Financing Alternative: MiT Brings Exhibitors New Digital Funding Option

When we last spoke with Fountain Valley, Calif.-based Moving iMage Technologies in our September 2007 issue, MiT had just come up with their “Fusion” model of blending the new digital technology together with much that has been tried and true in cinema booths for decades. The company also brought exhibitors such practical innovations as the iMAGE Mover track system, allowing them to slide digital and film projectors into and out of the same porthole. Their full line of integration components for digital cinema include iMC (iMage Master Command) automations and interfaces, custom cable and wiring harnesses, as well as MPL projector bases with rotating adaptor plates that facilitate easy access to lamphouses.

“An existing booth can be a nightmare,” MiT’s executive VP of sales and marketing, Joe Delgado, knows only too well. “As an engineering designer and manufacturer, Moving iMage Technologies has the right stuff to make it work: a complete range of pedestals, casters, gadgets and all those other glue components required to adapt existing configurations and infrastructure.”

It should come as no surprise, then, that these cinema experts are turning heads once again with a new twist on how to finance d-cinema equipment. In order to assist theatre owners who want to get digital going on their own terms, MiT has partnered with All Media Capital for lease financing and is pooling resources with its preferred vendors in this program — Dolby Digital Cinema, Dolby 3D and Barco — for bulk purchasing.

“We’re offering alternatives to the independents,” Delgado elaborates. “We’re not in any way competing with or doing anything that is mutually exclusive of any other deal that’s out there. Small and medium-size exhibitors who want to take advantage of the 3D value-add right away now have a viable path for implementing digital cinema rather than waiting for some large integrator to obtain even larger sums of financing.”

Furthermore, he feels, “Paramount agreeing to provide direct reimbursements to exhibitors through VPFs [virtual print fees] is almost like found money that goes a long way to help with one’s monthly stipend. Based on what we and our exhibitors have heard, there is a strong likelihood that other studios are going to follow suit.”

Ever moving forward themselves, within three weeks of the Paramount announcement, MiT took this enticing proposition on the road. During a day-long seminar in Fort Lee, NJ, Delgado and his team informed key exhibitors and film bookers from the Tri-State Area who were representing several hundred screens. With an expert line-up of presenters that, in addition to MiT’s Delgado and Ryan Wilson of All Media Capital, included Thomas Lipiec (VP, sales and customer service, MiT), Thomas Kodros (manager, production services, Dolby Laboratories), Joe DeMeo (director of sales, digital cinema division, Barco Media & Entertainment Division) and Jerry Van de Rydt of Rydt Entertainment Systems, the FF&E (furniture, fixturing and equipment) division of MiT, attendees had the opportunity to hear and ask about everything they ever wanted to know about digital cinema.

“We are hereby offering an opportunity,” Delgado states, “to bring together those theatres who want to deploy a 3D option. It’s like a stopgap until the big deals happen and a true alternative for the little and not-so-little guys who don’t get the attention they should be having. As opposed to each exhibitor individually purchasing one or two units here and there, we are facilitating a position of volume with orders at significant savings.” Additional road shows are planned throughout the country, so make sure to stop by at MiT’s booth during ShoWest in Las Vegas.

“Times are tough,” Delgado noted at the Fort Lee symposium. “Even if theatre owners have had longstanding relationships with a certain bank, it might not be quite ready to lend them money on capital equipment, at least not at competitive rates. Over the course of the past two years of working with All Media Capital —and we’ve dealt with four or five other companies before — they have been able to get theatre operators financed in this very tough climate when other people haven’t. And at very competitive rates. They know our industry.”

An additional advantage, if not the most important, is the fact that All Media’s package is based on equipment leasing, where the technology serves as the collateral and doesn’t tie up much needed equity, Ryan Wilson explained to the delegates. As a broker of funds, “All Media Capital has exclusive arrangements with numerous sources and conditional approval is available right away.” Turnaround times that were mentioned are impressive in any economy, with the underwriting based on a variety of cash-flow scoring criteria. “In the current economic climate, we have seen many banks tailor away from debt-related financing,” Wilson further observed. “All Media has several different options to get exhibitors exceptional rates and — based on over 20 years in entertainment, including work for the studios — we can access industry-specific programs which are not available to the bank or broker community.”

“They really know how to present your case to the underwriters and lenders,” Delgado tells FJI. “All Media Capital is your spokesperson and because they know the business as well as they do, they make a very solid case that facilitates the funding. Prior to September 2008, we saw deals approved in about four days. Now that everything is a lot more heavily scrutinized, those four days have turned into maybe four weeks. At the end of the day, however, you still get funded, which is very difficult to do in this environment. All Media Capital has just been exceptional, obtaining funds anywhere from $100,000 to $1.4 million.”

Enterprising exhibitors may think that switching to 3D/digital projection would also afford the opportunity to implement other tech upgrades at their theatre as part of the process. And, fortunately indeed, Delgado confirms that any additional equipment needed could be rolled into the same financing package. As for maintenance and service contracts, while 24/7 support and surveillance are included in the first year from installation, MiT believes in giving their exhibitor partners a choice rather than a rigid contract.

“MiT offers maintenance agreements,” Delgado advises, “up-training your personnel and technicians, remote monitoring, diagnostics and alerts, extended warranties, etc. All the while, we are also tapping into a network of Barco and Dolby-certified installers. We do as little or as much as you want us to do.”

Anybody who has ever worked with Moving iMage Technologies would probably respond: “The more the better.”

By Andreas Fuchs, Film Journal International