Digital cinema widebreak

posted by LorenzoRodriguez on August 22, 2007 at 7:40 am

The looming takeover by digital cinema projection recently took another leap toward fruition. The Arts Alliance Media, a United Kingdom based provider of digital cinema technology, announced a deal involving aggressive mutual interest cooperation with Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.

The three companies will combine forces to facilitate digitizing nearly 7000 european cinemas in only a few years. The countries involved include: Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. For additional information checkoutArts Alliance Media.

Comments (26)

TheaterBuff1 on August 23, 2007 at 12:05 am

At this late stage digital cinema is the only smart direction to go in in my opinion, as a wise business strategy if nothing else. In today’s world a theater’s survivability relies on a high degree of flexibility, and certainly digital cinema technology opens the door to that.

Meantime, I have little doubt that fellow Cinema Treasures member Ken Layton will be commenting at this page soon, while Ken, if you do comment here, I want you to know that I have the deepest admiration for your love of traditional film and conventional film projection. So much so that I think that anybody who gets to see a movie exhibited in a theater where you’re the projectionist can regard themselves as experiencing a very special honor. But the unique gift you possess is far from being a common one, and this is true moreso today than ever before because of the way that times have changed. I wish it weren’t so.

But in terms of the digital cinema technology that’s now about to oversweep Europe in a big way I see it only to be a good thing with regards to theaters repositioning to meet future demands. If not for the so many uncertainties, traditional film and conventional film projection could readily hang in there a bit longer. But there are many big waves ahead, and maximum flexibility is a must accordingly. And that is where digital cinema in my opinion has suddenly come of age.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on August 23, 2007 at 1:20 am

When thr price goes to $50,000 each thats when i put them in …….my guess 2 years

Craigadams11 on August 23, 2007 at 5:23 am

When 35mm becomes obsolete I wonder how many houses will be forced to close??

ceasar on August 23, 2007 at 7:03 am

I’ve been hearing alot about this new cinema. A friend of mind told me about the one he went too in Birmigham,Ala. Terrific sound and picture he told me about.

Michael Furlinger
Michael Furlinger on August 23, 2007 at 9:06 am

The labor costs saved will help pay the equipment……….

TheaterBuff1 on August 24, 2007 at 12:05 am

That’s a very odd way of looking at it, Craig Adams 11. For I view the advent of digital cinema as a means by which theaters on their last leg can come roaring back again. For suddenly they’ll have tremendous all new flexibility. And in looking back, how many silent movie houses were forced to close down when talkies came along, when widescreen came into being, and so on? Meantime, what movie theater of today is designed in such way that it cannot switch over to accommodating all new digital cinema projectors?

beaumon on August 27, 2007 at 4:29 am

I was against digital projection when I first heard about it, but seeing is believing. The last theatre I worked at (a small, cheaply built and very tired 10-plex) had teenagers that were print destroying fools. It was a 2nd job for me and since they wouldn’t pay me squat I was only there a few days a week. A print I would carefully build up and screen on a Thursday would be trashed by Sunday night. Then came the full digital conversion and now it’s a decent place to see a “film.” Cheap admission prices, good popcorn and the projection is always perfect. Seems to have increased business too, the parking lot is almost always full when I drive by now.

TheaterBuff1 on August 27, 2007 at 10:50 pm

That’s a great story, beaumon, and matches up so well with what I’ve been trying to open so many’s eyes to all along.

And one prediction I’m starting to make, speaking to Craig Adams 11’s concerns, as digital cinema takes hold more, it might spell the beginning of the end for the multiplex, while at the same time enabling single screen theaters of yore to come roaring back beyond their wildest dreams.

For think about it: The multiplex was introduced to allow movie theaters to have a great deal more versatility. With reliance on conventional means of film distribution, but audiences not always crazy about the one film a single screen theater was limited in showing and which it could get stuck with for weeks, multiplexes were introduced to enable audiences to have a variety of films to choose from during any given time rather than one. Thus if one film was a flop, other films shown at the multiplex would offset this loss. Hence, when people had to choose between the single-screen theater that might or might not have been exhibiting a film they wished to see, and the multiplex far more likely to, the old single-screen theaters just couldn’t compete with that.

