Owner of isle theaters looking at 3-D upgrade


POSTED: Saturday, September 19, 2009

The three biggest U.S. theater chains are seeking to raise as much as $725 million to add digital screens needed for 3-D movies, resuming an effort that stalled last year, two people with knowledge of the plan said.

Regal Entertainment Group, which owns four theaters in Hawaii; AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.; and Cinemark Holdings Inc. plan to raise $525 million in senior debt and $200 million in equity through their jointly owned Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, said the people, who declined to be identified because talks are private. JPMorgan Chase & Co. will arrange financing, the people said.

The expansion would add slots required for exhibitors and Hollywood studios to show 3-D films, which command premium ticket prices. Theater companies aim to add digital projectors to 14,000 U.S. and Canadian screens in 3 1/2 years, the people said. The credit crisis thwarted fundraising plans last year.





        Hawaii's first 4-D movie theater is under construction at the Shops at Mauna Lani on the Big Island.

Called “;The Great 4-D Movie Ride,”; the 24-seat theater will show 4-D features and simulated rides on a 19-foot-wide screen, projected from two high-definition digital projectors.


The action on-screen is synchronized with full-motion seating and in-theater effects, including moving air and water spray.


It is slated to open in November.




Star-Bulletin staff




Regal, which purchased California-based Signature Theatres in 2004, has at least one 3-D screen at three of its four Hawaii theaters: Dole Cannery Stadium 18, Pearl Highlands Stadium 12 and Windward Stadium 10. Keauhou Stadium 7 on the Big Island does not have a 3-D screen.

“;We're hoping to launch the bank meetings next week for the syndication of the bank debt,”; Rich Manzione, a spokesman for Mahwah, N.J.-based DCIP, said yesterday. He said the goal is to complete funding by mid- to late November and then begin installations immediately. Manzione declined to discuss further details.

Digital projection lowers studios' shipping and printing costs. With additional modifications, theaters can show 3-D titles, charging 40 percent to 70 percent more for tickets, according to Beverly Hills, Calif.-based RealD, the largest 3-D equipment supplier.

About 6,500 U.S. screens have been adapted for digital projection, according to Technicolor, a provider of film processing services. About 2,500 of those will be equipped to show 3-D movies by year-end, the company said. There are about 39,000 movie screens in the U.S., according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

Three of the seven highest-grossing movies this year were shown in 3-D, including Walt Disney Co.'s “;Up,”; which took in $291 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.

Burbank, Calif.-based Disney's Pixar Animation plans to release 3-D versions of “;Toy Story”; and “;Toy Story 2”; in theaters next month, and director James Cameron's 3-D “;Avatar”; is scheduled for release by New York-based News Corp. in December.

Movie theaters worldwide will have 7,800 screens ready to show 3-D films when “;Avatar”; comes out and 10,000 by March 2010, Glendale, Calif.-based DreamWorks Animation SKG's chief executive officer, Jeffrey Katzenberg, told CNBC on Thursday.