Interview with Mark Cuban and Bud Mayo

We had a chance to chat with billionaire entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, and CEO of Cinedigm, Bud Mayo, about their work together to bring live 3D entertainment into movie theaters across the country. The technology promises to be a completely different theater-going experience. Cuban even went as far as to call it “the LSD of 2009.” Here’s the complete interview, conducted just before the live broadcast of the BCS championship game between Florida and Oklahoma on January 8, 2008.

Mark Cuban, Doug Aamoth and Bud Mayo

You guys already have a special symbiotic relationship with all the 3D stuff — what can we expect going forward?

Bud Mayo: The vision that Mark and I share is all about transforming movie theaters to entertainment centers. And how do you do that? You bring choices that weren’t there before. So we see that vision in the same way. How we get there might may be slightly different but we’re going to work together to try to find those answers as we move forward.

Mark Cuban: The interesting part is that this is the natural evolution of the digital revolution. For the past I-don’t-know-how-many years, it’s been a move from large to small — smaller HD, smaller internet, smaller portable devices – but the reality is, you can go bigger too. Not only do you go bigger, you go with dual-channel, tri-channel, as many channels as you want. And a natural extension now that you’re getting digital projection into the theaters is 3D, bigger screens, and more unique experiences. And Bud at Cinedigm, who’s the leader in 3D technology and distribution, and HDNet, Landmark Theaters, and some of the other companies we have — we’re really trying to work hard together.

Mark, you own Landmark Theaters and you just bought a stake in Carmike Theaters. Will you be converting those theaters over to 3D technology? How intricate of a process is it?

Mark Cuban: Eventually all the theaters will be able to support everything digital. The reality is, bits are bits. You can transform any type of content into digital and Cinedigm’s already got the network operation center to be able to distribute those bits. So now the question is trying to figure out the best content to get people out of their homes and into theaters to experience something completely new. So with Cinedigm and Fox and the BCS putting together this unique BCS 3D experience, people are going to get a taste of it. But this is like in 1998 in the early streaming days. This is just the beginning and it’s going to get even better.

Bud Mayo: This is a change. It doesn’t happen overnight. We started this eight years ago with a vision and now this is, in a way, Cinedigm’s coming out party: the first ever 3D live broadcast of an event. There have been lots of tests – we’ve heard about them and read about them, but this is for real. This is going nationwide, open to the public.

And it’s a taste of what’s to come. We’ve already announced a live Fall Out Boy concert, we’re going to do an NBA All Star Saturday Night, and there will be plenty more like that. Mark and I will be talking about lots of other programming, as will others; sports leagues, concert promoters – everybody wants to do this. And the public is the winner because it gets choices it’s never seen before.

Has there been a little decline in traditional theater-going experiences?

Mark Cuban: Actually not. You know, people talk about social networking. We congregate around various topics on the net – we’re all on Facebook or MySpace or whatever it may be – but one of the ultimate social entertainment experiences is going to see movies.

Christmas day [2008], actually, was the best Christmas day ever in terms of admissions and dollars. The past couple of months in the theater business have been amazing. You can talk about sitting in front of your PC, you can talk about mobile entertainment, but the reality is that you get bored at home at some point and you’ve got to get out of the house. You can reach out and connect to people digitally but, you know, if you’re going to go out on a date, you can’t just sit at home in front of the big screen. You got to get out of the home.

And I think the movie production companies are starting to realize that you’ve got to give people a good reason – they’re not going to just automatically go. So, before, there’d be random movies and people would just go to the movies to go to the movies. Now, they’ve gotta work well and they’ve got to be good movies, and that’s paying off.

And now we’re expanding the experience so that no matter what demographic you’re in, there’s a reason to go try something new, whether it’s 3D, whether it’s live broadcasts — it’s all interactive. Whether you’re sitting in front of a PC screen or a laptop or a digital projection in a theater, you’re still going to be able to text, you’re still going to have real-time discussion groups, you’re still going to be able to e-mail back and forth and interact.

It’s just a different out-of-home experience, and [getting out of the home] is never going to go away. We’re not going to all just turn into little hermits and hibernate, it’s just more of an issue of giving people the right reason to get out of the house. I think this is a big first step for Cinedigm and for CES and the people who are going to experience it.

You know, we did a live Mavs game this past March in 3D and I can just tell you, it’s crazy. It is crazy. It’s the LSD of 2009!

From a technical standpoint, what goes on from the production end during a live event?

Bud Mayo: It’s a whole different system; a whole different crew, a whole different camera, a whole different production, different announcers. Everything is different. It’s immersive. It’s meant to bring you right into the theater and show you what it’s like to be there. If you can’t be there, this is the next best thing.

Mark Cuban: It’s not like, “Well are we going to the game or should we watch it in 3D?” This is just completely different. It’s a completely different experience. From a technical perspective, trying to get all the synchronization done and understanding the differences in direction – it’s a whole new medium. When you’re watching a game, it’s not like, “Well, I’ll watch it on the big screen at home or I’ll go see it in 3D.” It’s like, “Oh we’re gonna trip out and go see a movie or whatever in 3D.” It’s a whole different experience.

By Doug Aamoth, CrunchGear