But digital cinema can now change that equation. For single-screen theaters that have switched over to it, they suddenly have the power to get it right and to exhibit on a dime’s notice what movie-goers most want to see. For don’t forget, both by having a website and a special phone number, people can let that single-screen theater know what movie they most want to see, and the single-screen theater can accommodate them on a dime’s notice thanks to what digital cinema technology is capable of. And if the single screen theater is outfitted with an L.E.D. marquee and L.E.D. movie poster display cases, what these two things display can be changed with the snap of the fingers also. No longer does somebody have to get out there with a ladder and manually change what the marquee reads and manually open up the movie poster display cases and remove the old ones to put in the new ones.

Of course, the multiplexes will have access to this capability as well, and some now do. But it becomes a matter of so what, when single screen theaters suddenly have the same. And aside from political obstructions, there’s no reason why a single-screen theater can’t. And I think most people prefer, and not just for nostalgia-sake, the single-screen theater experience — IF it shows the movie they want to see. For a single-screen theater can pour all its resources into that one and only auditorium it has. A multiplex on the other hand has to distribute its resources over all its auditoriums so that each individual one suffers a bit. Which may have worked out when it didn’t have to compete with the single-screen theater. In lieu of its auditoriums not being as exquisite as the old single-screen theaters were, it made up for this by being able to show audiences what they wanted to see.

But digital cinema technology suddenly gives the single-screen theater that capability it never had before. Plus the advantages of being able to pour ALL its resources into that one auditorium it has.

ceasar on August 28, 2007 at 6:15 am

Since Vicksburg has lots its old cinema,one my friend expressed the fact that he would love to see a digital cinema open here. Becouse he went to the one in Birmigham and he told how fantastic the sound quality is. I believe a digital cinema would be welcomed here. All it has to take is the right cinema operator. Like the old cinema which the operators never upgraded. This included no new projectors I mean the movie projectors broke; I doubt something like this would happen with the new technologies.
Your prediction is right on the money in my opioin.

TheaterBuff1 on August 28, 2007 at 9:04 pm

Though I’ve not heard of any specific cases just yet, the prediction I made has probably come true somewhere already, and is perhaps one of those things getting played down or overlooked in the media because of the politics of it. Which so often is the case when new things come along. And alas, once again America is letting Europe take the lead in this, even though the new technology originated HERE. But at least I’m glad to see that is taking hold in a big way somewhere, while I keep asking, “Man, why can’t it be us doing that this time around, why can’t it be us?!”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 30, 2007 at 7:22 pm

What a bunch of BS.

Digital is watered down cinema and the quality STILL sucks!

No one , I repeat NO ONE has has bought into the latest Arts Alliance sales pitch.

TheaterBuff1 on August 30, 2007 at 11:24 pm

AlAlvarez, everyone who has seen digital cinema so far has sung nothing but the highest praises of it. So if you and others who see things as you do want to expend precious time and effort denying that, be my guest. But the rest of the world, including me, is going to go forward with this new technology with or without you.

And seriously, don’t you think that’s long overdue? I just wish that the U.S. could be at the forefront of this. But on that front you have plenty of company right now. Which is why Europe is getting to take the lead in this. But it could be us if folks like you would dare to cross over to the good guy side. But oh, God forbid you should consider doing that.

LorenzoRodriguez on September 3, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007
Ziegfeld in Manhattan (1100+ seats)
Digital Cinema Simulcast
New York Mets vs. Philadelphia Phillies

I know a genius of 35mm projection and installation named Roger. Likely, almost every experienced projectionist and manager in NYC has crossed paths with him one time or another. I leave off his surname to insulate him from silly persons.

