Carlsbad, CA – Prima Cinema was a pioneer in the emerging category of “day-and-date” movie releases, allowing consumers to view just-released films in the privacy of their own home theaters.
Those customers today are twiddling their thumbs, waiting for new flicks to arrive. Prima Cinema has gone dark.
“Movies that were supposed to be available in early December still aren’t downloaded,” says one dealer who asked not to be named.
At the hefty price of $35,000 for the server and $500 per movie (for a one-time viewing), the Prima system made its way into private cinemas of the rich and famous, as well as screening rooms of producers, directors and other Hollywood types.
The next year, IMAX acquired a stake and a “significant option position” in Prima Cinema as IMAX itself entered the high-end home-theater business.
Today, however, dealers tell CE Pro that they and their clients “can’t get customer service or tech support” and that “nobody answers the phone.”
At least one dealer who requested anonymity has a server in for repair, unable to get it returned.
“It’s like they disappeared into thin air,” says a Prima rep, who also asked not to be identified.
In November, CE Pro reached out to Prima CEO Shawn Yeager, who responded immediately via Linkedin, but was not ready to comment on the state of the company. Two other requests for comment went unanswered.
The company moved a few months ago into a one-room office, which was dark when this reporter stopped by. The room was filled with gear and boxes.
On Being a Pioneer
Prima had a good run in a tricky business with very few rivals. Along with the movie-server provider Kaleidescape, Prima has been integral in forging relationships with Hollywood that benefit the home-technology integrator channel.
An immense amount of R&D and negotiations went into the lock-down of the movie-distribution chain, from the movie studio to the Prima server.
Prima (like Kaleidescape) made low-volume, high-end integrators relevant to Hollywood.
There’s talk of more mass-market availability of day-and-date movies, but so far none that rival Prima in quality or earliness of release.
For example, Apple is mulling the release of $15 movies on iTunes as soon they hit DVD, maybe sooner. The company first announced a similar arrangement way back in 2008, and currently offers some lesser-known titles on the day-and-date of their cinema release.
Earlier this year, Screening Room was launched by Napster co-founder and former Facebook president Sean Parker and entertainment mogul Prem Akkaraju. The company promised early-release movies for $50 apiece (rental), played on a $150 box.
The company claimed it would win over studios by sharing revenues with local cinemas.
Screening Room “got a lot of attention in the press, but it didn’t get a lot of traction in the industry itself,” says Patrick Corcoran, EVP at the trade association National Associate of Theatre Owners, in an interview with Variety.
Even if these lower-cost services come through, however, there would still be a market for premium servers and same-day-and-date releases. Here’s hoping Prima Cinema pulls through or that some other player fills the demand for high-end home-theater experiences.