Stewart Debuts First ‘Affordable’ Video Screens
Debuting at Infocomm 2012, new Cima video projection screens offer the same Stewart Filmscreen quality, but fewer options, and about one-third less expensive.
When you think Stewart Filmscreen, inevitably you think expensive, high-end, customized video screens. Indeed, that’s been the company’s legacy since 1947.
Now Stewart is breaking with tradition and introducing its first value-priced line of screens called Cima (Spanish for “top of the mountain”), debuting at InfoComm 2012. CE Pro enjoyed an exclusive preview of the line at Stewart’s offices in Torrance, Calif.
“When it comes to the high-end business, we do quite well,” says Joaquin Rivera, VP of residential and commercial sales.
Indeed, Stewart consistently ranks as the top projection-screen brand among the CE Pro 100, which skews towards higher-end dealers. In the 2012 brand study, 75% of Top 100 dealers say they use Stewart Filmscreen, with the next-highest ranked brand being Da-Lite at 47% (dealers were asked to list all brands they use).
The problem is, while most reputable integrators use Stewart for jobs that demand the highest quality and largest screen sizes, they must turn elsewhere or more value-oriented projects.
“We have very strong ties with dealers,” says Jeffrey Thompson, who joined Stewart in 2010 in the new position of general manager. “They would rather do business with us, but it often comes down to price.”
Rivera explains, “There are a lot of dealers who are afraid of losing a sale, so they sell whatever the customer wants, and that may not be a custom-built Stewart screen.”
That’s why Stewart is launching Cima by Stewart, with products that retail for roughly one-third less than custom Stewart products.
For example, a custom-made 110-inch Stewart screen might “retail” for about $4,100 while the Cima version would be closer to about $3,000.
Compared to other value brands, that may not seem so cheap, but consider that the new brand still enjoys the same quality as the pricier Stewart line.
“They [Cima screens] are as good as Stewart, with a different feature set,” Thompson says. “Cima has the same attention to detail just like Stewart, with finishes like what you would expect from Stewart.”
The difference is that they are not built to order, and only a small number of models are available.
Stewart briefed its independent reps yesterday before Infocomm about the new line. One of them was Kevin Klotzbach of Frontline Sales in the Minneapolis area. He says, “We have a new opportunity to attack the middle of the market with screens that out-perform the competition and are 35-percent less than a top dog Stewart model.”
Optimized for ‘Most’ Jobs
Cima screens come only in the most popular sizes, with five models per aspect ratio. Only two screen materials are offered: the gray Tiburon (Spanish for “shark”), and the white Neve (“snow”).
For each size and screen material, Cima has one fixed model, one recessed motorized and one wall-mounted motorized.
The screens feature the same high quality as their Stewart-branded counterparts but they’re built to be as versatile as possible.
The durability of the Cima material makes it easy to clean and difficult to damage—ideal for commercial installs
So, for example, the Cima screens feature limited gain – 0.95 for gray and 1.1 for white.
“We chose ‘safe’ materials,” says Rivera. “We wanted two materials that could do most jobs.”
For example, Stewart opted against matte white with 1.0 gain because it tends to diffuse light throughout a room – ideal if the room is amenable to it, but not optimized for most environments.
The 1.1-gain screen “focuses a little more into the room, directing light enough so that it protects the contrast ratio,” Rivera says.
But getting high-gain finishes like the 1.3 screen available in the Stewart line becomes “a little too exotic” for the masses.
Also ensuring that Cima will suit most applications, Stewart is building the line with especially durable materials. The screens still appears smooth – and ably project images more than 4k in resolution—but they feature a slight roughness that make them more durable than their Stewart counterparts.
Unfortunately, Rivera notes, sometimes installers carry toolbelts that may scratch a screen. Such a calamity might be averted with the new line. Plus, the screen material is easier to clean than more delicate surfaces—an extra-friendly feature for commercial installs.
Also appealing to the masses: the Cima screens utilize a different mounting system than custom Stewart products, making them “very easy to install,” Rivera says.
What Took So Long?
Adding a lower-cost, production-oriented line to the Stewart family of screens might seem like a no-brainer for the company. Indeed, dealers and reps alike have been clamoring for lower-priced screens for years, especially since affordable solutions have been flooding the marketplace from relative newcomers such as SnapAV and Screen Innovations.
Furthermore, projectors continue to drop in price, making it harder to justify the purchase of a relatively high-priced screen.
Today’s projectors “look good for $3,000,” says Thompson. “It’s hard to sell a screen for $3,500 with a projector that costs $3,000.”
Creating a value line is a direction that Stewart officials have discussed internally for many years, but the company never went forward with it.
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]
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