Three or four years ago I suggested it would be a long time before digital could match the resolution of 35mm. At the time, Roger told me only recently he had seen a split screen at a convention, digital on one side…35mm on the other. He said one was indistinguishable from the other. He also said the attendees were allowed to inspect the side by side projectors.

Last night I called Roger to ask him a technical question regarding an installation. We got into a protracted discussion regarding Digital Cinema Projection. He made some important notations. The technology is changing at a breathless pace. The parts are sensitive and expensive. The movie business has always been volatile. These are views many of us share, but there is one overarching assertion every true cinephile must accept. Roger, a life long 35mm expert/devotee, says digital’s resolution is now obviously better.

TheaterBuff1 on September 3, 2007 at 11:52 pm

It was always just a matter of time that digital cinema would match and then surpass film, not to mention its ease of use projection-wise. But what surface hasn’t really even been scratched yet is digital cinema’s potential of become a powerful new medium, something which isn’t dreamed of right now. But as it was with breakthrough technologies of the past, as new mediums go it comes just at a time when the world needs to change but is stubbornly refusing to. And how this will unfurl nobody knows as of yet. Right now it’s in a phase similar to when the first electric guitar came along, as a type of substitute for what came before, but never sounding quite right when merely treated as that. But a time is going to come when digital cinema is going to shed the mask of traditional expectation and dazzle viewers with things they never dreamed possible, that will make the most advanced movie theaters of today look like horse-and-buggies, leaving them all in a trail of dust. A time will come when digital cinema theaters will say to traditional ones as the two types battle it out, “Yes, but can you do this?” And it will be the huuuuuuge WOW!

ceasar on September 4, 2007 at 6:34 am

U hit right on the button. U see that’s Vicksburg real weaknesses. They can’t adjust to change like those of us can. The leaders here are now paying the price for shortsightfulness. Becouse now at the sametime there has been a population loss according to US Census. Warren County is now ranked 14th and it hasn’t broken out that mode. In 2000 the county had 49,581 now six years later there has been a drop by -271 which has the population at 49,308. Now the city planner stated that population has grown. Now Vicksburg own city population hasn’t grown either. It has remained at 25,000. I believe Corporate cinema chains pay attantion to this.
Personally I wouldn’t mind a digital cinema here at all. Now the dumb city planner when he got the local am talk show he was bragging that the retail corporations got it all wrong. I believe they got it right becouse they look at this stuff.

TheaterBuff1 on September 5, 2007 at 12:46 am

The way you describe Vickburg can easily be interchangeable with other parts of the U.S. right now. Where I’m currently living, Philadelphia, PA, once had been a major population center but not long ago fell behind Phoenix, AZ population-wise, while it’s a no brainer why. It started when the seashore resorts of neighboring New Jersey all went downhill thanks to when casinos came to Atlantic City. And now with two big casinos about to come to Philadelphia soon also, I expect a lot more people to be upping and moving out. And our theaters here in Philadelphia now are a mess, believe me! To date, we do not have one digital cinema theater here anywhere in the entire city, while in this case it’s purely politics. The reasoning is, why bring digital cinema to Philadelphia at this late stage when every last remaining movie theater is earmarked for demolition or about to be transformed into something else? For in case you don’t know, there are no movie theaters left in Atlantic City whatsoever, though just prior to when the casinos came to there they had several movie palaces still in operation. But check out Cinema Treasures' various pages on Atlantic City movie palaces of yore and note the dates they shut down. Next, look at the date of when casinos overswept that city — starting in 1978. How the dates correspond is no pure coincidence.

