by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Though glassblowing may have been invented almost 2,000 years ago by shipwrecked Phoenicians on the Syro-Palestinian coast, they wouldn't recognize the cutting edge techniques employed today by Lighting Technologies Inc. (LTI), a global manufacturer of high intensity xenon lighting technologies in the Los Angeles area.
LTI executives, Curtis Glover, President of Operations, and Ana Simonian, President of Global Sales, led Xinhua on a tour recently around their 41,000 sq ft (about 3,800 sq meters) facility.
Known for their state-of-the-art, high-watt xenon bulbs used primarily in cinema projectors, the LTI factory floor is chock full of semi-automated, state-of-the-art glassblowing stations that combine glassblowing artisans with computer-assisted instrumentation, as well as stations dedicated to annealing, sealing, gas vacuum, polishing, and quality-control testing and more.
These stations sit side-by-side with bustling in-house fulfillment and shipping departments that ship around the United States and export to China, Russia, South America, Europe, Asia and soon, the Middle East.
Cinema xenon lamps are highly specialized light sources that produce the super bright white light needed for movie projection. The color temperature of xenon lamps closely matches the mid-day sun.
"We've come a long way since we started manufacturing right here in Baldwin Park in 1999," says Glover. And now we employ 200 local people. We have a very diverse workforce of Americans, Chinese, Filippino, Korean, Hispanic, and many more."
LTI has grown over the years and is now the exclusive supplier to AMC theaters, and sells to multiple major theater chains worldwide.
"We're the only U.S. manufacturer that does what we do, with a growing market share in the U.S. and South America," Glover told Xinhua.
Though still No. 3 in the important Chinese market, behind German and Japanese manufacturers, they have set their sights on the winner's circle there too.
"We started exporting to China while we were part of the Phillips brand," said Simonian.
"Now, we're switching over to our own packaging. Same great people. Same great products," she added.
China is a vital source of specialized production materials for LTI. And as part of building recognition and creating support for their quality brand, LTI also brings staff over from China to training programs at their U.S. facility. Once trained, they send them back to their Shanghai office to supply high quality sales and technical services for their Chinese clients, such as the giant cinema chains Wanda and China Film Stellar.
LTI sees a real future in the China Market and travels frequently to China to visit their clients and keep tabs on the China market. They participated in the well-attended Beijing International Radio, TV & Film Exhibition (BIRTV) this week, the largest broadcast and cinema trade show in China, where all the players on the technical side of China's booming broadcast and film industries show up to make deals.
"You can't beat our products for quality. Chinese buyers want the superior quality, reliability and level of technical support only we can provide," said Glover.
"We also distribute our products in China through Chinese companies, so we don't compete with Chinese distributors like our competitors do," added Simonian.
And unlike the U.S. theater market, which has relatively limited new construction in the works, the China theater market is booming, so capturing a share of that market is likely to play a significant part in the future wellbeing of many businesses, including LTI's.
China's total number of cinema screens has exceeded those of the United States. The Middle Kingdom already sports more than 41,000 cinema screens, having grown at double digit rates for the last ten years.
But over and above that, China is investing in the construction of up to 20,000 more theaters over the next few years, many in the more rural sections of the country, where there are few other diversions for local populations. That will be a bonanza for bulb and projector manufacturers.
According to PwC's global entertainment and media outlook 2017-2021, China will have more than 80,000 screens, nearly twice as many as the United States.
But, for LTI to get a bite of that booming market, they'll need to ramp up at light speed, because China has committed to moving beyond bulbs to equip all their new theaters with next-gen light sources in all their cinemas.
"We make the best lamps in the world. The Chinese value that. It's quality they can depend on," affirmed Glover.