Scrabble Entertainment to Set Up 200 Digital Screens

In less than six weeks, Scrabble Entertainment, the only Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) compliant deployment entity in India, has installed digital cinema systems in 40 multiplex screens and the company plans to take this number to 200 screens by 2008-end.

DCI is a joint venture of major motion picture studios, aimed at establishing a standard architecture for digital cinema systems. By establishing a common set of content requirements, distributors, studios, exhibitors, d-cinema manufacturers and vendors can be assured of interoperability and compatibility. Because of the relationship of DCI with many of Hollywood's key studios, conformance to DCI's specifications is considered a requirement by software developers or equipment manufacturers targeting the digital cinema market.

Scrabble Entertainment acts as an intermediary between content owners including major studios and independent distributors and the exhibitor. Scrabble has signed up with many of India's top multiplex chains including PVR, Fame, INOX and Cinemax.

Under a virtual print fee (VPF) business model, Scrabble finances the exhibitors' transition to digital mode by collecting a negotiated virtual print fee from movie distributors. As part of the deployment plan, Scrabble plans to install 1,750 projectors over the next five years, at an average of 350 projectors per year.

Speaking to, Ranjit Thakur, CEO, Scrabble Entertainment, says that the technology partners for the digital cinema roll out are Christie, a global leader in digital cinema projectors and Qube Cinema, a subsidiary of the Chennai based Real Image Media Technologies and Doremi for digital cinema servers.

While Christie has recently secured an exclusive contract with Scrabble to supply 200 Christie DLP Cinema projectors, Scrabble has chosen Qube Cinema's digital cinema servers for the digital cinema roll out in India.

Even before the DCI compliant digital cinema came into the picture, UFO Moviez had pioneered the digital revolution in cinema distribution and exhibition. Since UFO Moviez does not comply with DCI, there is a noticeable difference in the quality of video and audio. But what UFO offered was a unique business model to producers and exhibitors.

The company delivers the digital copies of the latest blockbusters to screens in tier-2 and tier-3 cities on the very day it opened in the metros thereby raising the box office mullah manifold and at the same time saving significantly on the cost of film prints. "We are the only company to deliver the digital content using the satellite service from Hughes Escorts Communications VSAT hub at Gurgaon," says Rajesh Mishra, CEO, UFO Moviez.

According to Mishra, the company has now 1,200 theatres with digital servers and projects. "We plan to increase the number of digital screens to 3,000 in the next two years," he adds.

The company installs the digital systems at their cost. The hardware and software cost Rs 12 lakh, while there is a refund of Rs 2 lakh per theatre. UFO charges a fee per show, and according to Mishra, it may range from Rs 75 to Rs 200 depending on the time of its release. This means the fee for a show in the opening week is higher than the subsequent weeks.

The list of theatres under UFO network shows that besides most of them being in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, all of them are in the B and C categories. Some industry experts do not see the UFO business model to be essentially digital as it does not provide the movie content in the highest digital standards and prefer to call it more as e-cinema than d-cinema.

By Bhavana Puljal, Televisionpoint