But in terms of the scenario you describe in and around Vicksburg, I thought what you described was just a Northern problem. But where you are in the South is getting hit with it, too. And bad reports are coming out of the Chicago suburbs and so on. Meaning, not the best place to try to introduce digital cinema just yet. But it will come. America’s just got to let this plague run its course first.

rcdt55b on November 18, 2007 at 7:50 pm

I’m sorry but digital cinema has not surpassed film in quality and whoever thinks it has is crazy. I too know Roger. I had worked for him for years. I am still installing equipment, all 35MM. For the last 10 years I have been hearing over and over that digital is just around the corner. Today, I am hearing the same thing. Eventually it will happen, for no other reason than it will save money. It will never be as good as film. I laugh when I go into theaters in NYC and see the digital projector pushed into the corner because they dont use it. It’s too expensive and there are still and always will be too many problems with it. Thats just a fact. If not, why isnt it widespread here. Film will always be number one to me and a lot of people. It will be a sad day when its gone.

TheaterBuff1 on November 19, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Spoken like a true Luddite. And it just shows that if enough small-brains and naysayers gang up they can pretty much put a stop to anything excitingly fresh and new. Call it a real triumph of the will kind of thing.

rcdt55b on November 20, 2007 at 4:02 am

Right, thats why in the 20 years that I have been in this business, I have heard the same thing about how “just a few years down the road…..”. What a joke. Just because its “fresh and new” doesnt mean its better. It will NEVER be as good as film. Like I said, it WILL happen, but not because it is a better product.

TheaterBuff1 on November 21, 2007 at 12:34 am

I don’t know about you — er, I think I can guess — but I liked the U.S. a lot better when it was the world leader in innovation. For what can film possibly offer that digital cinema can not only replicate but go light years beyond? I suppose you know, for instance, that all films these days are transferred to digital for editing purposes before being transferred back to film again just prior to release. Or, shhhhhh, aren’t you supposed to know that? Film was great back in the days when it was the best thing around. But now this is so sad that Europe is running circles all around us with moving ahead with what has got to be gotten on with. Hey, no wonder the dollar is so weak now and the Euro so strong!

rcdt55b on November 22, 2007 at 8:30 am

Maybe you should check out a side to side comparison between film and video….sorry…I mean digital. If you are telling me that the digital looks better, then you are a moron. Of course there are many advantages to digital over film but as far as the look is concerned, most people choose film. As far as the economy goes, blame our awesome government. BTW, where is all the digital projection that you are talking about. Sorry, I can’t really talk now anyway. I need to finish this install that I am working on now. All 35MM, no video. Seems like people are still installing 35MM. Nobody seems interested in anything else. I wonder why?

TheaterBuff1 on November 22, 2007 at 11:39 pm

Yes, I wonder why, too. But I don’t believe the resistance is along the lines of what you suggest, but is far more based on Luddite principles, or emotions, or whatever you can call it.

For my reasoning is, if you feel that digital cinema has not yet reached the level that film has — soul-wise or what have — it greatly has to do with the soul of the movie-makers not the medium.

In my own case, having worked both with analog (film/video) and digital, I have found nothing as of yet with regards to digital that has blocked me from pouring my soul into my work and having that soul be fully manifest in the end product. As mediums go I find it tremendously beautiful, very liberating from my own perspective. When putting your soul across through digital, it DOES take work. But I’m not afraid to do that work. And when I do put in that work, digital does not fight me in any way. Film and video, on the other hand, did. You cannot rework film, you cannot rework video, the way you can digital. When I look at the things I liked about film — while let me just say I was never crazy about video — I find there’s not a single aspect of what I liked about film that I cannot replicate and then some with digital. If I want to age the imagery, digital lets me do it. If I want to “humanize” it with film-like defects, digital lets me do it.

I mean, it’s no wonder from my own perspective why all major films being produced today are being temporarily transformed to digital for editing purposes before then being transferred back to film again.

And when it comes to motion picture exhibition, I can’t even begin to imagine why any projectionist would prefer working with film over digital. For the limitations of film exhibition are tremendous. And the work involved with working within those limitations is tremendous. I very much admire that skill, and I said as much at the start of this page. But geeze, when you look at all the liberation that digital cinema offers if we can just get it past the human resistance level it’s now getting in the U.S. in comparison to running film, it’s like how is this great point being missed? But it’s like, to American projectionists: Suit yourselves. For everything I’ve experienced with digital cinema personally so far has been tremendous! All good, nothing bad. But stubborn others not to embrace it the same way. You explain that to me. For I sure can’t.

