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HD Cinema Goes Beyond the Movies

HD technology continues to move into the movie theaters, with National CineMedia, a company that developed its own digital content delivery network, inking a deal with concert promoter and producer Live Nation to distribute HD concerts and other events to cineplexes across the country.

While digital cinema isn’t without its conflicts (most notably whether to use a 2,000-line system that some say is good enough or a 4,000-line system that is more costly but more futureproof) deals like this give the overall market momentum to go beyond digital distribution of movies.

Under the deal Live Nation, a promoter and producer of live entertainment events, will have events distributed by National CineMedia to more than 845 movie theaters and 1,100 screens at AMC, Cinemark, Regal Entertainment Group and other theaters across the country.

Digital cinema systems use large video servers stored at the theater to play movies and other content to audiences via a Digital Light Projection (DLP) projector. The flexibility of the system, for example, lets movies with high demand be easily added to a larger or more theaters, and its ability to pass through live events make digital cinema an intriguing option for content owners.

It also opens the door for broadcast networks interested in turning a regular TV event into an HD theater event. National CineMedia has experimented with theater telecasts of the Tour de France and Daytona 500 and it expects to do more. The key, says Amy Jane Finneran, National CineMedia spokeswoman, is building theater distribution into the broadcast rights deals.

That’s one of the reasons National CineMedia is currently focused on the concert industry. Because there are no broadcast deals in place concerts are an easy way to let fans who can’t make it to the concert a chance to experience high-quality 5.1-channel audio, a large-format screen, and still have an integral part of live-concert energy on hand: a crowd.

On May 9 National CineMedia broadcast a live Widespread Panic concert from the Fox Theater in Atlanta to theaters. Previous concerts have included the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, and Coldplay.

Tom Galley, NCM’s chief operations and technology officer, says more music deals are in the works. “Digital cinema provides a place for artists to connect with a wider audience beyond traditional performance locations,” he says. Previous artists featured have included the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Coldplay.