Four years ago, Wayne Wagner was fed up. So the CEO of Wagner Media, one of the largest wholesale projection screen rental companies in the United States, picked up the phone. He called projection screen manufacturer Draper, Inc., with a simple message: “I don't like your folding screens. Actually, I don't like anybody's folding screens.”
Wagner's initiative led to the development by Draper of a totally new concept in portable screens: Instead of hinged, folding frames Draper came up with a modular design, where screens are built from an inventory of pieces of various sizes.
The StageScreen® is a large venue truss-style screen, while the FocalPoint® is a single-tube version designed for smaller rooms. Both screens do away with such perennial folding screen issues as loose hinges, broken and bent frames, popped snaps, ripped viewing surfaces and pinched fingers. What they add is profit.
“The return on investment is gonna be on a factor of three to four times what a standard truss screen would provide,” according to Wagner, who points out there are several factors contributing to the higher ROI. The first is the ability to reuse frame pieces with different surfaces.
“In the old days, we would buy, four 16 x 9 screens with four front surfaces and four rear surfaces. With that product you could rent four screens.” The modular nature of the StageScreen and FocalPoint, says Wagner, changes that.
“You can rent all eight of those same surfaces because you are able to borrow pieces from other screens. So right there you can double your ROI because you can rent twice as many screens.”
The addition of new projection formats has caused a dilemma in the marketplace. Nowadays, Wagner says for each screen size a dealer needs to have three formats: 4:3, 16:9 and 16:10. Once again, it's StageScreen and FocalPoint to the rescue.
“You can reuse the same frame pieces and do all three versions with basically the same number of frame pieces. The only investment to add a 16:10 format to your inventory is the surface [and a few additional pieces].” And that, Wagner points out, is another doubling of ROI.
The StageScreen and FocalPoint are also changing the industry in other ways. Portable screens have always been pretty durable, but Wagner says the StageScreen and FocalPoint take durability to a whole new level, due in large part to Draper's innovative DuraLoop viewing surface attachment system.
“Because it's a bungee system as opposed to the snap system, the life of the screen is gonna be dramatically longer.” Wagner points out that's because viewing surfaces shrink over time, and no longer fit the frames, so surfaces end up ripping or being discarded because they're too tight to fit on the frame.
“With the bungee system, as the screens shrink over time the bungee will absorb that shrinkage and the screen will still be used. So I envision a 50-100 percent longer lifetime on surfaces than we've seen in the past.”
Although folding screens have been fairly durable over the years, when repairs are necessary it can be huge hassle. Not so with the StageScreen and FocalPoint.
“In the old days when we had a truss screen, if something got damaged, that meant that entire frame was no longer useable until it was repaired—and repair times ran 4-6 weeks. Now,” says Wagner, “if a piece does get damaged, it can be replaced with another identical frame or leg piece from stock, so down time is virtually non-existent.”
Another advantage the Draper modular screen concept has over traditional folding and truss screens is ease of installation. There are no handy cranks—instead, attachment bolts and knobs are built in the screen frame—and each frame piece is color-coded. By following similarly-coded assembly maps for each custom or standard size, pieces are quickly placed and tightened. Wagner says it takes about half the time to put together a StageScreen or FocalPoint than the other style screens. And when you add up the time savings, ROI, durability and ease of repair, Wagner says the math is easy.
“The comment we get from people is â€˜Why are you still renting truss screens?' After they've had the StageScreen and FocalPoint, dealers and installers tell us they don't want to go back to the old technology.” In fact, according to Wagner people who have used the StageScreen and FocalPoint would rather pay a premium to use them again. “The premium product sells better because it's so dramatically better than the other products.”
Just as Draper listened to Wagner when he approached the company with his concerns, he in turn is listening to those who are no longer interested in old-style truss and folding screens. Wagner Media is replacing old inventory with modular screens. While this might be a gamble in today's tight economy, Wagner says it is one that has paid off—in spades.
Wagner recently made a major purchase of FocalPoint screens in 8', 10', 12' and 14' widths for his offices in Houston, Orlando and Las Vegas. In each width the screen frame can be converted from NTSC format to 16:9 or 16:10 by exchanging just two frame sections – a huge savings compared with buying complete screens for each format. All other frame and leg components are common to all three formats.
“The thing that we've run into, and we're kind of shocked at this, is that as we keep adding inventory there seem to be more orders. Everything we have in StageScreen is out almost every day. The growth in that whole market for us is really tremendous.”