For decades, Hollywood movie moguls have been able to watch currently-running theatrical films in their own home cinemas, thanks to a local distribution network informally known as the Bel Air Circuit. Traditionally, this has involved film prints or other physical-format copies of films changing hands. California-based PRIMA Cinema, however, has created what could be described as an internet-based public version of that circuit. Subscribers will be able to watch current-release theatrical movies in their own homes – if they can afford it.

The process starts with the PRIMA folks working out distribution deals with individual studios. Once a studio is onboard, PRIMA encodes their films – this occurs shortly prior to the films’ wide theatrical release.

All movies are automatically downloaded to each subscriber's dedicated PRIMA Cinema Player. A theatrical-quality 1080p-resolution digital copy of each film is stored on the player’s hard drive, and can be watched any time – as long as the title is still in wide release.

PRIMA’s Shawn Yeager told us that the player delivers 30 percent more color than Blu-ray, and 25 percent more pixel depth. Its HDMI 1.4 output will reportedly work with any projector or surround sound system.

The PRIMA Cinema Player, created by BMW DesignworksUSA

Along with the player, users also receive a biometric security device. This not only prevents unauthorized users from accessing the player, but it also places an invisible subscriber-specific “watermark” on all downloaded films – should the film subsequently be copied (even with a camcorder) that watermark can be used to identify the subscriber.

So, no, users can’t copy their films. They can, however, invite a bunch of their friends over to watch them ... as long as they don’t charge admission, and they only show the movies within a residence.

In development since 2009, PRIMA Cinema is now in the midst of its commercial “soft launch.” If you want a system of your own, however, you’d better free up some cash – the player and security device will cost you US$35,000, with individual movies going for $500 per title watched ($600 for 3D films). As Yeager pointed out, however, that hefty price tag should keep theater-owners from worrying about PRIMA putting them out of business.

Source: PRIMA Cinema via Uncrate