary a trace of Michael Scott to be found.

 

To compensate for his sad reality, Mark creates the alter-ego hero, Cap’n Hogie, who is a dame-lovin’, Nazi-killin’, lady-shoe-wearin’, alpha male of Marwen, a town populated entirely by women representing important people in Mark’s life. Unfortunately, all is not perfect in Marwen, as it comes under repeated attack from Nazi SS soldiers, and any women that Hogie gets close to are zapped light years into the future by the Belgian Witch, Deja Thoris (voiced by Kruger), who actually represents Mark’s growing addiction to pain medication.

 

Further complicating our ability to connect with Mark is the fact that the scenes in Marwen-town are so unlike his real-life that they end up feeling disjointed from the rest of the film. These random scenes are filled with action, humor, and life, along with Nazi ambushes and brutal gun fights where Hogie frequently finds himself captured and nearly killed by a band of Nazis that continually comes back to life. The Nazis clearly represent his real-life attackers regularly returning to Marwen to inflict damage and re-enact the trauma of Mark’s beating, where ultimately he is always saved by his women of Marwen. 

 

Whereas the real-life scenes are a bit soft by design, the doll scenes are all fascinating visually and razor detailed. You can see every pebble-grain of texture in Hogie’s bomber jacket, along with the intricate outfits of the women. These scenes are often filmed up close—like Mark’s photographs—so we see every articulated joint and intricate movement from the dolls along with the fine detail Mark puts into his set decoration. It all looks great.

 

Audio here is presented via 5.1 DTS-HD Master, with the all-important dialogue well recorded and intelligible. The battle scenes in Marwen provide some sonic excitement, as does the film’s opening plane crash, with my processor’s Dolby Atmos upmixing doing a nice job of placing flak explosions overhead.

 

Ultimately, Marwen is an interesting but forgettable film, but it’s not a total waste. Its effects scenes look fantastic on the home screen, with a truly unique visual style somewhere between animation and stop motion. And the story was interesting enough to keep me curious and watching to see how it concluded, and to turn to the Internet to find out more about the actual events behind it. Also, due to its dismal box office performance, it currently appears that Marwen’s 4K disc release has been scrubbed, meaning the only way to enjoy it in better-than-cinema quality is to get the 4K HDR download from Kaleidescape, available now for a very reasonable $19.99.

John Sciacca

Welcome to Marwen

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 to Have Movie Theater-Quality Content at Home

Movie Theater-Quality Content at Home

While streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are terrific content sources boasting some great original programming, and include a smorgasbord of virtually unlimited on-demand programming, they’re not a complete media solution for a luxury home theater. And while the picture and sound quality is often “good enough,” when the goal is to exceed the commercial cinema experience at home, you need to look elsewhere for high-resolution content.

 

For a better-than-movie-theater experience at home, no source component or streaming service can touch the Kaleidescape Strato movie player. Here are several reasons why a Strato in your system gives you the convenience of Internet delivery along with the best possible quality, performance, and experience. 

HIGH-QUALITY SELECTION

Many people associate streaming services like Netflix with having instant access to everything their heart desires, but the reality is far different. In fact, Netflix currently offers only seven titles for streaming from the AFI’s Top 100 Movies list.

 

The Kaleidescape Movie Store is the only online purveyor of Hollywood titles in the highest quality, with hundreds of titles in full 4K HDR with lossless Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio soundtracks. Along with films from every major studio, it has relationships with more than 20 smaller, “boutique” studios. Customers also enjoy new releases sooner—often weeks before the movie is available on disc or for streaming. And many titles still in theaters can be “pre-ordered” to be automatically download once they’re released.

 

 

 

CONTENT ALWAYS AVAILABLE

Streaming services regularly lose content due to changing licensing agreements, so just because something is here today doesn’t mean it will be here tomorrow. Consider Walt Disney Studios’ announcement that it plans to remove all its movies from Netflix in favor of its upcoming Disney+ service. Also, streaming relies completely on a fast, constant Internet connection. If you’ve ever had to stop a movie in the middle because of some Internet, network, or “app-crash” issue, you know how frustrating it can be.

 

With a Kaleidescape system, users have instant access to all of their favorite content. A film downloaded to a Strato never disappears, never buffers, and always plays in the highest audio and video quality possible. Enjoying content on a Kaleidescape never depends on your Internet speed or connection.

