Sony Electronics is the only company on the market with 4K projection systems. It’s SXRD 4K technology is also the only competitor to TI’s 2K DLP Cinema. Sony is a diverse corporation, with strengths ranging from consumer electronics to movie production and distribution. Its market cap today is in the $22B range, and has suffered a 50% drop in value over the past two years along with many of its peers.
Sony enters the digital cinema market as a sole system provider. Its sales approach is to take all or nothing. Sony projectors require Sony servers which require Sony TMS systems. To complete the offering, Sony now offers Sony alternative content as well as Sony financing. But Sony, while quietly pitching its finance plan in the US, has not indicated that it has signed VPF agreements with its fellow studios. Perhaps these systems will only show Sony movies?
Sony’s projector has notable technical challenges. The stability of its projectors is not as solid as DLP, due to the LCOS (liquid-on-crystal) technology employed. The light levels that it can achieve are limited, as well. While it has engineered a clever solution for presenting 3-D images (in partnership with RealD), its limited light level places it at a disadvantage for displaying on big screens.
Sony suffers from bigness. Its divisions operate as islands. Its cinema sales force in the US has no connection to its sales force in Europe, for example. It is doubtful that the package offered US exhibitors is available anywhere else. Its bigness makes relatively small internal operations such as digital cinema follow tide behavior. Sometimes the tide is up, and sometimes the tide is down. But unlike tides, there is no calendar to predict by.
Such was the problem when Sony last entered the cinema market with SDDS sound. It entered the market in a big way, notably scoring major sales with cinema chains such as AMC and Loews. And then the tide went down, leaving AMC and Loews without any support or resale value for its equipment. Oddly, AMC appears to have a short memory, as it is the one player in DCIP that has made no commitment to DLP Cinema products. AMC’s interest in Sony 4K is well-known, and it appears that Sony has translated this interest into 100% commitment to its 4K projectors. The tide is up. Now it’s up to Sony to keep it that way.