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D-Cinema or Prima Cinema? First-Run Movies in Your Home Theater


Barco D Cinema Projector at DSI Entertainment Los AngelesA lot of our entertainment industry clients are building private home theaters and asking us how they should go about getting first-run movie content for their theater. Up until now the only way to get the latest Tom Cruise movie in your home on the Friday night it hits theaters was to become a member of the exclusive Bel-Air Circuit. If you have enough pull in the entertainment industry, a few phone calls will get you whatever movie you desire on a hard-drive while it is still in theaters. The drawback is that you need to purchase the same type of projection equipment as the local Arclight theater. 

PRIMA Cinema movie player at DSI Los AngelesThe cost for this equipment ranges from $125-250K installed, but that is not the biggest obstacle. The more challenging obstacle is fitting this large and noisy projector (see above) into a small private home cinema. A lot of our Hollywood bigwig clients already have large projection booths that used to house 35mm projectors. If your theater already has one of these, you are golden. If not, you need to create a fairly large space to house the projector.

Photo top: Barco D-Cinema projector
Photo middle: Prima Cinema movie player

The new kid on the block is Prima Cinema. This is a very specialized server with a cost of $35,000 that allows you to download and playback first-run movies without the need for all of the professional cinema gear. Since the Prima Cinema Player is a home video device, the unit is much less complicated to install and operate. The current downside to Prima Cinema is that not all movies are available (pending forthcoming agreements with some of the major studios). To read more details about Prima Cinema, see our previous post here > Prima Cinema - Movies in your Home Theater During Theatrical Release

Here is a quick pros and cons list if you are debating between a D-Cinema system and a Prima Cinema Player, and just to be clear, we design and install both options -

D-Cinema Pros:

  • Most every major release is available through the Bel-Air Circuit
  • New technologies such as Dolby Atmos and HFR (High-frame rate) video are available with D-Cinema systems
  • Movies are free of charge from the studios
  • You can run the film more than once typically

D-Cinema Cons:

  • Needs real estate to house the projection system (projector is big and noisy)
  • Does not play as nicely with home video content
  • Not super-easy to operate (designed for commercial movie theaters, not homes)
  • You typically need a courier service / projectionist to deliver and load the movie at a cost of $200-$500 per movie
  • Initial hardware expense ($125-250K)
  • You need to be in the Hollywood elite to join the invitation-only Bel-Air circuit

Prima Cinema Pros:

  • Easy-to-use
  • Works with standard home cinema projectors and displays
  • All the movies are automatically delivered to the server
  • Lower cost
  • No need to be a Hollywood power player to get the content
  • No need to buy pro gear
  • No special space or cooling requirements

Prima Cinema Cons:

  • Not all movie titles are available
  • Newer theater-only film technologies are not available yet on Prima Cinema
  • Movies are pay-per-view (no multiple viewing) at $500 per film

Have any additional questions? Feel free to contact me by clicking here.

This blog article written by . Follow us on Twitter @DSI_Audio_Video
Eric Thies of DSI Entertainment Systems Los Angeles