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Published: 2013-02-19 - 12:25:25
Home Theater : News and Show Reports

Prima Cinema Lets You Watch Movies at Home Same Day as Theatrical Release

By Greg Robinson

When the average Tom, Dick, or Harry wants to go to the theater to catch a new film on its opening weekend, he simply heads down to the local multiplex and buys a ticket. But what if you're not the average Tom, Dick, or Harry? What if you're Tom Cruise? Or Dick Van Dyke? Or Harrison Ford? What do they do?

For celebrities - be they from film and television, sports, music, business, or government - taking in a freshly-minted movie on a Friday night involves a fair amount of planning and logistics. And more often than not, it's just not worth the hassle. Prima Cinema is working to alleviate those aggravations with an innovative, high-end home video system designed to deliver first run films at home, day-and-date with their theatrical release.

Inspired by the famed "Bel Air Circuit" - an exclusive movie delivery/loan service offered by Hollywood's major studios to an elite group of A-List celebrities and other V.I.P. clientele - Prima Cinema's high-end video solution supplants the traditional model of courier-delivered tapes with high definition, better than Blu-ray-quality downloads and state-of-the-art security measures.

During last month's International CES in Las Vegas, we had the opportunity to sit down with Prima Cinema's Founder and CEO, Jason Pang, to learn more about the Prima Cinema System. From a hardware perspective, the system is comprised of two boxes: one large (the Prima Cinema Movie Player) and one small (the Remote Fingerprint Reader). The rack-mountable player is a luxurious black slab containing a whopping 2TB hard disk array, capable of storing up to 50 full-length, first-run films.

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The Prima Cinema Movie Player and Remote Fingerprint Reader

The biometric fingerprint reader is used to key the system to its owner, and a fingerprint swipe is required to start a film - but the security doesn't end there. In addition to a tightly-managed installation process and the need for a static IP address on the player, each and every film downloaded to the player is watermarked with its owner's fingerprint.

Thanks in part to its tight security measures, Prima has already made arrangements to deliver first-run films from Universal, Lionsgate, Summit, Magnolia, and Cinedigm. As for the other major studios (i.e. Fox, Sony, Warner, Paramount, and Disney), Pang says Prima is "very close" to making a deal with more than one of the holdouts.

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Prima Cinema's custom-designed interface for browsing new first-run offerings

Above I used the phrase "better than Blu-ray."  Like Blu-ray Disc, Prima delivers 1080p high definition video files with either lossless PCM or Dolby TrueHD surround sound. However, whereas Blu-ray Disc uses an 8-bit video encoding format with 4:2:0 color, Prima Cinema uses 10-bit encoding with 4:2:2 color. This enhances not only the available color gradations but also improves perceived image detail. The end result?  A more nuanced and detailed image than Blu-ray. And that's not just the brochure talking. Even on a low-end LG flat panel under fluorescent lights, our brief demonstration of Universal's new Les Miserables revealed a truly remarkable picture we yearned to see more of.

And finally, we come to the $64,000 question. How much does all of this cost? (Don't worry, it's less than $64k - though not by much.) Like luxury yachts and the finest of wines, if you have to ask what it costs, odds are you can't afford it. Still, we were curious. Pang says the hardware will set you back $35,000 and each movie costs $500 for a 24-hour rental period. Content downloads in the background over your broadband connection during the week, so that every Friday a new slate of first-run titles is available for your weekend viewing pleasure. Some day, some day...

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