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Surprise hit at AFM: CD-I

At the American Film Market, where every buyer wants to see the product available, a new technology threatens to replace the omnipresent videotape: CD-I.

Philips Media has placed several of its Screendisc CD-I players in suites throughout the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, and is getting great response from those who use the machines to play their trailers.

“It’s a wonderful technological breakthrough,” raved Cedric Jeanson, director of international distribution at Miramax. “It offers us flexibility in showing trailers to distributors. It’s smoothly operating, time-efficient, and so much easier for us.”

Using digital technology, the Screendisc players (which play through any size monitor, and are also available in a portable model) offer excellent picture and sound quality, with the flexibility to choose any segment of any trailer that has been scanned onto a standard CD. Also available are credits on a given film, a synopsis, running time — any information a potential buyer could desire.

A Turner Pictures Worldwide rep estimated the gadget saves the sales staff in the suite an hour a day in time they used to spend rewinding and fast-forwarding videotapes. “The salespeople can really talk about the picture” rather than worry about finding the right spot on a tape, she said.

However, not all reaction was so enthusiastic. Caroline Henshaw, Goldwyn’s European sales/publicity coordinator, called the Screendisc player “a very good idea in theory, but it needs tweaking.” She agreed that it’s much easier to use than a videocassette player, but said, “It needs to be more responsive. You have to stand at just the right angle to make it work.”

Others complained that the unusual remote control is a bit tricky to use. “The first day was hard,” said the Turner rep, “but by the end of the first day we were set.”

AFM visitor Michael Helfant, touring the Samuel Goldwyn Co. suite, had some difficulty getting the CD-I player to respond to the remote. But once he got the hang of it, he was quite impressed.

While Christopher Tull said he appreciates the “instantaneous” availability of a desired trailer, the Goldwyn international sales assistant suggested the Screendisc player would be more useful if it played the list of trailers repeatedly, in a loop, rather than just scrolling through once and stopping.

Several company reps pointed out the convenience of having the Screendisc Services staff at the Loews, where the company has a suite.

The futureapplications of the Screendisc player appear to be unlimited. Several sellers already are planning to use the machines at Mip and Cannes this year. Miramax’s Jeanson predicted the Screendisc players could be used to play promo reels in whatever language a viewer chooses (assuming they are “digitized” beforehand), and he expects the devices to make it easier and cheaper to send a trailer or film to distribs worldwide.

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