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Christie Exec Don Shaw Talks Disney Deal and What’s Next in Theaters

Christie last week announced that it had entered an agreement to provide digital cinema technology to The Walt Disney Studios, including professional services relating to production, post-production, screening rooms, and premieres. Under the terms of the deal, the companies are expected to put heads together to develop "unparalleled moviegoing experiences," according to a press release last week. By the end of the year, Christie will provide a quantity of Solaria Series 2K and 4K DLP Cinema projectors to Disney, starting with deliveries to the company's Burbank headquarters. We asked Don Shaw, senior director of product management for Christie Entertainment Solutions, what it all means for Christie, how it effects the rest of the industry, and what's next in theatrical exhibition.

StudioDaily: Beyond the deal for the provision of projection equipment, support, and services, what does the deal mean for Christie — especially in terms of what Disney's Jeff Miller calls [in the press release] "refin[ing] and improv[ing] projection technologies?"

Don Shaw: Disney and Christie have been working together for many years in projection technology development. And at Christie, the customer experience is one of the predominant drivers of innovation, so our agreement with Disney will provide a rich experience from which we’ll draw to improve our technologies. 

Already the defining projector maker on the exhibitor side, and in the post-production world – where we count renowned post house such as Park Road, Digital Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar, Magno Pro, Image Engine and Light Iron as customers – this recent press release reaffirms our commitment to the Disney partnership; making sure that the best minds from both organizations are in lockstep along this journey of collaboration and innovation.

Note also that Christie’s Managed Services group will be a welcome addition to Disney’s studio tech support. Christie’s Network Operations Center monitors and services more than 110,000 remote devices in more than 2,500 locations across North America alone, witnessing to the expertise that Managed Services brings to Disney.

Does Disney now have Christie's ear in a way that other studios don't?

Disney is a global entertainment powerhouse, from studios to theme parks, and beyond. Our two organizations share multiple points of contact – with different divisions having varying requirements for technology and technology development. With this in mind, it is fair to say that the Disney organization has more “technology” touch points with Christie than other studios, but the announced agreement, while being exhaustive in the breadth of products and support, is not exclusive. 

What implications are there for exhibition? Will new Christie projection technology debut exclusively with the release of new Disney titles?

No, this is not part of any agreement between the two organizations. Exhibitors can be assured that they form a distinct focus for Christie, as they have for our 80-year history, and Christie is committed to providing them with the very best of Christie’s technologies and managed services to provide enticing, immersive movie experiences, regardless of whose titles they project.

The press release mentions laser projection, 4K, and the Integrated Media Block, but there is no specific reference to high frame rate (HFR). Should we read anything into that?

No, nothing ought to be inferred by that. There’s no specific reference simply because the delivery of high-frame rates is implied in the technological makeup of our current Series 2 DLP Cinema line – all models of which can use the Christie IMB to deliver 48 and 60 frames per second output – as well as our emerging laser projection product line.

Where do you see the next big advances in theatrical exhibition coming — is it HFR, laser, the continuing upgrade from 2K to 4K, or something else? 

All of the aforementioned and, as well, look for developments in the audio space for theatrical exhibition. The transition to digital cinema brought with it the capability to include orders of magnitude more audio “content” with each film release as well as processing capabilities that were previously impossible. Now that the digital projection roll-out is nearing completion, exhibitors are outfitting premium theaters with audio systems using very high channel counts, real-time audio processing, detailed room equalization, modern Class-D amplifiers, advanced ribbon-driver speaker technology, and line-array configurations to ensure that every seat in the house gets a premium audio experience. This experience is delivered via the Christie Vive Audio solution we announced in July [previously] and is enhanced with new speakers in September.

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