Given the state of the motion picture business today it hardly seems possible that in 2010 a significant number of movie theatres were still running film projectors and that many exhibitors were reluctant to make the transition to digital cinema technology. A lot has changed in the past ten years – digital cinema’s second decade – change that was driven almost entirely by new technology. While predicting what the next decade will bring is all but impossible, I feel safe in saying that moving forward the exhibition business will be increasingly interactive, immersive and local. I also feel safe in saying that eSports and content from companies such as Netflix will both play major roles in exhibition before the new decade comes to a close. And China’s role in all of this seems all but certain to get even more complicated. But let’s begin our look back at the past decade with Avatar, the movie that arguably jumpstarted everything.
The Big Picture
Following the successful debut earlier this year of the first event, Digital Cinema Report, in conjunction with Integrated Systems Europe is presenting the second Digital Cinema Summit February 12, 2020 at the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam the Netherlands.
Combining one of the oldest architectural designs in the Western world – the amphitheatre – with some of the most advanced motion picture exhibition technology available today may sound like a great idea for a new movie theatre. Applying that concept to an existing theatre, though, makes the challenge seem truly daunting. But that’s exactly what happened when B&B Theatres acquired an old movie house in Overland Park, Kansas and set about the work of making it their own. The result is the world’s second largest ScreenX auditorium and its first ScreenX Amphitheatre, complete with a unique approach to the DTS:X sound system.
The competition for entertainment dollars is a constant challenge, especially for emerging theatre chains. Finding locations with a high discretionary income and offering a unique experience enables them to compete against larger, more established chains. Flix Brewhouse, for one, is not shy about letting customers boast about the good times they have at their theatres. To achieve its social media goals and grow its customer rewards program, The Circle, the exhibitor turned to Social Flash Media.
The Star Cinema Grill in Richmond, Texas, a Houston suburb, made history in June when it installed the largest Samsung Onyx LED Cinema Screen in North America. Now that a few weeks have passed, I wanted to get a sense of how the screen was working, how moviegoers were responding to it and, also, to learn more about the challenges that went into installing such new technology. To do that I spoke with several of the key players involved in the selection, purchase, installation and operation of the Onyx screen.
As is widely known, Dolby Atmos immersive sound technology debuted in June 2012 with the release of Disney-Pixar’s hit film Brave. Two years later Dolby introduced its premium large format theatre concept Dolby Cinema, which incorporates Dolby Atmos sound with Dolby Vision high dynamic range images, luxury seating and other custom design features. This month, another Disney-Pixar movie, Toy Story 4, opened in Dolby Cinemas across the globe, one of several high profile films set for release this year. I recently spoke with Dolby’s Michael Archer, vice president, worldwide cinema sales, and Jed Harmsen, vice president, cinema and content solutions about the Dolby Atmos experience and where the technology goes from here.
Am I alone in thinking that filmmakers and exhibitors have embraced the digital cinema transition with more enthusiasm, creativity and intelligence than the Hollywood studios? Given that Hollywood started the drive to digital, that would be incredibly ironic. I ask this because, last week in Vanity Fair, Nicole Sperling wrote a fascinating article about the current debate apparently raging in Hollywood over the question: what is a movie? But the article raised a different question for me: in the second decade of the digital cinema era, what is a movie theatre?
In the global business of motion picture exhibition the importance of the Digital Cinema Initiative can’t be overstated. It’s entirely possible that the digital cinema transition would not have happened without DCI. What was true more than a decade ago is true today: technology that doesn’t get its seal of approval can’t be used to distribute or show a Hollywood movie. But times have changed and so have the demands of the marketplace. Fifteen years ago, it made perfect sense to have the DCI – a de facto arm of the major Hollywood studios – dictate what technology was favored over another because the studios were funding the transition. However, as the virtual print fee agreements fade into history, manufacturers and exhibitors are on their own financially. Which leaves us with this: everyone agrees that cinema standards are important. The question, in 2019 is, who gets to decide?
On Saturday night at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored PIX with a Technical Achievement Award. The award recognized Eric Dachs, founder and CEO; Erik Bielefeldt, director of research and development; Craig Wood, technical director; and Paul McReynolds for the design and development of the industry leading security mechanism for distributing media. Prior to the awards ceremony, Digital Cinema Report spoke exclusively with Bielefeldt and Wood to talk about the company’s continued innovation in the evolving world of content collaboration from film to digital to next-generation data rich requirements.
The final roster of speakers has been set for the first Digital Cinema Summit. These top digital cinema technology authorities from around the world will address a range of issues facing professionals in all phases of the motion picture industry. The half-day event takes place February 6 at the Okura Hotel in Amsterdam the Netherlands. Nick Dager, Editor & Publisher of Digital Cinema Report created the Summit in conjunction with Integrated Systems Europe. The theme is Transforming the Moviegoing Experience; its purpose is to give digital cinema technology center stage.