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Reliance Info for digital film distribution foray

20-July-2005
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Reliance Info for digital film distribution foray

The Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Infocomm Ltd (RIC) plans to venture into digital film distribution. The company would bank on the strength of Adlabs Films Ltd, which it had acquired in the last week of June.

The company plans to distribute digital movies through its 80,000-km long optic fibre cable (OFC) network, which would be simulcast in digital theatres across the country, sources said.

Reliance Infocomm is also in the process of installing a server (read as player) at Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City (DAKC), its headquarters in Navi Mumbai. The server will play laser discs (LDs) or digital versatile discs (DVDs), which ship audio-video (AV) content, for the digital theatres.

The project, once kicked off, will radically change the distribution matrix of films and reduce the production cost. It would also change the look of a projection room as white salts, burning of carbon and unspooling of films would be things of past. At present, most movies are released by rolling out 100-150 prints and distributed to over 10,000 cinema halls across the country.

At present, making prints accounts for about 15-25 per cent of a film's total production cost, with prices of each print ranging between Rs 80,000 to Rs 1 lakh, depending on the quality. A set of DVDs, in contrast, would only cost as much as Rs 8,000-9,000 per print. And LDs would cost around Rs 15,000- 20,000 per disc.

Moreover, there would be no time-lag for prints to reach the theatres, through A-class cities (metros) to B and C class centres. Normally, film spools take at least 5-8 weeks to reach these urban and semi-urban cities. The films could be released in all places simultaneously enabling recovery of investment in a much shorter time-frame.

The timing of the release could be pre-set and the AV data would flow over to theatres at the precise time. However, only theatres equipped with digital projectors and sound systems, would be able to receive the data sent in an encrypted format.

The encryption also helps producers control over the number of screenings, apart from preventing of piracy.

There are about 75 digital theatres across the country. Reliance and Adlabs expect this to increase to 400 by the end of the next year, as many theatres were planning to retrofit existing cinema theatres with digital projection systems.

Reliance Infocomm would begin showing movies at the IMAX digital theatres, owned and operated by Adlabs, and other digital theatres in the country. Adlabs has around 30 digital screens across the country. It has plans to increase the number of screens to 100 over the next two years.

The project, earlier started by Adlabs as e-cinema, is to gain momentum as both Reliance and Adlabs work in the same sphere.

Adlabs had earlier tied up with Hong Kong-based GDC Tech for compression and encryption technology and another Norway-based firm for digital projectors.

Bollywood movies such as The Hero (a Sunny Deol-Priety Zinta starrer), Love Story of a Spy, Andaaz, Bhoot, Pran Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye, Chalte-Chalte and Mein Prem ki Deewanee Hoon were remastered into digital version.

These were recorded as success stories as most of these digital versions made money in the box-office, that too in remote locations of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

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