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Author Topic: Digital cinema may not be ready to roll
Darryl Spicer
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From: Lexington, KY, USA
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 - posted 03-14-2006 11:05 PM      Profile for Darryl Spicer     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Reuters Business Channel

Digital cinema may not be ready to roll
Fri Mar 10, 2006 3:20 PM ET

By Gina Keating -Analysis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After years of haggling, Hollywood's movie studios and theater owners agreed in 2005 to replace old film projectors with new digital systems, but some say the equipment is not ready for use.

The battle involves potentially billions of dollars, pits industry players against each other, and will be a major topic next week at ShoWest, a key industry event in Las Vegas where the studios, theater owners and equipment vendors gather.

New digital cinema projection systems are expected to bring clearer images and three-dimensional movies to audiences, as well as new revenue opportunities to theater owners who can use them to screen live sports, concerts and teleconferences.

Many in the movie industry hope digital cinema will help revive theater attendance, which fell 9 percent in 2005 in the United States.

The studios stand to save about $1 billion a year in print distribution costs because they will be shipping digital movies via computer hard drives, satellite and broadband cable, versus old celluloid canisters.

But digital deployment is expensive at about $100,000 per screen, and while the studios agreed to foot most of the bill, current equipment does not meet all the technology standards set by the industry.

"Digital cinema isn't ready for prime time," said Kurt Hall, president of National Cinemedia, a group of exhibitors led by the No. 1 U.S. chain, Regal Entertainment Group

(RGC.N: Quote, Profile, Research).

He said National Cinemedia would delay any full-scale adoption until at least 2007.

Exhibitors have been inching toward digital cinema since the late 1990s, but currently only about 300 of 36,000 U.S. movie screens have digital projection systems, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

READY? OR NOT?

French media company Thomson (TMS.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) and U.S.-based Access Integrated Technologies Inc (AIX.A: Quote, Profile, Research), or AccessIT, are leading backers, albeit with different approaches. Thomson believes in testing now and deploying later. AccessIT thinks the launch time is now, and systems can be upgraded easily later.

Through its Technicolor Digital Cinema business, Thomson signed Century Theatres Inc. to install 90 to 120 screens in the second quarter of 2006, but those systems are built by various manufacturers and will be tested throughout the year.

John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, said experimentation is needed to protect exhibitors. "We've had several years of prototype equipment," he said. "What we haven't had is fully integrated systems. That's what needs to be tested to make sure files can flow correctly and the pieces all work together."

Universal Studios, the nation's No. 3 movie distributor, also is in a wait-and-see mode before making its first digital movies widely available, said Michael Joe, head of its digital conversion. "We want to support the real roll-out of DCI cinema," Joe said. "There are certain aspects that are not DCI ready, but will be within a number of months."

DCI is the acronym for a working group, Digital Cinema Initiatives, that was formed by the studios to set digital technology standards. It completed its work last year, but early systems don't yet meet all the DCI recommendations.

ON WITH THE SHOW

Still, many companies like AccessIT say enough systems have been successfully deployed to prove the technology is ready, and the systems in use now can be upgraded in the future.

Julian Levin, president of digital cinema for News Corp's (NWS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Twentieth Century Fox studio, said the conversion has reached a stage where it should get rolling at a rate of 4,000 to 5,000 screens a year and finish in six to eight years.

"It's been many, many years to get to the top of the hill and now we're at the top," Levin said.

Texas Instruments Inc (TXN.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is set to announce next week that its computer chips have been deployed in 1,000 digital systems worldwide that are as reliable as film projectors.

"We have been in movie theaters ... since 1999 showing movies to paying audiences," said TI's Doug Darrow. "I think that's a fairly good track record of technology."

Dolby Laboratories (DLB.N: Quote, Profile, Research) has installed 150 systems, and while they do not use a DCI-approved decoding language now, they can be upgraded. Knowing that, the Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) put Dolby systems in 84 theaters last fall for a 3-D "Chicken Little," its first fully computer-animated film.

