Cinemas: Protecting your equipment during extended closure

Cinemas: Protecting your equipment during extended closure

As we head into this unprecedented time for our industry, we must stay calm and mindful of the rocky road ahead. In this SCO newsletter I will discuss important information that should be understood when going through an extended closure period. There are procedures and recommended practices to ensure this change in equipment usage does not cause faults requiring expensive servicing.

As has been stated by the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, an expected 6 month restriction period on Australia is expected. How this works out for cinema exhibitors is unknown, however we should prepare for 6+ months of downtime.

Digital Cinema equipment is especially sensitive to changes in usage as inside of every Projector, every DCI-Player is a "Secure Media Block" that protects content from Piracy through encryption. These are small computers that are never turned off that store the "secret source" that is required for the encryption process. If the secure media block is tampered with or the battery keeping it alive nears depletion, the secure media block will "disarm" and remove the secret information inside as to keep it secure.

If your equipment does "disarm" , the secure media block must be returned to the vendor's central manufacturing location to be "re-armed" : an expensive exercise that also takes a considerable length of time. You do not want to discover this is required when you re-open.

The battery on this equipment only lasts a limited time. On older equipment, this time can be greatly reduced.

If you have older equipment, specifically Series 1 based, it is very important to keep that equipment semi-active to avoid this issue.

What to do to protect yourself

Typically the batteries are rated to 5-7 years replacement cycle with a minimum of 7 months of power down (depending on the vendor). However, the recommended procedure is to leave them on for 4 hours to overnight, at least once every 6 months, to ensure the battery is charged and healthy. If you have equipment that is close to or more than ten years old, I would recommend this procedure monthly or even weekly.

See these announcements from different vendors in regards to extended closure and the effect on equipment:

NOTE: ISDCF has now posted an official list found here:

Other equipment

Any older equipment can also develop general component degradation. If left inactive or turned of for a long periods, the capacitors can have a build up that, when turned on, will make them POP and fail. As this equipment is older, no longer supported in many cases (ie. no spare replacement parts available) extra care should be taken with older equipment. For older equipment, I therefore recommend a weekly powerup.

Special considerations should be taken for all older equipment, being servers, workstations etc. when close to 10 years or more in age. If the change in hourly use does cause a fault, it is better that this happens before you are back online with customers. You then have time to service the equipment before it is a critical issue.

Wishing you all the best with your cinema.

James Gardiner
Founder, Small Cinema Owners Association
mob: 0412997011

List of past newsletters:

Updated: 2020-03-26, added Barco and NEC links to procedures.
Updated: 2020-03-29, added NEC extended, QUBE
Updated: 2020-03-31, Added GDC on batteries
Updated: 2020-04-09, Added ISDC official link

Published: 2020-03-24
jamieg administrator

James is the Founder of Small Cinema Owners Association. He is also known for his YouTube channel CineTechGeek, has been involved with ISDCF and the formation of the digital cinema technologies, is a member of SMPTE. For a job he runs three small regional cinemas in Australia.

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