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PRIMA’s New CEO Recommits to the Custom Channel

PRIMA Cinema’s newly appointed CEO, Shawn Yeager, flew out to Myrtle Beach, SC to meet with me last week, wanting some face time to tell me what has been going on with the company.

It’s been nearly two-and-a-half years since I reviewed PRIMA Cinema (review available here; updated, “second look” review coming soon), but the company seemed to have all but disappeared in that time, with little press, virtually no social media, and no announcements. In fact, you are likely asking yourself, “What’s a PRIMA?” which is an unfortunate thing because it is the most singular, unique product of its kind, and one that is the literally the ultimate expression of home theater lifestyle.

In short, PRIMA allows people to enjoy first-run Hollywood films during their theatrical release in their homes in unrivaled 10-bit picture quality. That’s right; with a PRIMA your customers could have enjoyed Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Terminator: Genisys, and Southpaw all in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. For a company that delivers such a one-of-a-kind, luxury experience, it seemed to be keeping an unusually low profile.

PRIMA Cinema’s newly appointed CEO, Shawn Yeager, flew out to Myrtle Beach, SC to meet with me last week, wanting some face time to tell me what has been going on with the company, his strategy to revitalize the company, talk about the company’s re-commitment to the custom channel, and deliver a review system for me to check out some product changes.

“PRIMA has been really quiet for the past two years,” Yeager began. “Some of the decisions that had been made by the previous leadership didn’t make sense to me. We’re no longer a startup, and there’s a big difference of the mentality between being a startup and a becoming a growth company. There was a lot of groundwork that needed to be laid and I’ve been busy doing that and helping us evolve from the startup company we were to the company we need to be.”

Incorporated in 2010, the first PRIMA system was installed in 2013, and Yeager was part of the original team of six employees. One of Shawn’s biggest and most immediate goals is restoring the faith and trust of the install channel.

“You treat people well, you make sure expectations are clear, and you live up to them,” Yeager said. “We are not going to over promise and under deliver. We’re going to over deliver on everything that we promise. We are going to make sure our dealers have a profitable product to sell, that the product works all the time, and that the system ultimately makes them look good.”

Part of that process is a new program Yeager implemented where a PRIMA tech will be on-site at every installation going forward. “Every time we ship a system, a PRIMA employee will go to the jobsite and assist on the install. And they will stay until it is completed. Whether it takes 20 minutes, three hours, or three days. We’re going to support our dealers in ways that other companies aren’t, and putting our employee there makes our dealers look good because the customer will think, ‘Wow! They brought in a pro to make sure this went perfectly!’ Additionally, since the people we send into the field are some of the most technically qualified, it helps eliminate a whole series of questions and troubleshooting and just makes for a smoother and more successful installation.”

Yeager also stressed delivering on the customer experience, both to dealers and end users. “I want everything we do to have a ‘white glove’ mentality; not only to the client but also to the dealer. Everything we do needs to be about putting the customer at the center of the experience, and then working back from the experience we want the customer to have,” he explained. “We started off by building a consumer experience that was second to none, and every time someone from PRIMA ‘touches’ a customer, I want them to say what a delightful experience it was.”

To help insure that this experience extends to the customer PRIMA is selective about the dealers it does business with. “It’s not about size of a company or the number of PRIMA systems a dealer will install,” Yeager told me. “The primary thing we are looking for is how the dealer takes care of our customer after the sale. Our job is to make a product that doesn’t require much, if any, support after the sale, but how problems—like IP issues, which make up about 90 percent of our support calls—are handled, and how quickly they are handled, is what we care about.

“Our goal is to provide an amazing experience to people who value and want the safety, convenience, and comfort of terrific home viewing,” Yeager continued. “I got a text message recently from a customer thanking me for helping him show Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in his home. He paid for the movie, but still he was thanking me for helping him to have that experience. That is what is so special about PRIMA. In our line of work, we should be delighting people, whatever that takes.”

Another part of achieving these goals has meant hiring the right people and building a team that understands and supports his vision. “I want people who care and love their jobs so much that it doesn’t seem like a job,” Yeager said. “And part of that means creating a work environment people want to work at, and making sure they understand the focus is on delivering an experience that delights the customer at every point. I want every one of my employees’ friends to be jealous that they don’t work here.” (I joked that giving every employee a free PRIMA with unlimited movie credits would definitely do the trick.)

Yeager explained that exceeding expectations involves doing “the right thing.”

“Every one of the PRIMA units we have out right now will be upgraded in the next six months. Not that there are any problems, but we feel we’ll have a reason to ‘touch’ the customer, and upgrade their storage capacity (to a 4 Terabyte RAID array), giving them capacity to hold more movies. All for free, because it is the right thing to do for our clients.”

When the subject of upgrades arose, I asked about PRIMA and 4K content delivery—which it currently doesn’t support. Yeager explained, “PRIMA is upgradeable in many ways, and when the point comes that new movies outpace current hardware, there would be an upgrade path for that customer to have the experience that we want them to have.”

PRIMA will also start actively promoting the brand and developing a marketing strategy, something the company has completely neglected up until now. “We are going to be far more active and promoting the brand, and will be building a marketing strategy that will be supportive of our dealer base and raising PRIMA’s profile with the audience we’re trying to reach. There isn’t even a general level of understanding that a system like ours even exists, and we are going to change that by building some awareness.”

The company definitely seems to be on a roll lately, recently releasing its 200th film to customers: a little title called Jurassic World, which also happens to be the number three grossing film of all time. The company has also more than doubled the number of studio agreements in place, bringing the current number to 12. This includes Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, Relativity EuropaCorp, Focus Features/Film District, Roadside Attractions, Gravitas Ventures, Magnolia Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Films, IFC Films, and Open Road.

“We have a product that is selling and selling well. A product that delivers so much more data than anything else, and video from PRIMA on a 4K projector looks so great. We’ll talk about product at CEDIA, but how the company is evolving is the deeper, richer conversation.”