Moreover, Carmike Cinemas Inc. (CKEC.O: Quote, Profile, Research), the No. 3 U.S. theater chain, began installing digital systems on all its 2,300 screens after receiving assurances from Christie/AIX, a venture of AccessIT and projector maker Christie Systems, that non-compliant components will be upgraded.

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Mike Blakesley
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quote: Darryl Spicer
Many in the movie industry hope digital cinema will help revive theater attendance, which fell 9 percent in 2005 in the United States.
Man I wish they would stop with this crap. Most complainers get quite a ways down their long list of complaints about "the movie-going experience" before they get to image quality.

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Louis Bornwasser
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From: prospect ky usa
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 - posted 03-15-2006 05:56 AM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I have come to realize that the PUBLIC (the unwashed..etc.) literally don't care how or why the picture shows up. They only care that it does, reliably.

Therefore, film, digital, magic, etc. it doesn't matter to 93% of the people as long as it is "good enough."

Digital TV will absolutely not save this industry. It's problems as well known and made worse by intrusive screen advertising, surly staff, dirt, etc. Louis

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Hillary Charles
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From: York, PA, USA
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 - posted 03-15-2006 12:25 PM      Profile for Hillary Charles   Email Hillary Charles   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Darryl Spicer
Many in the movie industry hope digital cinema will help revive theater attendance, which fell 9 percent in 2005 in the United States.
I found this a stupid statement as well. Many people I know already believe that some form of "DVD" is being used in cinemas. And exactly how would that boost attendance? Because of the catchword "digital"?

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Martin McCaffery
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 - posted 03-15-2006 01:19 PM      Profile for Martin McCaffery   Author's Homepage   Email Martin McCaffery   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Darryl Spicer
as well as new revenue opportunities to theater owners who can use them to screen live sports, concerts and teleconferences.
Yeah, just like after WWII when all of the theatres installed projection TV and the american public flocked to the theatres just as predicted. Remember? Sure ya do;>

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Brad Allen
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From: Evansville, IN, USA
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 - posted 03-15-2006 01:38 PM      Profile for Brad Allen   Email Brad Allen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sir Connery wrapped up the reason for the decline quit nicely with this quote that was posted else where on this board.

"I get fed up dealing with idiots," said the Scottish thesp. "There is a widening gap between those who know about movies and those who green-light movies. Then the s--t hits the fan."

The current crop of Bollywood suits have no clue.
Digital won't accomplish anything but cause us more heartburn and save the movie corporations a billion dollars per year.

Yep, before DVD most customers thought we were using VCRs'.

Remember, Joe Six Pack is watching TV at home where everyone's faces are blazing green,and he/she is in perfect bliss with the picture quality.

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Robert John Jeromson
Master Film Handler

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From: Timaru, New Zealand
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 - posted 03-15-2006 02:35 PM      Profile for Robert John Jeromson   Author's Homepage   Email Robert John Jeromson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Hillary Charles
Many people I know already believe that some form of "DVD"
Even supposedly enlightend people such as doctors stand in awe when I tell them that we are still using film.

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Mike Blakesley
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I've got my own little "public education program" going on here in an effort to emphasize that we still use film.

- We have a lobby display with historical stuff in it that has some info on film, and a sample
- On our website we have a projection booth tour with photos
- I leave the booth door open if I'm in the booth working on film, so people coming to the balcony can stick their heads in and look
- Our film is all shipped in and out from my day job, so I make sure to leave the cans in visible locations with the film titles showing so people can see them (it's a small store and we're close by all the time, so the film is perfectly safe, distributors)

Even with that, we still get people who think we can rewind the show if they're late, or just play whatever movie we want, or express shock when they see me carrying the cans in or out.

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Jack Ondracek
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 - posted 03-15-2006 08:41 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
- I leave the booth door open if I'm in the booth working on film, so people coming to the balcony can stick their heads in and look

We're to the point where we can't really do that anymore. The booth tours, while popular and a lot of fun for me, stopped when some 6 year-old reached out and stopped the moving turntable... with predictable results.

