'Transformers' Roadblock Gets in the Way of Wimbledon 3D Screen Count


3D tennis broadcast will be seen in about 250 theaters instead of 800

Despite initial plans to beam coverage of the Wimbledon tennis finals to 800 digital theaters worldwide, the final theater count will be closer to 250 theaters partly because the tennis matches have run up against the worldwide debut of Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

In March, Sony, the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Wimbledon host broadcaster BBC launched an ambitious multiyear partnership to offer live Wimbledon coverage in 3D with an initial target of roughly 800 digital cinema screens worldwide to carry this year's event. That includes coverage of the men's semifinals and women's finals as well as Sunday's men's final showdown between Rafael Nadel and Novak Djokovic.

But the actual number of screens now numbers roughly 250 worldwide, well short of the original goal.

One reason for the reduced footprint, according to one insider, is that the Wimbledon broadcast ran up against the number of 3D digital cinema screens allocated to the opening of Michael Bay's Transformers sequel that is now expected to gross as much as $350 million worldwide during its first seven days.

The 3D feed from Wimbledon is also available on six broadcast channels in six countries, including the BBC in the UK and ESPN3D in the US. On the theatrical side, SuperVision Media is the theatrical distribution partner.

Sony and SuperVision did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Former studio exec Chris McGurk, who is now CEO of Cinedigm Digital Cinema, which delivers alternative content to theaters but was not involved in the Wimbledon roll-out, told The Hollywood Reporter that the initial goal of 800 screens sounded high.

“Alternative content involves a much more precise release pattern than wide release films … (in this instance) targeting those areas where there is a real following for tennis,” he said. “You are trying to find niche programming to fill a theater. … to mix and match (alternative content) against the theatrical."