In the final part of our discussion with Lionsgate’s digital media president Curt Marvis, former CEO of CinemaNow, we discuss what went wrong (and right) at his former company, his company’s approach to video games, and what technology he thinks could be “the new DVD for the film business.”
Ben Fritz: How did you feel about CinemaNow’s sale a few months ago?
Curt Marvis: So to speak… (Laughter) [CinemaNow, in which Lionsgate had a 21% stake, was acquired by Sonic Solutions in November for $3 million. Over its lifetime it raised more than $40 million in venture capital.]
BF: Yea, so to speak. Obviously that’s not what you were thinking in 1999, I’m sure. Was there a pointing the past couple of years where the studios were taking a different tack and iTunes was succeeding and CinemaNow wasn’t where it needed to be? Was CinemaNow only useful for its technology in the end?
CM: The biggest mistake that we ever made in the operation of CinemaNow is we started way, way, way too early. No one could have predicted that. Keeping a company that wasn’t profitable in business for 10 years was kind of miraculous, really.
I think what really happened is that that entity still needed a lot of investment and to create a real business out of it is still going to take time. And we were in an environment where that was when the market crashed we were in the middle of raising a round and the existing investors said we just cant put more into this. We’ve tried and we’ve tried and we’ve tried and it’s always been “next year… next year… next year… next year…”
CinemaNow I think is following the strategy it has been following for a number of years which is to get away from being a destination site and focus its efforts on being a backend supplier of other peoples’ businesses on a branded or white label business. It’s gaining a lot of traction in that regard. There are some deals that haven’t been announced. The Blockbuster thing was announced [In January, Blockbuster signed up CinemaNow to power its Movielink digital download service. Movielink, which was bought by Blockbuster in late 2007, was CinemaNow’s primary competitor for many years] and we’ll see how that pans out.
CinemaNow’s going to get a shot to succeed as a business. Whether it does or not, I’m not sure.
BF: Is there some kind of personal vindication to see Blockbuster buy Movielink and then they need to use CinemaNow to run the thing?
CM: I can’t say I was disapp—It was ironic to have that happen.
I’m proud of what CinemaNow achieved as a groundbreaking company. I’m obviously horribly disappointed in what it achieved as an investment and an ultimate financial success.