Sony, Panavision pact on hi-def digital cam

Lucas using camera for 'Star Wars' prequels

Sony Electronics, purveyor of production gear to Hollywood, and Panavision, well-known for high-end cameras and lenses, on Monday announced a joint venture to market a high-definition digital camera that is being used on the next “Star Wars” prequels.

Panasonic will own 51% of the joint venture, with equal representation on a board to be established. But Sony Electronics parent Sony Corp. has acquired an 8% stake in Panavision and a seat on its board in a related transaction; Sony has the right to increase that stake to 16% in the future.

The 24P high-def camera to be marketed, Sony’s CineAlta outfitted with Panavision’s Primo Digital lenses, was beta-tested by Lucas. Subsequent marketing has netted a back order by filmmakers and TV producers of some 220 units to date, a Sony spokesman said. Lucas is currently using six of the cameras on a “Star Wars” shoot in Australia; TV projects using the camera include syndie “Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict.”

Cameras marketed by the unnamed joint venture will be rented rather than sold. New company will be based at Panavision in Woodland Hills, Calif., and though a separate management structure isn’t planned it hasn’t been determined if a separate work force will be dedicated to the venture, a spokesman said.

“This synergistic combination will enable us to vigorously elevate digital cinematography to a higher plane, benefiting the creative filmmaking community and the many companies that serve this industry,” Sony Electronics deputy president Edward Grebow said.

The new company also will market related Sony equipment, including digital video recorders. New products also will be development by the joint venture, a spokesman said.

Under terms of the deal, Sony acquired 714,300 Panavision shares for $10 million. The company also received a warrant to acquire an additional 714,300 Panavision shares at an exercise price of $17.50 per share.

Panavision shares closed up 31¢ to mark a 52-week high at $9.25 on Monday. Shares in Sony, which saw several new analyst reports on the company circulated throughout the day, closed up $3.50 at $93.31.