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Imax buys ownership stake in Prima Cinema

October 28, 2013|By Richard Verrier
  • Prima Cinema, a San Diego-area firm, enables the wealthy to watch newly released movies in their home theaters.
Prima Cinema, a San Diego-area firm, enables the wealthy to watch newly… (Don Bartletti/Los Angeles…)

Those who can afford to pay $500 to watch a newly released movie in their own home can now add another luxury perk: the ability to watch it on a giant Imax screen.

Imax Corp. has agreed to pay about $2.5 million to acquire up to 20% stake in Prima Cinema Inc., the San Diego-area company that releases premium-priced movies into the home when they are released in theaters.

Under the agreement, set to be announced Monday morning, Imax will use Prima’s service for its luxury private theaters, which cost $2.5 million and have 20-foot-wide screens, enhacing the image and sound of the content through its digital re-mastering process.

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The deal also makes Imax the exclusive distributor of Prima's systems over the next five years in China, where the Toronto-based technology company has aggressively expanded. China is now the world's second-largest movie market.

The investment in Prima is part of a broader strategy by Imax to bring its cinema technology into the home, company executives said.

"Today’s agreement with Prima Cinema enhances our ability to deliver a premium, end-to-end in-home entertainment experience, combining the best of Imax's immersive image and sound technology with the delivery of current theatrical titles," said Imax CEO Richard L. Gelfond.

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Prima’s movies themselves cost $500 and require $35,000 in hardware to be shown in private homes, using an encryption technology to prevent illegal copies of movies.

Studios have long been trepidatious about delivering new releases into the home because of concerns of piracy. But Prima has signed deals with Universal Pictures and last week added Paramount Pictures as a client.

"Prima Cinema is incredibly proud to partner with Imax and introduce a new level of innovation in the digital entertainment industry," said Jason Pang, Prima Cinema Founder and CEO. "We've set a high bar in terms of security and quality with our current Prima Cinema system. Complementing the Imax Private Theater raises it to new heights and creates an entirely new digital outlet for the film industry."

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Launched in 2010, Prima is financially backed by Best Buy Capital, Universal Pictures, Syncom Venture Partners, as well as Imax and select private investors.

Prima will provide exclusive at-home opening premieres for the movies "Lone Survivor" starring Mark Wahlberg and Eric Bana, "About Time" starring Rachel McAdams, and "Dallas Buyers Club" starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner.

"Both companies see a huge opportunity in the very high end home theater market," Pang said of the partnership with Imax.

The Imax private theater is a 2-D and 3-D system complete with a floor-to-ceiling screen and a state-of-the art sound system.

"It's a premiere, niche market for us,' said Rob Lister, chief business development officer for Imax.

Imax won't disclose who will receive its first home theater systems, but "Family Guy" creator and  Oscar host Seth MacFarlane is said to be among the first customers.


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