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Author Topic: Digital Cinema
Stephen Jones
Master Film Handler

Posts: 314
From: Geelong Victoria Australia
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-07-1999 11:58 PM      Profile for Stephen Jones   Email Stephen Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have some questions regarding digital cinema projection. I would like to know how long before it really takes off, will it be cost effective enough for cinemas to go full on to change over to digital, how long before the change over starts, will it replace film at all cinemas and I presume it will see the end of the projectionist? No doubt there are a lot of questions to be answered about digital cinema for eg. when new multiplex cinemas are built will digital be installed instead of 35mm projection equipment.
Another question i have is in regards to digital E.X can a C.P500 processor be upgraded to E,X rather than use a SA 10 decoder?

[This message has been edited by Stephen Jones (edited 06-08-99).]

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12859
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99


 - posted 06-08-1999 12:28 AM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I can't answer the Digital Cinema questions, but I can answer the EX ones.

If your CP500 has the Dolby Digital cards in place, then all you need to add for EX is the Dolby SA-10 or (much preferably) the DTS-ES unit. If the CP500 is analog only then you will need to hook a DTS unit up to it as a source or a DA20 Dolby Digital processor. Or you can wait for awhile until Dolby comes out with their EX UPGRADE CARD for the CP500. This is happening. In my opinion, EX really isn't all it's cracked up to be, simply because it is not discrete. There is absolutely no "wow" factor to the difference you will hear. It is nothing but a gimmick---a cool one that can be kinda neat, but not worth $2000 or more. People will buy it just they say they have it, and for no other reason.

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Mark Ogden
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 872
From: Little Falls, N.J.
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-08-1999 06:54 AM      Profile for Mark Ogden   Email Mark Ogden   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
As to the costs of digital cinema: the number that has been tossed around is $80,000 to $100,000 per screen for the projector alone, multiplied by the number of screens, of course. This does not figure in the cost of the video server to take in and play out your video. Figure that for a 14 screen complex with seperate 2 hour shows per screen, a few Saturday sneaks, a free kiddie matineee trade out and Rocky Horror, you will want a server with at least 50 hours of storage. In a RAID based system (which you will want for protection, as all the video is backed up) you are talking a unit with several hundred drives at least, and that kind of system in today's money is at least $300,00 to $400,000 dollars.
Now, check it out: you're talking about nearly two million per average 'plex to achieve what you already have. The mantra among the Digital Cinema people is "35mm quality". "We have near 35mm quality!" they say. But I already have 35mm quality! It's 35mm! Why should I lay out this kind of money to achieve what I already have? The answer is: I won't, and neither wil anyone else, I'm afraid, and I have a feeling that the studios won't be footing the bill either. They make a lot of noise about perfect projection forever, but as I have pointed out in another place in this group, there are just as many pontential drawbacks to digital video projection as there are with film.
Until a video standard is set up (and the Broadcast TV industry still does not have one HDTV standard after 15 years of trying), the method of film delivery is setteled, and it is decided who is going to pay for all of this, Digital is going nowhere.
Put it this way: I'm 43 years old, and I would be willing to wager there will be no widespread theatrical video projection before I retire (provided that I ever can. Make those FICA deductions with a smile, boys!)

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Ian Price
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1714
From: Denver, CO
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-08-1999 01:26 PM      Profile for Ian Price   Email Ian Price   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Oh, you just knew I would be chiming in on this subject, didn’t you?

Mark has some very good points. Who is going to pay for Digital Cinema?

Chuck Collins of Digital Projection stated that the person who would pay for the conversion to digital cinema is the person who stands to gain the most from the conversion.

Do the cinemas gain much from the conversion? No, I think not. They already have an installed base of 40,000 projectors in the U.S. Have any of you known a cinema chain to spend money willingly on equipment, when they don’t have to? How many of you have waited months for a new changeover or to repair a blown surround speaker? You have to badger the district manager in order to get some spicing tape. Why would the cinemas change over to digital cinema? Some of you might argue that it is to save the projectionist salary. I don’t know how much you guys are making but my salary never exceeded $18,000 in the Cinema industry. A multiplex cinema pays more than that for Xenon lamps every year. They will defiantly be paying more that that for replacement lamps for video projectors. I don’t think your salary is that important. After all the Plex might have 4 projectionists but 80 concession workers. Every video projector system I have ever seen for a large screen, the lamps cost $5,000.


