CinemaCon 2017 featured a dizzying array of technology possibilities that, depending on who you talked to, were exciting, intimidating or overwhelming. The trade show, held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, is the National Association of Theatre Owners’ annual gathering of exhibitors from around the world. More than one attendee labeled the show Digital Cinema 2.0. The digital cinema transition was not the end of anything; it was very much the beginning of something even bigger. That was because this year’s CinemaCon made it perfectly clear that the days of the basic 2K-projector, server and vanilla theatre management software package are numbered. To remain competitive, perhaps even simply to stay in business, exhibitors must learn to fully embrace new technology.
The Big Picture
Twenty-eight independent theaters in cities across the country will participate in the fourth annual National Evening of Science on Screen. The event will feature a short introductory video, followed by a unique film and speaker presentation at each venue as part of its Science on Screen program. For example, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center will screen Robot & Frank with an introduction and post screening discussion with Michael Chuah, PhD Candidate, Biomimetic Robotics Lab Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical, a special limited engagement cinematic event directed by Brett Sullivan for Disney Theatrical Productions and Fathom Events, debuts this month in theaters worldwide. Co-founders of Steam Motion and Sound, he and lighting director Clayton Jacobsen have a lot of experience in translating theatrical productions to the screen, including the musicals Billy Elliot, Miss Saigon, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies.
The International Union of Cinemas has released its provisional update on admissions and box office revenues across Europe for 2016. While the increase was also the result of a wide range of highly successful local films across Europe, box office was again dominated by strong international titles, including, but not limited to, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Zootopia, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Secret Life of Pets and Ice Age: Collision Course.
Later this week, audiences across the United States will have the chance to watch a film that promises to redefine the concept of event cinema. On January 19, Oscar-nominated actor Woody Harrelson will direct and star in an unprecedented live feature film event, Lost in London Live. Harrelson, who also wrote the film, will be joined by co-stars Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson. Fathom Events will present the film live in 550 theatres in the US. Afterwards, he’ll participate in a question and answer session about the experience. No matter what happens, Lost in London is certain to make event cinema history.
Immersive cinema seating is one of the fastest growing trends in mainstream motion picture exhibition and shows no signs of slowing. Translating the action on the screen into what a viewer experiences in the seat is no simple task and requires the hard work of many talented people. To learn more about that process, I recently spoke, via email, with Catherine Yi, creative director of 4DX America.
National CineMedia has partnered with Twitter and Disney to feature Rogue One trailer assets and fan tweets on NCM's Lobby Entertainment Network of screens strategically located near the box office and other high-traffic lobby locations in select movie theatres nationwide. “This is our way of reimagining the lobby experience,” said NCM president Cliff Marks.
Director Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk has been widely publicized as the first movie ever to be filmed in 3D with 4K-resolution at 120 frames per second. In their never-ending search for ways to stand out in a world of competing media choices, some exhibitors have expressed praise for Lee for pushing technology to new limits. Fair enough. The problem with this is, very few people in the world will be able to see the movie the way Lee made it. Add another option to the growing list of digital cinema technologies. Welcome to digital cinema’s second era.
One of the most important phases of editing any movie is the test screening. Anyone who has ever worked on a film understands how different it can look when seen for the first time on a big screen. With his new service – Friends & Family Screening – Dan Clifton, producer of a dozen films including last year’s thriller Martyrs, believes he has the answer for test screenings in the digital era.
The new book Streaming, Sharing, Stealing: Big Data and the Future of Entertainment, clearly lays out the challenges the Hollywood studios face in the increasingly data-driven digital cinema era they helped create. In their book, the co-authors – Michael D. Smith and Rahul Telang – present ways they believe the studios could address that challenge. The question is: will Hollywood listen?