Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin caught up with Mark Cuban recently to discuss his latest, and perhaps greatest, business challenge–building the first all-digital theater empire. Here are some excerpts from her Wired article:
Getting to the Bunker, as Mark Cuban’s assistants call his underground office, means tunneling deep into the American Airlines Center, the 20,000-seat stadium that’s home to his Dallas Mavericks basketball team. A maze of curving corridors leads to a narrow hallway ending in two gray doors – no nameplates, no keyholes. Controlled by a keypad, the doors open to reveal a blinged-out hideaway. All that’s missing is the theme song from Get Smart.
Hunched over a PC in the corner of the room, wearing a Mavs jersey and white sweatpants, Cuban is doing what he likes best: swapping email with fans, posting provocative entries on his blog, BlogMaverick, and figuring out new ways to make a buck.
But he’s eager to talk about his next big idea, which has nothing to do with sports or TV. This time, the firebrand CEO is taking on Hollywood. As co-owner of Landmark Theatres, a chain of 60 cinemas he purchased two years ago, Cuban is building the first all-digital theater empire. His goal is nothing less than to take the film out of the film industry.
Going digital would be a boon for studios, theater owners, and moviegoers. If studios no longer had to make thousands of copies of each film to deliver to theaters, they could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, the studios spent more than $631 million in 2003 on film prints for the North American market alone.
Likewise, switching to digital exhibition systems would give theater owners unprecedented flexibility. If a blockbuster packed more seats than anticipated, an owner could quickly reallocate screens that weren’t selling as well to handle the overflow. In a film-based world, such changes can be cumbersome, time-consuming, and costly – requiring an additional print from the studio and a reel swap.
Moviegoers, for their part, would be treated to a future that promises no more out-of-focus projection, out-of-order reels, or scratchy footage on heavily played film. Even more exciting to Cuban is the broader range of content that digital systems make possible: Beyond movies, theaters could offer live, hi-res broadcasts of sports events, Broadway plays, fashion shows, and multiplayer electronic games.