CinemaCon: Barco Exec Says Laser Projection Costs Will Be "Competitive" Within the Year

"It's about getting the pricing so that it's competitive with Xenon," Todd Hoddick said during a panel.
AP Photo/Reed Saxon

The cinema industry is roughly 12 months away from the cost of laser projectors — currently in the six figures — being competitive with what exhibitors currently pay for a digital cinema projector with Xenon lamps. This bold projection was made by Todd Hoddick, Barco’s vp global entertainment, during a panel on the “3 S’s” — sight, sound and seats — held  Monday at CinemaCon.

“We’re predicting huge growth in lasers, but it’s about getting the pricing so that it’s competitive with Xenon,” he said. “Lasers are expensive and the technology isn’t mature. But the scale is coming very fast.”

Laser-illuminated projectors promise brighter screens, particularly of interest for 3D, which has had complaints about being too dark. Barco, Christie and NEC are all showing laser projectors this week at CinemaCon. Additionally, Christie laser projectors are used for the Dolby Cinema laser-based system, and Barco contributes technology to the Imax laser projection technology.

Representatives from the exhibition created a premium experience with technology as well as discussed some additional models. Jim Patterson, managing director of Embassy Diplomat Screens, is finding success in offering sponsored theaters from companies such as Samsung. In some cases, he has raised more than $1 million for a premium auditorium, enabling luxury lobbies and seating — in some cases, beds with minibars — and premium technology.

Vox Cinemas has come up with Gold premium theaters, designed to offer a "first class" lounge with a chef, with ticket prices around $50 to $60. Another model is a colorful, kid-themed auditorium with a playroom.

“You have to tailor cinemas to your market,” said Vox CEO Cameron Mitchell. “But it’s important that we innovate to compete with other forms of entertainment.”

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