Cable TV

E-City Digital to invest Rs 1 billion, have 500 theatres by FY 2008

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MUMBAI: Subhash Chandra-promoted E-City Digital Cinemas Pvt Ltd plans to invest Rs 1 billion in digitising 500 cinema theatres by 2007-'08.

The company will start delivering movies to the theatres via satellite by next month. Currently, the hard disk is physically distributed to the 22 theatres in Gujarat which it has taken on hire basis. "We will be using the uplinking facility of Essel Shyam at Noida near Delhi. We are investing Rs 1 billion and plan to have 500 digital theatres by FY 2008 in Mumbai, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh territories," says E-City Ventures CEO Atul Goel. Zee channels are also uplinked from Essel Shyam teleport at Noida.

Each theatre will have to invest Rs 2 million on the digital technology. E-City will make the investments and will pay fixed weekly theatre hire charges to the exhibitors. The contracts will be for a minimum period of five years. The company will also do deals with film distributors.

E-City is using Real Image's encryption technology so that piracy is safeguarded. The movie is first converted into digital master using the telecine machine, after which it can be taken on to D5 tape or captured directly on the encoding server. After encryption and compression, the movie is uplinked to the satellite via transmission server and downloaded at the playout local server which is installed at the theatre. A digital projector is used for screening of the film.

E-City Digital Cinemas will target A-class towns where the current net collections are over Rs 100,000 per week. Part of the Essel Group of Industries, the company has current earnings of Rs 14 million from the 22 theatres it has recently started digitising. "As we aim to ramp up theatre acquisitions, we expect our revenues to touch Rs 2.5 billion by March-end 2009," says Goel.

Digital cinema reduces industry costs by eliminating expensive prints that constitute 15-20 per cent of a film's cost. It also attacks piracy as every show can have watermark indicating theatre, time and date, making it a customised copyright property. Exhibitors will also get first run movies and a simultaneous nationwide release is possible without distributing prints.

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