 

 

PICTURE & SOUND QUALITY

Kaleidescape’s content looks and sounds better than streamed content because its downloads feature far more data—more than 100 Mbps compared to approximately 20 Mbps for streamers—and far less compression. This means there are no motion artifacts or banding, blacks are clean and noise-free, and colors are delivered in full 10-bit, BT.2020 colorspace glory (provided you’re watching a UHD/HDR-quality download).

 

Considering that most digital commercial cinema projectors only have 2K (2048 x 1080) resolution, they aren’t capable of the detail, contrast, or HDR quality of a high-end 4K 

home system. Kaleidescape’s 4K HDR titles paired with a quality video display can easily best the movie theater experience.

 

Many Kaleidescape titles also include reference-quality lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, which are far superior to the lossy Dolby Digital+ streams employed by streaming services. This allows its systems to deliver soundtracks that can compete with the finest commercial cinemas, and that surpass most commercial theaters, whose audio systems often haven’t seen a refresh in years. (Check out “Online Movies Audio Face-off” Part 1 and Part 2 for a direct comparison of streaming audio to Kaleidescape downloads.)

 

 

EASY TO BUILD A LIBRARY

Instead of being limited to the movies screening at your local theater, or roaming through the often old and outdated films available for streaming, Kaleidescape’s Movie Store offers a simple, intuitive way to access over 10,000 titles of content. With Strato’s onscreen store, users can add titles from the comfort of their favorite chair, or, by using a phone app, from anywhere in the world. With an ultra-fast, Gigabit-speed Internet connection, a new 4K HDR movie can be downloaded in as few as 15 minutes, meaning you could choose a movie before dinner and enjoy it during dessert!

Movie Theater-Quality Content at Home

CRAFT YOUR ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE

Unlike streaming services, which are generally delivered via apps embedded in other devices like a Blu-ray player or Smart TV, Kaleidescape movies are served up from an enterprise-grade system purpose-built to play movies in the best possible quality. Kaleidescape includes a best-in-class 4k60 user interface for browsing and sorting movie collections of any size, and integrates with numerous third-party control systems.

 

Movies from the Kaleidescape Store feature metadata supplied by Kaleidescape’s Movie Guide team. Beyond basic information like synopsis, running time, rating, director, and actors, many titles have iconic scenes or songs bookmarked for easy access.

Pairing Kaleidescape with an advanced control system can be like having your own projectionist. The download can provide information to trigger lighting scenes, adjust shading or curtains, open or close screen masking based on aspect ratio, or numerous other automation commands based on things like starting or ending a movie.

 

Like a movie mixologist, Kaleidescape lets you create a demo “script” of favorite scenes, trailers, cover art, or songs to handcraft a warmup to your movie night. Get the crowd laughing with some choice comedy scenes or hype-up an action blockbuster with some of your favorite chases and explosions.

 

 

ADVANCED PARENTAL CONTROLS

A lot of streaming content isn’t suitable for viewers of all ages. Or, there might be something OK for a 13-year-old but out of the question for a three-year-old. Or, what’s to keep kids from buying a ticket to see one movie and then sneaking in to see another you wouldn’t approve of . . ?

 

Kaleidescape systems offer robust parental controls with password protection for content of all ratings. Allow your older kids and guests access to PG-13 films while restricting your youngsters to G-rated titles. Of course, you can “re-rate” films as you see fit, perhaps removing a potentially frightening PG-rated title like Jaws while enabling access to PG-13 titles you consider OK, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Kaleidescape’s unique Kid’s Remote also offers children the ability to access and enjoy their own parental-curated movie collections without any chance of browsing into something they shouldn’t see. 

 

No one online service can address every entertainment need, but by having both a Kaleidescape and streaming service, you’re free to enjoy your favorite movies, TV shows, and concert collections in pristine, highest-quality audio and video on demand, while still being able to binge movies and series via streaming, all without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home!

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.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

For many viewers, myself included, the Transformers franchise jumped the shark with its fifth film, Transformers: The Last Knight, where it tried to combine robots, dinosaurs, and Arthurian lore into a mess of a film that included Sir Anthony Hopkins delivering lines that were frequently cringeworthy at best. That film was panned by critics and received the lowest audience rating of any film in the series—a meager 16% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Due to this, my expectations for Bumblebee were basically non-existent.

