Esteban Sune is the fourth generation of his Argentinian family in the exhibition business. His great grandfather opened the family’s first theatre in 1910 to show silent films. Some eighty years later, the theater concept changed from the big single screen houses to multiplexes and Cinemacenter was born. Sune, the company’s managing director, recently installed his country’s first laser projector – an NEC NC1100L. I spoke with him about that experience and about the exhibition business in general.
According to your website, your company currently operates fifteen theatres in Argentina. Is that correct?
Actually we run 17 theaters, with 90 screens, all in Argentina.
How big are the screens?
In terms of seats, the range goes from 120 to 500 seats per screen. In terms of screen size, they range from 30 feet by 13 feet, in the small rooms, to 50 feet by 23 feet in the big ones.
When did you first make the transition to digital?
[We] started with the release of Avatar, in December 2009.
Are any of your screens 3D?
Yes. All of our theaters have at least two screens with 3D systems.
You recently installed NEC NC1100L laser projectors in one of your theatres. It’s the first laser projector installed in your country. What appealed to you about laser technology?
Yes, the first one in Argentina. Indeed, the first one in Latin America. We installed it within a VIP theater we run in Mendoza, Argentina. The laser technology was love at first sight. We immediately perceived superb bright images, better contrast, more natural colors, it is an ultra-realistic experience.
What made you choose the NEC NC1100L?
First, the NEC prestige. Most of our digital projectors are NEC and run like a gem. Also they were the first manufacturer to present the product. Beyond that they gave us the chance to watch it run in the beta stage and we loved it.
How did you finance the purchase of the projector?
Company cash flow, we are proud to brag about we are debt free with financial institutions. This made our company grow kind of low, but steady. Interest rates in our country are hard to carry sometimes.
How, if at all, have your customers responded to laser projection?
The response was amazing. We bet on the idea that there was a segment of moviegoers that appreciate and seek a crystal screen experience without the need of using 3D glasses. They definitively find this with our laser projections. Even though we are aware of the possibility, we decided not to perform both technologies together. The demand [for] 3D is still roof high. But we noticed that there is a segment of clients 40+ years, that already experience 3D and needed something more. Something better than the huge LED screen experience that they probably have at home. That is what a 2D laser projector gives to that segment. The bet is giving out great benefits.
How involved was making the switch from traditional lamp projection? Was there a learning curve for you and your staff regarding operating the NC1100L?
Actually that was pretty easy. More than that, our booth guys were happy and excited to work with them. They find no trouble at all, and even though NEC offered us training sessions, there was no need to take it. We realize that there is no previous booth experience needed to work the laser projector. Any staff on the theater can do it.
Will you eventually switch to all laser projection?
Yes. The cost benefit ratio in terms of laser versus Xenon lamps is unbeatable. The neat and flawless image projection, worth watching.