Co. announces initiative encompassing lower upfront cost and more

Sony Electronics’ Digital Cinema Solutions group is looking to get more exhibs on board to convert their theaters to a new 4K projection system.

The company has announced an initiative encompassing a lower upfront cost, no-interest financing and a purchasing option as part of the expansion of the company’s Virtual Print Fee Program. Effort comes at a time when many smaller exhibs have been pinched by the costs of converting and updating theaters and as movie attendance is down vs. last year.

Even the major exhibs are faced with ongoing debates over 3D glasses and shortened theatrical windows — issues that may (for the time being) force exhibs to be more watchful of their pocketbooks.

Sony brought up the issue of 3D glasses late last month when it announced it would no longer subsidize the cost of 3D eyewear. That cost could fall instead to exhibs, who fired back by threatening to screen some films on fewer 3D screens.

But Sony insists it understands the costs associated with converting to 4K.

“The transition to digital cinema is a reality, but so are the conversion costs for an exhibitor,” said Tim Smith, director of business development for Sony Electronics Digital Cinema Solutions. “That’s why Sony has put in place several flexible purchasing and financing options for exhibitors in North America that can make converting to digital easier and more affordable.”

In fact, Smith said of the approximately 10,000 screens sold worldwide, only about 25 were sold to exhibitors in the U.S. The rest were sold to banks, which Sony would then sub-lease to Stateside exhibitors.

Sony’s leasing program makes it possible for exhibitors to begin a 10-year operating lease agreement with Sony with a one-time payment by the exhibitor. Some customers might be able to then distribute the cost of that fee over the term of the arrangement with Sony. The company also only charges sales tax on the one-time payment, instead of the total value of the 4K projection system.

“The exhibitor is not having to pay anything real for the financing,” Smith told Variety. “I’m not aware of anyone else who’s offering a operating lease agreement like that.”

The VPF package included Sony’s 4K projector, 2D lens, screen server/media block, screen management and theatre management software, central server and storage network and shipping costs and installation.

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