PRIMA Cinema’s 4 Terabyte hard drive stores up to 100 films in RAID-5 array.
Two-and-a-half years ago I had the opportunity to review PRIMA Cinema’s Movie Player. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this put me into rarified air as being the only person offered to review the system. When the company’s newly appointed CEO, Shawn Yeager, said he wanted to share his plans for the company and asked if I would like to see the improvements PRIMA had made, I literally cut a vacation short to make it happen. (You can read more about my conversation with Yeager online at ResidentialSystems.com)
Because I already reviewed the system, I’ll only recap the essentials before describing improvements and my second impressions. PRIMA is a one-of-a-kind product, allowing users–or “members” in PRIMA parlance–to watch first-run films in their homes during their theatrical release; these movies are typically available the same day they open. Membership isn’t cheap, with the PRIMA hardware costing $35,000 and each viewing costing $500 ($600 for 3D titles; some indie releases offered for less.)
Studios have signed-off on PRIMA’s technology because the hardware is packed with serious, supposedly unbreakable security. Between whitelisted IP addresses, accelerometers, watermarking, dealer Personal Security Keys, biometric sensors, and more, PRIMA guarantees Hollywood that the content is 100-percent safe and secure.
The player installs like a Blu-ray player, requiring only HDMI, power, and ethernet connections. For stability, the system features redundant power supplies, ethernet connections, HDMI outputs (HDMI 2 is audio and control only), USB connections (for installers), and fingerprint scanners, making certain the show must go on. Installation is surprisingly simple, taking about 30 minutes, including enrolling my fingerprints, white-listing my home’s IP address, and installing the iOS app.
The control interface is equal parts gorgeous and simple, with the entire IP-based control scheme simply up/down/left/right and enter. The on-screen GUI is divided into three parts: Now Showing, Coming Soon, and Settings, a new section for both customers and dealers. Films display with their theatrical posters and a background of rotating high-resolution artwork. As all films are downloaded entirely to the internal hard drives before viewing, there aren’t any buffering issues. I’ve watched multiple films on PRIMA to date and never experienced anything short of pristine quality.
So, what has changed with PRIMA?
One change is the company’s renewed focus on dealer and customer relations. To this end, a PRIMA tech will now be on site at every installation and 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,” Yeager said.
PRIMA will also be upgrading every installed system to a new 4 Terabyte RAID array (up from 2 TB) to ensure systems can hold every film, and “for free because it is the right thing to do for our clients,” Yeager said.
The number of studio agreements in place has more than doubled, bringing the current total 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. The result is that there is always terrific content available for viewing. For example, there were 17 titles available while I had the system, including Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Terminator: Genisys, Trainwreck, Jurassic World, Furious 7, Mr. Holmes, and Southpaw. (Straight Outta Compton arrived two days after I returned the system.)
While you could always pause a movie, PRIMA has added fast-forward and rewind capability, allowing users to rewind a film up to 10 minutes, enough time to catch missed dialogue or just relive an epic moment. You can rewind over and over, just no more than 10 minutes previously from the furthest viewed point.
The company also added a new installer and customer tools section to its GUI to facilitate installs and follow-up visits and to give customers access to more information about their system. For example, customers can now easily check the system’s public and local IP address, see the status of film downloads, and play test audio and video clips.
When I asked about Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, or Auro-3D audio, Yeager claimed with a smile, “It would not be brain surgery to figure out putting a True HD soundtrack on the second HDMI.” He also promised, “PRIMA will have some fun things to show, and we’ll talk about product at CEDIA.”
Two things really struck me (again) from my second time with PRIMA. First, the video quality is just absolutely spectacular. PRIMA delivers 10- bit, 4:2:2 video signals (the same as the upcoming UHD Blu-ray format) and the results on my 115- inch screen were simply gorgeous. Blacks are incredibly rich and deep with no hint of noise or compression artifacts. The night scenes in Genisys and Rogue Nation looked stunning and better than any other source has ever delivered. The image also offers razor-sharp detail and color reproduction, reproducing the vibrant costumes from Pitch Perfect 2 in vivid detail. On the audio side, the uncompressed PCM audio delivers huge impact and punch.
Second, there is something so incredibly awesome about watching these first-run films in your own home theater. At one point I literally squealed, “GOD, I LOVE PRIMA!” (I might have been drinking, but I stand by it.)
Clearly, PRIMA is not for everyone. The company not only understands that, they embrace it. As Yeager puts it, “PRIMA is not home theater; it is a theater in your home.” And if you have a customer that can afford it–say in a theater with a projector costing $20, 50, 100k with JBL Synthesis, Meridian, or Wisdom Audio–PRIMA will be the component that will truly separate their system from their friends’.
Provides a truly unique experience of viewing first-run content in your home; stunning picture and sound quality; outstanding build quality
► 4 Terabyte hard drive stores up to 100 films in RAID-5 array
► 1080p24 full HD video in 4:2:2 sampling and 10-bit resolution, including 3D
► LPCM multi-channel audio
► Separate biometric fingerprint reader powered via Cat-5 PoE
► IP controllable via a number of automation systems or iOS
► Connections: (2) independent power supplies, (2) RJ45 Ethernet connections, (2) USB ports, (2) HDMI outputs (1 full audio/ video, 1 audio only)