Dolby inks India, China digi deals


NEW DELHI - Digital releases of Hollywood films could get a boost in Asia via new agreements between Dolby Laboratories and Indian digital cinema solutions provider UFO Films and the Shanghai Film Group (SFG).

The move, announced Monday, could see Dolby's systems, -- which comply with the norms of Hollywood studios' Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) and allow for better print management and protection -- deliver Hollywood films into the world's most populous nations.

"Both SFG and UFO are at the forefront of cinema technology in Asia," John Iles Dolby Laboratories vice president for cinema said. "Dolby is excited to provide them with Dolby Digital Cinema products and services, and we look forward to building and continuing our strong relationships to assist them in evolving cinema entertainment throughout China and India."

India currently has only one DCI compliant theater, in the southern city of Chennai.

In China, SFG has agreed to purchase 100 Dolby Digital Cinema Systems to be installed in its Shanghai United Cinema Line. In addition, SFG has also installed the Dolby 3D Digital Cinema at its Chengdu Theatre.

In an interview, Mumbai-based UFO India CEO Rajesh Mishra said, “This is the first time Dolby will launch its systems in India. We have demand from multiplexes in urban areas that are markets for English films. The first installations will begin in the months to come and for the next couple of years, we hope to install about 250 systems.”

UFO is the world’s largest operator of digital systems offering its non-DCI compliant system, which runs on a 1.3K resolution projector versus the DCI-approved 2K resolution. UFO systems serve over 1,000 screens India-wide. Mishra added that the UFO system costs about $25,000 compared to about $ 80,000 for the Dolby system.

“For cinemas running both Indian and Hollywood films, the Dolby system is a long-term solution that effectively counters piracy. Over time, with increased volumes we expect the prices to come down,” Mishra said. “Also, these systems are already 3D cinema compatible which could introduce this concept here.”

The Dolby system will compete against Chennai-based Real Image Media Technologies, which offers a DCI-approved system via its subsidiary Qube Cinema whose clients also include the 59-screen US art house chain Landmark Theatres.

India is one of the most under-screened markets with about 10,000 existing screens, 12 per million people compared to 117 in the US. About 17,000 new D-cinema screens worldwide are forecast to be in place by 2010 according to UK research agency Screen Digest.