Every April for the past five years the National Association of Theatre Owners has hosted its annual event CinemaCon at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. In years past conversations about the ongoing transition of movie theatres to digital cinema technology dominated much of the talk at the show. But as the transition comes to its conclusion – at least in North America – the focus has changed. Now that they have digital cinema technology – and all its potential – exhibitors want to know how to maintain their existing customers and ideally add new ones in an increasingly competitive entertainment environment. The ultimate goal is to make movie theatres into entertainment centers filled with things no home theatre could ever provide. The question is how.
With the end of the virtual print fee deals in sight, manufacturers and exhibitors were exploring new ways of working together, even to the point in some cases of outright partnership deals. Screenvision employees seemed to move through the halls of the hotel with renewed energy now that the federal government has rejected National CineMedia’s efforts to acquire the company.
Alternative content has reached the point that veterans of that business were debating whether to call what they do alternative content or event cinema and whether that matters.
CinemaCon 2015 brimmed with new companies and new ideas. Which of these ideas will succeed (and whether exhibitors will embrace them in serious numbers) remains to be seen. But the energy was back at CinemaCon and most people left the conference feeling positive about the state of the motion picture exhibition business. Several of these ideas stood out and, for the first time, Digital Cinema Report is naming the best among them.
Here are Digital Cinema Report’s Catalyst Award winners for CinemaCon 2015.
Barco unveiled Barco Escape at last year’s CinemaCon to some acclaim but at that time the concept was essentially a blank canvas. The concept is much more fully realized now and, at CinemaCon, Barco announced that veteran producer Jerry Bruckheimer will use the format for an upcoming project. His company, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, will also explore re-envisioning a classic Bruckheimer film in the format and has also joined the Barco Escape advisory board.
Under the terms of the deal, Jerry Bruckheimer Films will work with Barco to use the Barco Escape technology on a new upcoming project. It will also explore re-envisioning a classic Bruckheimer film into the format, offering audiences an unmatched viewing experience inside the action never before available.
“Barco Escape is a bold step forward in storytelling and the future of the cinema experience, allowing us to expand the creative vision of our films” says Bruckheimer. “Barco Escape represents a significant advancement in the film industry’s ongoing evolution and we are thrilled to work with Barco’s team to develop projects that will transport audiences into movies in an unprecedented way.”
Barco Escape was introduced to audiences in September when it featured select scenes from director Wes Ball and 20th Century Fox’s hit film The Maze Runner in the format. Its upcoming release, More recently, a special performance event with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, was the first film to be shot natively for Barco Escape. The sequel to The Maze Runner – also shot natively for Barco Escape – is scheduled to be released later this year.
Arts Alliance Media and Highlands Technologies Solutions have joined forces to launch CineCardz, a product which allows cinema customers to book a personalized greeting for someone special in the audience to play out in front of a film screening of their choice. Arts Alliance Media will act as a worldwide partner for CineCardz.
CineCardz makes a visit to your cinema even more special, providing a unique offering that further enhances the customer experience. CineCardz drives customer loyalty, increases frequency of cinema visits and increases incremental revenue. For the customer, they simply order a CineCardz through the dedicated website as part of a standard ticket purchasing process. Customers can upload a message that is then converted to a 30-second animation DCP (Digital Cinema Package), sent electronically to the relevant cinema and automatically inserted into the right place in the pre-show playlist. One CineCardz slot will be available for each scheduled screening at participating cinemas.
For exhibitors using Arts Alliance Media's Theatre Management System Screenwriter, there will be nothing to install but just an option to activate free of charge. For the others, exhibitors simply need to install an internet-connected CineCardz box at each site. The box connects to the cinema server to manage insertion of the CineCardz content into the playlist and to collect playback logs in order to confirm the screening. CineCardzTM operates on a revenue-share model, providing additional revenue to exhibitors as well as a more exciting experience for customers with no ongoing costs at all. The system uses a two-step moderation process, first automated then validated by the exhibitor to ensure content matches exhibitor policy.
"We're really excited to launch CineCardz, and can't wait to see it in action. Not only is it a new and unique feature for cinema customers to say I love you, congratulations, well done, happy mother's dayand many others, it's also very affordable and fun, adding excitement to the whole cinema experience." said Patrick Zucchetta, CEO of HTS.
John Aalbers, CEO of AAM added, "We are big believers that the end to end cinema experience can and should be enhanced by making it more interactive with the aid of innovative software solutions. I am delighted to be partnering with HTS on something, which is as fun as CineCardz and at the same time creates new revenue streams for exhibitors. This is the beginning of some great, new things to come."
Participating exhibitors around the world are due to be announced shortly.
