Theaters Take Control of Fathom for Alternative Screen Content

   Jan. 1, 2014—Three of the largest movie theater circuits will take operational control of alternative cinema content provider Fathom Events, which they say will expand its offerings. Fathom projects on cinema screens Broadway shows, music concerts, sports events, unique TV programing and other non-theatrical content.
   The circuits AMC Entertainment, Cinemark Holdings and Regal Cinema raised their stakes to 32% each. The remaining 4% is owned by cinema services outfit National CineMedia (NCM), whose Fathom stake shrinks from 46% and
Fathom presented in cinemas Doctor Who, which is a special based on the cult favorite BBC Television series

will no longer be in charge of Fathom. NCM is best known as one of the two leading on-screen advertising brokers.
   The three circuits say their buy-in will provide capital to improve Fathom’s infrastructure and better coordinate presentations with cinemas. “The acquisition will allow us to program and promote Fathom events in a more efficient manner on our screens,” Cinemark CEO Tim Warner said in a statement.
   Warner continues: “We feel we can enhance Fathom through the introduction of special premieres and events utilizing content produced and distributed by TV, cable and satellite divisions owned by the major studios. The investments we have made in digital technology, including satellite delivery, digital projection and digital sound will also enhance our ability to utilize Fathom as a platform to introduce content on the big screen.”
  While cinemas like to expand their content options, the rise of alternative content is a threat to movies. Says the third edition of Marketing To Moviegoers: “If alternative programming becomes more pervasive, it likely will cut into screen time for films.”
   Alternative content rides the equipment changeover to electronic digital projection. Such content was not feasible when theaters were equipped with mechanical film projectors, which dominated just a few years ago.
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