Cinedigm and NATO announce plan for digital conversion of drive-ins


Cinedigm and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) announced they are bringing their digital theatre conversion program to the Cinema Buying Group (CBG) members of the drive-in movie theatre community.

CBG is a buying program of NATO for independent theatre operators in the United States and Canada. Cinedigm and NATO are unveiling a new exhibitor deployment agreement at the annual United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association (UDITOA) convention this week in Kissimmee, Florida.

Cinedigm's deployment program facilitates the funding, installation and operations support and ongoing virtual-print-fee administration for the company's d-cinema rollout throughout the U.S. and Canada. Cinedigm, which has signed long-term VPF agreements with all the major studios and interim agreements with dozens of independent distributors, is the digital -cinema integrator partner for the CBG.

The drive-in movie theatre efforts follow Cinedigm’s successful deployment of over 12,200 screens in the U.S. and Canada, with over 276 exhibitors.

The vast majority of drive-in theatres are independent, owner-operated small businesses (the largest drive-in theatre chain totals eight sites) and most operate seasonally, usually around 110 days per year or less. Drive-in screen size and required illumination is on the outer edge of technical capabilities of projection, further complicating the conversion task. As a result, only about 10% of drive-in exhibitors have installed digital projectors for their large outdoor screens.

“As someone who grew up going to drive-ins, I’m thrilled that we are in the position to usher them into the digital age,” said Alison Choppelas, VP of Cinedigm’s Digital Cinema Group. “By providing drive-in theatres digital content, including studio feature films, indie films, concerts and cultural events, this important piece of Americana will be an even more engaging gathering spot for the communities they serve.”

In addition to the new deployment agreement, Cinedigm, NATO and UDITOA have taken a number of steps to address the outdoor deployment issue, including securing exceptions to the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) specifications applicable to drive-in theatres, such as relaxed sound, brightness, and masking requirements.