Boczki on May 28, 2008 at 11:22 pm

I know this is an old thread but I would still like to put in my two cents. There are many points that were brought up here that need a response. First, there were theatres that never saw sound and simply closed because they couldn’t compete with talkies. Now, I don’t believe that D cinema would cause a similar demise of venues for the same reasons. Just like in the past we fail to see the real force behind what makes things happen. When RCA and Western Electric started making sound heads they didn’t sell them to theatres rather they leased them and if the theatre stopped paying they would come out and pull their photocell in those days. Small theatres could retrofit to sound it those days just like they can to D cinema now. Indeed, TheaterBuff1 if we were all Tesla-esque visionaries who didn’t care about profit things would be different. We have to look at the motivations of those with lots of power. There is a reason Simplex – IPC offset the setscrew holes on their sprockets; it was so the projectionists couldn’t flip them if the teeth got cut over time. Instead of flipping the old sprockets they were forced to buy new ones. Ask yourself why studios want to promote and finance something that cost ten times as much as an existing technology. Now I worked in Hollywood as an IATSE technician and I got a good feel for how things work and how long memories are. I have some old union projectionist friends and they remember when a projectionist could stop running a movie if it didn’t have an IATSE seal in the credits. I currently install D cinema and until recently film. The studios are going to be in full control of all programming with D cinema. So much for all those possibilities you were referring to. As for multiplexes being on the way out, it may happen because studios will get to choose what auditorium a movie plays in and lock out larger auditoriums. The problem is TheaterBuff1 you are not the one calling the shots. Industry runs on profits and profits are calculated by people who are obsessed with control. Accountants are not dreamers.
Next, I heard mention of film being transferred to digital intermediate before the release prints hit the theatres. This is very true. It is hard to make comparisons between film and digital and I advise against it since they are distinctly different visual techniques. With that said, 35mm camera negative is roughly equivalent to a 7k digital image. By the time we get an interpositive and eventually a release print that 7k image gets cut down to a 5k or 6k image but that’s only if it is printed at a place like fotokem. If it gets printed at Technicolor or Deluxe you can kiss that 5k goodbye with their high-speed printers. Most release prints are printed at Technicolor or Deluxe so we can predict a 3k release print image. Now we take that 7k image and transfer it to a 2k digital intermediate for editing convenience right off the bat. That 2k image will lose a lot of grain going through those high-speed printers. Before we get to the side-by-side there is one more technical wrinkle. D cinema projectors have a native chip resolution of 1.90:1, which is close to flat 1.85:1. A flat movie is using nearly the full 2k capability of the D cinema projector whereas a flat image on a 35mm print is using exactly half the film grain available on the frame so a flat film image is now at 1k but more likely 700 or 800. So the question is, do they use a flat or scope movie for the side-by-side? Scope would cut native resolution on the TI chip by about half while film would benefit. If it were me running the test I would maximize my products resolution and I’m guessing the side by side was not conducted by a film advocate. Don’t be too quick to dismiss the quality or versatility of film and don’t be too quick to sing the praises of D cinema because both are technologies that are very capable and awe inspiring but both have limitations in how they will inevitably be implemented.

TheaterBuff1 on May 29, 2008 at 12:22 am

Simple logic tells us that motion pictures shot on film and then transferred to digital for editing, when transferred back to film following this editing process cannot be superior to digital. Your argument, however, seems to be — and please correct me if I’m misunderstanding you — that film PROJECTION is still much further along than digital projection is. And if that’s what you’re saying, it is a valid point to consider. For a theater does have to think what makes for a better projected image.

Most theatergoers when they go to a theater to see a movie, they are not looking to be part of an experiment. And at the same time, from the theater operator’s perspective, if the experiment fails, not only could it result in customers demanding their money back, but could cost that theater’s good reputation. And that’s a big risk to expect any theater operator to take.

