Entertainment, Hardware

PRIMA Cinema Does Unthinkable: Watch Movies from Theaters – In Your own Home!

Watch theater quality movies in the privacy of your own home. Unless you?re a nine to ten figure entertainment industry executive or running a country, this is something you could only dream of. Hollywood’s entertainment industry is very keen on protecting its IP and the traditional way of movie distribution is something that was ‘set in stone’ since the very beginning of the industry.

Movie theater at the privacy of your home?

Movie theater at the privacy of your home? Less than 25 seats and you’re set.

The current distribution model is a natural consequence of when the studios moved to California after the patent wars in the early 1920s, with Edison wanting royalties for its cameras – leading to the founders of the contemporary movie industry to escape the East Coast to a place where the mayor protected them from all those nasty inventors and businessmen that wanted to protect their own IP. Fast forward 90 or so years and we have a content industry battling people who download cinema rips – because they want to see the movies at the privacy of their own homes. That’s just the cycle of life and until recently, there was no solution in bridging the gap between Hollywood (Content) and Silicon Valley (Technology).

This deadlock situation was especially damaging towards the fast growing market of ‘ordinary millionaires,’ which consists of over 3.1 million people in the United States alone. Globally, there are around 11 million people with net a worth of over $1 million, and they represent the TAM (Total Addressable Market) that you can only dream of – total wealth of the group in question is anywhere from 12-17 trillion dollars, almost equal to the total debt of United States.

Among these 11 million people, there are numerous individuals that could not go (or do not want to go) to the movie theaters due to privacy concerns, and more often – it is Hollywood stars themselves that cannot go to a movie theater to watch movies, since there?s a whole paparazzi industry which leeches off any moment people found themselves in. Furthermore, we have people that just have $100,000-250,000 movie theaters for their own private use, and the home theater companies are very keen to keep their customers.

In order to address all of these issues and push for capturing as much Home Theater TAM as possible, we met with a company out of our neighboring city of Carlsbad, California. PRIMA Cinema is one of those companies you have never heard about before they become really big, and we believe this just might be the case with the disruptive model of enabling content for the high-end clientele.

How a Deal with Hollywood Enabled a New Model

In order to get to the bottom of the story, we sat down with Todd Lokken, VP of Marketing and Jason Pang, the CEO of the company. In an open conversation, we went through all the questions one might find about the service provided, as well as security provisions that the content distributors insisted on.

First and foremost, if you have a home theater with more than 25 seats, you can skip the article, or start planning to throw that one extra seat away. Hollywood’s content providers were very strict in terms of protecting the traditional movie theater model and this service is only possible for 25 seats and below.

The way how PRIMA Cinema works is simple, but effective. The company has content distribution agreements with not just the major brands, but with smaller players as well, such as Cinedigm – which recently received an investment to the tune of $195 million to continue pushing on ever-expanding independent movie catalog. Thus, the selection of movies offered by PRIMA often not just rivals, but exceeds what multiplex theaters have on offer. After all, the only limitation is the size of the hard drive and the thickness of your wallet.

PRIMA has a deal with major content distributors which is as follows:

  • PRIMA preloads the movies you want to see, and they’re ready to be seen by the theatrical release date;
  • You have to scan your finger print each and every movie before you play it;
  • Each movie costs $500, for showing up to 25 people, equals to $20 per ticket;
  • Each movie is distributed in the highest quality available;
  • All trailers are free to watch in their respective quality;
  • Movie catalog is limited to movies playing in theaters;

As you can see, the cost of entrance is very high. Specialized hardware will run you down for $35,000 and if you would add watching 10-20 movies a year, the cost of owning such setup could easily go into six figures. Naturally, while these sums are astronomical for the most, there are numerous customers that are willing to pay for such opportunity.

Care for a $35,000 Set Top Box with a Fingerprint Reader?

Meet the PRIMA Cinema Server.

Meet the PRIMA Cinema Server.

The PRIMA Cinema service consists out of three major components – a Set Top box, a biometric reader and the Content Distribution Network (CDN). The set top box description is a bit misleading, since this is less of a box and more of a server, since it is designed to fit inside the racks that are typically found in home theaters. The case is massive in size, but offers a very elegant design.

The server in question, inconspicuously named Movie Player was designed by BMW Designworks USA and carries a price tag of $15,000. However, this is not your typical PC computer in a fancy case. PRIMA takes pride into the fact that they have developed the technology and built parts in the United States, and the quality control is something they take special pride at. Naturally, it comes at a price – building parts, computer components and having a final assembly in Southern California significantly raises the price over a simple outsource (read: off-shore) operation in Far Eastern countries. 

One of things PRIMA executives did not want to mention was also the security aspect – by tightly controlling every aspect of the service at hand, the company can make sure the secrets don’t leak out, and content distributors and studios can rest assured the leaks don’t come from them.


PRIMA Cinema Movie Player, e.g. Server Specifications

Movie Player offers the highest quality image available, as equal to the movie theaters themselves. The movies are delivered in up to 2K resolution (4K is a work in progress and we should see the first 4K mastered movies during 2014), with 10 b
its per color (10bpp, billion colors) at YUV 4:2:2 color. Compare this to Blu-ray at YUV 4:2:0 and a bog standard 8bpp (16.7 million). The difference on paper might not look big, but we watched a movie trailer for Oblivion and PRIMA delivered significantly better experience than what YouTube or Apple QuickTime trailers were able to provide, even on a standard consumer level LCD panel.

The visuals are great quality but we all go to the movie theaters for the sound as well. In order to bring the movie magic to life, PRIMA supports six and eight channel audio (5.1 and 7.1) in Dolby True HD and PCM formats. Naturally, you cannot expect to see 16 or 24 channel audio from the movie theaters but the effects will be there.

Does PRIMA have a future?

The question is simple. Can a company that manufacturers hardware and offers content distribution succeed where many players have failed? The Board of Directors and Board of Advisors are impressive and the steps are being taken in order to gain trust from the large movie studios. Meanwhile, if you have the means of securing the funds, and supporting the exclusivity aspect of the service itself – you can truly enjoy the latest movies from the comfort of your own home.