It’s taken a while to get this rolling: Studios and exhibitors introduced their joint satellite movie delivery plans at CinemaCon in early 2012. But now their Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition is up and running, and has a CEO — former tech and studio exec Randolph Blotky. The coalition says today that it actually went live at the end of September when it signed up its 300th theater for satellite distribution. “That’s the magic number when we became responsible” for beaming movies to dishes at local venues, Blotky tells me. DCDC has already distributed one film — Fox’s Runner Runner — and plans to have 31 by year end including Disney’s Frozen and Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It’s a huge savings. Satellite delivery is cheaper than distributing films on hard drives and can cost just 5% of the $2,500 that it once took to distribute reels of celluloid films to theaters. That united DCDC partners from exhibition (AMC Theaters, Cinemark, and Regal) and Hollywood (Warner Bros and Universal). Disney, Sony, Fox, Paramount, and Lionsgate also provide content, and Southern Theaters and National Amusements are customers.
DCDC pays all of the costs to install and maintain the satellite equipment, with transmissions handled by Deluxe/EchoStar. The coalition will operate at-cost once the partners recoup their investments, Blotky says. It also serves theaters that can’t accommodate a dish, including those that don’t have a clear view of the satellite. With those included, DCDC now serves 17,000 screens at 1,200 North American venues. Blotky says that he’s eager to line up additional theaters for his network. Meanwhile he’s monitoring changes in technology. A conventional film has about 250 GB of data and can take as long as 9 hours to transmit via satellite. “Over the next five or so years people will figure out a high speed [Internet] point-to-multipoint” delivery system, he says. “And somebody’s going to come up with a 1 TB thumb drive.” The capacity will be needed because with new 3D and high-frame rate films “file sizes are likely to grow.”