It’s the distributors who gain the most from the conversion to digital cinema. Prints cost between $2,000 and $3,000 from what I have heard. A digital print would cost the distributor the same with satellite delivery no matter if they played it in one house or 5,000 houses. Star Wars P.M. is thought to be in 5,500 houses around the country. It cost the distributor $16,500,000 to create the prints. I remember that Technicolor print service cost $34 to deliver a print, that comes to $192,500 to deliver Star Wars. Actually that doesn’t seem to be too much. Somehow I don’t think film shipping is that much of a factor for the industry. The theatres pick up most of the cost of film shipping. Film shipping could cost a 16 plex as much as $14,500 per year. Again film shipping cost less than the cost of xenon lamps. So the big cost is printing the prints. I don’t know the numbers, but lets speculate. You would need to telecine the print. You already have to do that for video so that shouldn’t cost too much. You need to up-link the print to your cinemas. That could cost a lot. It’s not going to cost $16 million. You don’t mind spending 16 million dollars on Star Wars because you are confident on making your money back. What I think is that the creation of many prints hurts when a movie is in large release and doesn’t make much money. (Put your own examples in here)

Imagine that you are the distributor. You send out 7,000 prints of a movie via digital satellite distribution. You get the numbers back on Friday night and you don’t have a hit on your hands. You can now pull 3,000 prints off of the screens. You can now play your other movie that is doing better on those 3,000 screens. You can now control what plays where better. You could make instant decisions that increase seat counts on your hot films.

Now wait a minute! I run this theatre. I make the decisions on where to play the films. The Distributor doesn’t. Well this is the thinking. The distributor stands to make the most out of the conversion to electronic cinema. It only stands that the distributor needs to pay for the conversion to electronic cinema. If the distributor is paying for the conversion, the distributor will want something in return for his largess. What the distributor wants is more control over the cinemas. He will not be booking films he will be booking screens. When he books a series of screens he will want to control those screens. Soon you won’t have theatre managers; you will only have concession managers. The distributor will control everything.

Anyway that’s my Orwellian take on things. I don’t think the Cinema Chains will give up that much control. But you never know.

I watch the Digital Cinema thing with great interest because I am in the Audio Video industry. I think the video projectors are fascinating. I marvel at how good video is getting. But I am also a lover of film. I never watch movies on television. I do watch a lot of television just not movies on television. I wait until someone shows an old movie on film, then I watch it again.

Digital Cinema is not a plot to put projectionists out of work. The theatre chains accomplished that some time ago. Digital Cinema is a plot to wrest control of distribution from the theatres and give more control to the studios. Remember; the studios had control until the 1950s and the famous anti-trust suit.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7982
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-08-1999 02:39 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
All good comments. One important point, though--scanning a film at full (2-4k resolution) is not the same as telecine for broadcast. The resolution is far higher, and the equipment is far more expensive. Cost of scanning a feature is estimated at about $80k. This will be a real problem for low-budget, independent, and foreign films, which get very limited distribution in the US. To make, say, ten prints of a limited-release film would cost about $20,000. Everyone is saying how digital will help to improve distribution of independent and foreign films, but I just don't see how; in my example (which is not atypical), digital distribution ends up being _more_ expensive than 35mm. To say nothing of the low-budget films which get distributed on 16mm.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 7982
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 06-08-1999 02:48 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
One more thing--while shipping costs probably are insignificant for the major chain theatres, they can make or break independents. At the single-screen where I worked, we changed films weekly, usually with 2-3 titles opening each Friday. At $30 apiece, this isn't cheap, especially since Technicolor won't let you drive over to another theatre and pick up the print by hand. UPS from Kit Parker (ugh) or elsewhere isn't cheap, either. We did a festival of sixteen films over three weeks in January; the prints had to be shipped by air at a cost of $800 per week!

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