But the Bumblebee team decided to do some transforming of its own. This film broke the tradition of having Michael Bay at the directorial helm (though he does retain a producer credit), instead going with relative newcomer Travis Knight, whose previous directorial credit included the critically acclaimed Kubo and the Two Strings. They also went with an up-and-coming writers, Christina Hodson, for the script and story.

Those two changes made all the difference, with Bumblebee scoring big at the box office, bringing in a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating—the highest of any film in the franchise—and resulting in a movie that has far more heart and story, and far less near-constant frenetic smash-em-up-blow-em-up action scenes. And guess what? When every scene isn’t filled with action, there is more room for story and character development, and more opportunity for the action pieces to stand out.

Also, by primarily focusing on a single robot character instead of virtually every Autobot and Decepticon still in existence, you have a chance to care more about them. Kudos to the design team that did a great job with Bumblebee’s eyes, giving him the ability to express emotion and feeling, further humanizing him.

Bumblebee

The film begins on the planet Cybertron, with the Autobots on the verge of being completely overthrown. As a last-ditch effort, Autobot leader, Optimus Prime, sends his lead fighter and scout, B-127, to the planet Earth in an escape pod to prepare a new base of operations for the Autobots to regroup. B-127 smashes into Earth right next to an Army Special Forces training exercise, and in a skirmish while attempting to escape and battling a Decepticon that followed him, B-127 is damaged, losing his ability to speak, as well as his memory of who he is and his mission. Low

on power and heavily injured, B-127 scans a nearby yellow ’67 Beetle and transforms, where he somehow ends up at a salvage yard before being discovered by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld). Charlie christens B-127 “Bumblebee” because of the sound his electronic mumblings make.

There are many similarities between the storylines of Bumblebee and the original 2007 Transformers film. In both movies, the human star is an outcast, nerdy high school student. That role was played by Shia LaBeouf in 2007, but this time it’s a female played by Steinfeld. Both kids encounter the discarded and barely functional Autobot, Bumblebee, while searching for their first car, taking him home and then discovering he’s “more than meets the eye.” They both rely on friends of the opposite sex to help them survive and keep Bumblebee’s secret; the bombshell Megan Fox in the original, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. in Bumblebee. We’ve also got a strong military presence trying to track down and stop the alien invasion in the form of Agent Burns (John Cena), who is given one of the best lines with, “They literally call themselves Decepticons. That doesn’t set off any red flags?!”

Set in the late ‘80s, Bumblebee has a great soundtrack featuring many classics from bands like The Smiths, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, and A-HA, along with several band shirts worn by Steinfeld that would have been perfectly at home on any student at my high school. Also, without the ability to speak, Bumblebee plays snippets of audio from the radio to communicate, a device that works well.

Bumblebee

Shot on ARRIRAW at 3.4K, Bumblebee is taken from a 2K digital intermediate, not uncommon for heavily effects-driven films. But the image has no shortage of detail, especially in closeups where you can see tons of detail like texture, imperfections, and scratches in Bumblebee’s paint, or individual strands of hair in Steinfeld’s eyelashes. HDR is used to good effect during the night scenes, particularly with explosions and erupting fireballs, or the vibrant green of the Decepticon transmitter near the finale.

My favorite aspect of the video was that the camera style is far more steady and stable, moving away from the near seizure-inducing, rapid blur and jerk favored by the previous Transformer films. The action scenes here are stable and in focus, letting you appreciate all of the robot’s movements and motions.

By far the standout here is Bumblebee’s reference-grade Dolby Atmos soundtrack. This movie sounds fantastic in a well-calibrated home theater, featuring an active mix that fully engages all Atmos speakers, immersing you in the action. Dialogue remains clear and intelligible throughout, no matter how many things are exploding onscreen. Home theater owners will especially love the massive amount of low-frequency impact. When heavy objects or bots crash, smash, collide, or explode, the bass is appropriately weighty, producing frequencies that will rattle your floor and slam into your chest. But far more than just one repetitive bass note, bass here is richly textured and layered, with different amounts of impact and detail according to  the scene. Excellent demo material for sure!

Bumblebee is available for download now at the Kaleidescape store, two weeks before the disc release on April 2.

John Sciacca

Bumblebee

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.