Dolby Laboratories unveiled Dolby Cinema at the show and announced that AMC Theatres will be building as many as 100 Dolby Cinema theatres at AMC Prime locations across the United States by December 2024. The inspiration for the design elements came out of the desire to achieve technically superior sight and sound capabilities for all Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime locations. The design of the cinema itself has been created to set a mood and draw audiences deeper into the story. Through the Dolby technology, combined with the ultimate comfort and experience of the AMC Prime plush recliners with seat transducers, guests will feel closer than ever to the action on screen.
By mid-May 2015, AMC expects to have fully installed Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime in up to four AMC locations in major cities across the United States. AMC intends to expand to 50 operating Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime locations by December 2018 in additional cities, including San Francisco, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Miami, Boston, Denver, and Seattle.
As part of the agreement, AMC will renovate its existing Premium experiences—ETX and AMC Prime–into Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime. Renovated AMC auditoriums will feature newly installed Dolby Cinema, which incorporates Dolby Atmos audio technology and the Dolby Vision projection system.
The Dolby Vision laser projection system delivers high dynamic range with enhanced color technology that produces incredible blacks and a contrast ratio that far exceeds any other image technology on the market today. The result is a richer, more detailed viewing experience that delivers strikingly vivid and realistic images that make audiences feel like they are in the movie’s world. Dolby Atmos, the award-winning Dolby sound technology, moves audio around the theatre, even overhead, with amazing richness and depth. The lifelike sounds of music, people, and things flow all around the theatre in sync with the action to create a more immersive and moving experience.
Royal Philips announced at the show that it is collaborating with Universal Music Enterprises, a division of UMG, the world’s leading music company, to make iconic concert films available in the immersive LightVibes format. LightVibes, developed by Philips, adds LED lighting throughout the movie theater, which is synced with media content to create a fully-engaging experience. Concert films become life-like, movies become more absorbing and pre-show programming becomes more engaging.
The multi-screen technology delivers compelling, subtle ambient lighting to every viewer’s peripheral field of vision, enhancing musical performances and events – as well as feature films, pre-show programming and advertising. LightVibes delivers true immersive theater that increases the impact of on-screen content, while bringing new capabilities to cinematographers and others in the creative community.
As part of the collaboration, theaters that install LightVibes can receive access to an ongoing slate of superstar concert titles from UMG. Titles initially featured include historic concerts from Alice Cooper, The Doors, Dream Theatre, Morrissey, Paul McCartney and Wings, Peter Gabriel, Queen and The Rolling Stones. Both companies will explore promotional activity such as local market events to support key releases.
Bruce Resnikoff, president/CEO, Universal Music Enterprises said, “We are very excited to work with Philips on LightVibes to help unlock the potential of their technology. We believe this will enhance the theater experience for both audiences and theater owners alike and add realism to the movie concert experience. We look forward to bringing our iconic music catalog to the big screen in HD picture quality and high-quality sound – fully enhanced with the life-like imagery and sound provided by LightVibes.”
Niels Van Duinen, general manager of Philips LightVibes said, “With this collaboration, cinema operators get the best of both worlds: Access to UMG’s high-profile concerts, drawn from the broadest catalog of music in the industry, combined with an immersive LightVibes experience that will keep audiences coming back for more. We’re setting the pace in connected lighting for entertainment, whether it’s syncing home lighting with music, movies and TV series or syncing the lighting of an iconic building to music. Now we’re bringing our technology to the silver screen.”
CJ Group, the South Korean conglomerate behind the 4DX 4D cinema system, unveiled ScreenX, a multi-projection technology that extends the movie from a main screen onto the sidewalls of a theatre. By using all three sides the technology offers the audience an immersive experience. ScreenX also refers to a special auditorium using the technology. CJ CGV developed ScreenX in cooperation with KAIST. The multi-projection system was patented in Korea last September and has patent applications pending overseas.
The system uses six projectors per wall for a total of 13 projectors. According to the company, ScreenX is projector and server agnostic, though currently the digital cinema projectors are from Christie, the servers are from Hewlett-Packard.
CJ currently operates 75 ScreenX screens in 44 locations in South Korea, and one in Bangkok, but these are used primarily for advertising and have yet to support a feature-length film. Movie fans at the Busan International Film Festival saw the world premiere of the first film shot for the system, a thirty-minute spy thriller directed by cult Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon. In The X, Kim showcased myriad ways to take advantage of the expanded screen space, from a panoramic shot of a bullet-slinging chase to a technically simpler scene involving a phone conversation between killers.
With ScreenX a theatre’s sidewalls are painted with a shade of dark gray that the developers say is the optimal color for supplementary projection surfaces. Installing silver screens on the walls was ruled out early on, as reflections from them would interfere with the main screen, according to the producer. Refitting a conventional venue with the ScreenX system costs between $139,300 and $185,800.
The next steps are to attempt a full-length motion picture with the technology, while expanding the ScreenX-enabled cinema footprint further to its outlets in South Korea as well as China, Hong Kong and the U.S.