I’m currently involved in launching a project that hopefully will include its own in-house movie theater. What it is is a seaside hotel operation where every aspect is experimental and that is specifically geared to guests who are either creatively-minded in their own right, or that would like to partake in the influencing of new products (as well as new services) prior to their being mass-marketed. If while staying at this seaside operation they don’t like what they experience, they understand that that’s all part of the creative process taking place.

Needless to say, the average everyday consumer is simply not cut out for this. They want everything to be just right, and if it isn’t they want their money back. Such consumers are looking for the finished product. And that’s understandable. But what I’m looking to market to is a specialized clientele, as I say, those who are either creative-minded in their own right, or who would like to partake in the creativity process of others. And with such an operation, if it is also to get a movie theater, and that I am very much pushing for, I will indeed be calling much of the shots. And so, too, will be the guests, as I say, to be a specialized clientele.

For right now I don’t understand how companies trying to launch new technologies are able to make much progress without the existence of operations such as I’m proposing. In our case, when somebody has a new product that they can’t get a conventional consumer business to take an interest in — too risky — bring it to us, as it’s just what we’re here for, the riskier the better. Your thoughts on this?

Boczki on May 29, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Now you’re talking! The world needs more people like you TheaterBuff1. If you see something you don’t like you change it. Too many people sit by and complain but do nothing. I feel you will do well.

TheaterBuff1 on May 30, 2008 at 12:31 am

Thanks, Boczki! But in speaking up on behalf of those who sit by and complain but do nothing, you have to see the bigger context that they’re trapped inside. Case in point, for this project I’m in the process of launching now, years ago I was in training as a manager of one of New Jersey’s biggest seaside hotel/motel chains, a long ago skill I acquired which is certainly lending to what I need to know on the road ahead. Back when I was in the process of that training, with all the confusion that the casinoization of Atlantic City brought to the New Jersey hotel industry in general, suddenly forcing it to be very very corrupt, it got so bad that I finally upped walked out in total disgust, and I went onto other things, with the hotel management skills I acquired during that period pretty much lying in a state of dormancy all the years since. To be sure, I complained about what forced me to go in search of other fields, but when in that context — New Jersey’s over all corruption in general — there really wasn’t anything else you could do. In looking back in the course of my complaining I can’t say that I was wrong. For to be sure, when people are getting ripped off left and right, vast fortunes made by a select few as a result of this, there’s no way that can be said to be “right and proper.” And last night just out of curiosity, now that there’s, I checked out the latest reviews of the Jersey hotels I once worked as a manager at, and sure enough, they’re still ripping people off left and right, nothing’s changed. And it’s so bad that not even exposé websites like that can change this for the better. Rather, the corrupt managers of there today have the smug attitude of, “Yep, that’s us!” because they know it can’t be changed for the better, at least for the better regarding those complaining, not even with things like that. But as I read over all the complaining reviews my outlook wasn’t one of, you people complaining are all wrong. Not in the least. For the only thing that’s wrong is their expecting their complaining to get anywhere with those types of people they’re complaining against. At the same time, if they don’t have alternatives they can look to, how can we blame them? How? For seriously, who wouldn’t complain under those conditions, even though it’s futile to do so? When the Titanic was going down and the passengers still aboard were screaming, as we observed this from afar was our reaction one of, “What are they, crazy?! That screaming’s not going to save them now. What total fools they are to scream”? No. for who wouldn’t have screamed when in that position, even though it was futile? And notice what I’m doing: I’m not changing the Jersey Shore hotel scene the way it is now, as much as I dislike it. If I could, boy, I would do it in a heartbeat. But what I am doing is looking at the good hotel managerial training I once acquired from there and thinking, you know, this skill I once derived from there can still be put into good practice somewhere, though I’m wise enough to know not there. Unless it changes. It’s simply a process of recycling old skills for new usage, where it can be done. There’s a difference between that and changing what you don’t like and that cannot be changed.

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