High-tech home theater evolves


High-tech home theater evolves

High-tech home theater evolves


NEW YORK – April 22, 2014 – The home movie-watching experience continues its technological evolution.

The combination of an HDTV and a Blu-ray Disc player delivers a cinematic experience rivaling that of the multiplex. And thanks to the ever-improving caliber of streaming video, massive film libraries are a few clicks away.

Just when you think you are straddling the cutting edge of home cinema, a new standard emerges: Prima Cinema.

The wealthy few who have a $35,000 Prima system can watch first-run movies ($500 each) in the comfort of their own home on the same day many films debut in theaters.

That's a pretty penny to pay, but for some it is money well spent. Busy executives, celebrities and pro athletes alike can find themselves with little time for family night at the movies or may prefer home viewing rather than a harried night out.

"What we saw was a sleeper market," says Prima CEO Jason Pang. "Right now, the person who spends $1 million on their custom home theater is watching the same $20 disc as the kid that works at McDonald's."

During the analog decades, studio VIPs and A-list celebrities had movie reels delivered at home. As the home video market declined – from $24.5 billion in the DVD boom year of 2004 to about $18.2 billion in 2013 – Hollywood studios became more willing to discuss a digital system for high rollers.

So far, Pang and Prima have persuaded Paramount and Universal to make its films available. Recent releases that Prima customers could watch at home on opening weekend included Dallas Buyers Club, Despicable Me 2 and Rush. Upcoming releases include Neighbors.

Prima recently announced a partnership with IMAX to provide opening day availability for IMAX films, too.

"Our goal is to get everything that is in the box office into your home," Pang says. "There are a lot of people out there who are law-abiding citizens who will pay top dollar for the privilege."

Hollywood and tech firms cater to high-end movie lovers in other ways, too. New Ultra HD TVs that offer four times the resolution of today's HDTVs have been in stores since late 2012, and prices have dropped to $3,000 for 55-inch displays.

Since there's little Ultra HD content available, Sony is selling a $669 Ultra HD Movie Player, a 2-terabyte hard drive loaded with 10 films in the higher-resolution format, often referred to as "4K" quality. The player, which is free with some newer Sony 4K Ultra HD TVs, connects to Sony's Video Unlimited service with more than 200 UHD titles, including Captain Phillips, American Hustle and The Monuments Men, plus hit shows like The Blacklist.

Similarly, Samsung this month begins making available a $299.99 1-terabyte video pack loaded with UHD movies, including Night at the Museum, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and World War Z.

And Ultra HD TVs from Samsung and LG will be the first to be able to display 4K streaming video from Netflix, which has begun its higher-res delivery of House of Cards. Other providers planning to stream Ultra HD 4K content include Amazon, Comcast, DirecTV and M-Go.

Even though home theater owners are getting closer to bypassing the theater altogether, "Hollywood is still incredibly sensitive about their rights and intellectual property," says John Sciacca of Custom Theater and Audio in Murrells Inlet, S.C., and a columnist for Sound and Vision. Studios are "just very slowly dipping their toes into these waters," he says.

For now, Prima is in a league of its own. Films are not streamed; you pre-order movies from the ever-growing roster and they are delivered over broadband. Dual copies are stored on a secure RAID (redundant array of independent disks) so that if a disk drive goes bad, the specially mirrored hard drives play the movie.

Copyright © 2014, USATODAY.com, Mike Snider

Poll: Americans prefer real estate to stocks, gold

Poll: Americans prefer real estate to stocks, gold


WASHINGTON – April 22, 2014 – Americans have renewed confidence in real estate as a great investment. In fact, Americans believe real estate is the "best" long-term investment, followed by gold, stocks, mutual funds, savings accounts/CDs and bonds, according to a new Gallup Poll of about 1,000 adults who were asked to choose the best option for long-term investments. Bonds were the least favorite investment among the options Gallup surveyed.

In 2011, Americans surveyed said the most popular long-term investment was gold. That also marked a time when gold was at its highest price and real estate and stock values were lower than today.

"With housing prices improving across the country, Americans are regaining faith that real estate is the best choice for long-term investments," according to Gallup. "Homeownership is also associated with views of real estate as an attractive investment opportunity."

Americans with higher incomes are most likely to consider real estate and stocks the best investments – "possibly because of their experience with these type of investments," according to the Gallup poll. Higher income Americans are most likely to say they own their home (87 percent), followed by middle-income earners (66 percent) and lower-income earners (36 percent).

Homeowners are slightly more likely than renters to say real estate is the best choice for long-term investments – 33 percent versus 24 percent, respectively, according to the poll.

Source: "Americans Sold on Real Estate as Best Long-Term Investment," Gallup (April 17, 2014)

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