Today Landmark Theatres and Microsoft Corp. announced that they are equipping
177 screens in all 53 Landmark Theatres across the United States with digital
cinema playback systems based on Microsoft® Windows Media® 9 Series. This
unprecedented agreement represents the largest digital cinema theater circuit
installation to date in the United States.
For the first time, a critical mass of the independent film industry's
infrastructure will be wired for digital distribution. This helps address the
escalating costs of releasing theatrical films, which weighs heaviest on the
independent sector, as it must pay the same costs to release a film as the
major studios. The creation of a complete digital alternative represents a
major breakthrough in these economies that will help guarantee greater
diversity and access to the marketplace for independent filmmakers and
"Landmark's mandate has always been to build an alternative infrastructure
dedicated to the enhancement and proliferation of independent film," said Bert
Manzari, executive vice president of Landmark Theatres. "We exhibit over 250
films a year, and all too many of these films succeed or fail due to market
economics rather than artistic accomplishment."
The newly outfitted theaters will be able to screen films encoded digitally in
Windows Media 9 Series, which enables high-resolution, theater-quality
experiences with up to 7.1 channel surround sound. The network rollout is
expected to be completed by the end of this year.
"Landmark Theatres' commitment to specialty film and its established
leadership in the independent exhibition space offers Microsoft the perfect
opportunity to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to the independent film
community," said Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media
Division at Microsoft. "Moviegoers get the high-quality theatrical experience
of Windows Media 9 Series, while producers and distributors benefit from the
cost savings associated with mastering and releasing films digitally."
Landmark President and CEO Paul Richardson was a featured presenter at a
symposium on digital cinema at this year's Sundance Film Festival. "What has
impressed me most is the enormous breadth of interest in digital cinema that
has been generated since the festival. I've been contacted by key
distributors, investment bankers and members of the creative community, all of
whom want to know when we can deliver a complete solution to digital
distribution," Richardson said. "I believe that we will look back at this
moment as one when we were able to fundamentally change the business model in
a way that will allow far more of these films to compete successfully."
Working with Microsoft and Landmark to deploy the network will be Digital
Cinema Solutions (DCS). DCS will supply its solution, the Cinema System, which
has powered the BMW Films Digital Cinema Series in 25 theaters since November
2002. The DCS Cinema System employs a networked PC architecture that
integrates into existing theater infrastructure. Once the network is in place,
Windows Media 9 Series allows films to be sent to theaters over private
networks, on CD-ROM or on DVD-ROM, all protected with Windows Media Digital
Rights Management technology.
"The independent film space has largely been ignored by digital cinema," said
Jim Steele, president of DCS. "The small, current base of digital cinema
installations targets the largest screens and multiplexes focused on
mainstream Hollywood blockbusters. The program announced today by Landmark and
Microsoft will change all that because it creates a nationwide network of
independent digital cinemas, effectively solving the 'chicken and the egg'
problem for the independent film community by allowing them to move forward
for the first time with wide-scale digital distribution."