Barco has entered into several new content agreements including one with a major studio to release titles on its new multi-screen or panoramic screen format, known as Barco Escape. In particular the deal with 20th Century Fox is a five year, multi-title per year agreement to produce new titles for the format of which the first scheduled title will be Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials in September 2015. The deal follows the successful release of the first film in the franchise, the Maze Runner which included 10 minutes of specially configured footage. As part of the deal, Barco will also install one of its panoramic screens on the Fox studio lot in Hollywood. For the sequel, Barco is targeting a wider release of 25 screens up from just five screens previously. Currently, US and international exhibitor has five Barco Escape screens installed in the US and European exhibitor Kinepolis has two screens installed in Belgium.
Barco will also work with Jerry Bruckheimer Films on an upcoming project to use Barco Escape technology on an as yet undisclosed forthcoming title. In addition, Barco has also signed agreement with producer Posse Films to create new projects for the Barco Escape format. The deal includes Racers Heart, a story based on NASCAR Hall of fame member Bobby Allison.
Barco Escape is a new ultra-wide or panoramic screen format with three digital projectors and three screens (one central and two angled to the side). The latest content agreements add to the currently limited portfolio, of which the next iteration will be a performance of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett to configured screens in 2015, following a collaboration with Universal Music/Interscope.
Barco has secured several deals to commit to supply content for its new panoramic screen format, and this will be crucial in encouraging exhibitors to invest in the technology. Quality content will also play an important role in defining the scope of the format with cinema audiences. Currently, the content range includes both major feature films as well as alternative content events, showing how the format can be both useful and creatively intriguing for a number of key genres.
Nonetheless, with only seven screens installed worldwide and with the format still in an early testing phase, the format remains a distinct niche. The signing of a major studio to supply specially produced content particularly over a five year period, is however testament to the opportunities presented by an ultra-wide screen format and one that ties into the wider trend of driving audiences to coveted higher priced seats. The move is also in keeping with a move to a growing array of premium cinema tiers, screens and experiences in the cinema space and in doing so creating more of an event type experience.
Barco Escape is a similar set up to the three-screen format launched by CJ CGV in Korea, known as Screen X. CJ will also be introducing its format to the Indonesia market through its investment in major exhibitor Blitz Megaplex. Coupled with audience satisfaction, a regular supply of quality and specially created content, will be a key driver in the next phase of development.
The move comes as Dolby is set to launch its Dolby Vision theatrical projection technology (which includes both laser projector and High Dynamic Range (HDR)) with two major Disney titles namely Tomorrowland and Pixar’s Inside Out, as the first films to be released theatrically in the format in May and June 2015 respectively, followed by The Jungle Book, also a Disney title in 2016.