I'm probably going to put cameras upstairs, so people can see parts of the booth from the snack bar.

Seems to me that the public's perception that we're running DVDs might have started in the schools. The kids don't see those projectors on carts anymore. Super 8 was replaced in the home long before that. Nobody sees film equipment work unless they go to a theatre that has big booth windows, or a drive-in with a ground-floor booth.

They're still fascinated by it, though!

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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 - posted 03-15-2006 10:23 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Darryl Spicer
Digital cinema may not be ready to roll
No Kiddin! Some of yous guys with alot of time on your hands SHOULD really put up web sites explaining why its not ready, what the problems are, and why its not as good as 35mm, that there will be just as many or more problems with it and so on and so forth instead of wasting time posting your complaints here. No one that matters is going to see your posts on this site. Create a very informative anfd factful website and e-mail its link to every person with an e-mail address in every distributers office in the country. Had I the time I would certainly be doing it but I don't. Its apparent that the news media is never going to report it for what it really is so its up to you [thumbsup] .

www.whydcinemasucks.com would be a good domain name [Big Grin]

Mark

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Robert John Jeromson
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quote:
They're still fascinated by it, though!
One of our Auckland complexes incorporates part of its projection room as the entrance to its circle lounge 1st class seating, it is an aesthetical beauty that has the (working) equipment on display and has projectionists (often) interacting with the public. The expensive ticket price keeps out most of those likely to interfere and for the rest it is a unique experience.

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Stephen Furley
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From: Coulsdon, Croydon, England
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 - posted 03-16-2006 02:24 AM      Profile for Stephen Furley   Email Stephen Furley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't know of any cinema still using them, and there are not many still in use elsewhere, but what really used to fascinate people were mercury arc rectifiers.

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Pete Naples
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There is at least one still in ue to my knowledge Stephen, Hewitic IIRC. Fascinating piece of kit, like something straight out of Dr Who!

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Frank Angel
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quote: Stephen Furley
I don't know of any cinema still using them, and there are not many still in use elsewhere, but what really used to fascinate people were mercury arc rectifiers.
Stephen, I think that is because they have such a sci-fi look to them, as do carbon arcs. I had a technician come it to help me install the reverse scan readers because I found I didn't have (or more likely couldn't find) some of my test loops. Now this guy is has been doing this for a living for decades and when everything was completed and tested and working fine, we wanted to run a reel of the sneak AMERICAN DREAMZ. I threaded up and was ready to go when he stopped me and said, oh, but do it with the lamphouse struck. But why? Because he LOVED to see those carbons and hear the smack-hiss when they strike. I obliged. There sure is something awe inspiring about being able to sense that real power by seeing the light (and in the case of the carbons, the sound -- very much like what Lucas used for the light-sabers). Mercury bulbs have that sci-fi-ish look.

BTW, if Hollywood thinks that using digital video instead of film projection to show dog diarrea the likes of AMERICAN DREAMZ and somehow THAT is going to lure people back into the theatres to pay $10.50 a ticket, well, then I REALLY have to ask, can these people actually be THAT dillusional? Or do they know deep down that it is all a scam just so that they can save their billion a year in print costs at the expense of the exhibitors, who seem to be walking around hypnotized.

So perhaps it's not the studios execs who are the half-wits, but the exhibitors. Can't they see that this huge investment in digital will add exponentially to their maintenance and operational costs and debt service while gaining them NOTHING...not an IOTA of saleability to the public who will keep staying away from the same reasons they stay away now, and it's NOT image jitter!!

Can't they see that the studios will not only keep churning out incredibly horrid films like AMERICAN DREAMZ, but at the same time will be SHOOTING THE EXHIBITOR IN THE BALLS by moving closer and closer to what they REALLY salivate over -- DAY AND DATE with DVD. How can exhibition think the studios are anyone to "partner" with when they openly announce that what use to be their "ancillary" markets (video, cable, PPV) are now their PRIMARY source of profit, with theatres increasingly becoming an annoying cold-sore pucker of their assholes? Exhibition seems to be following this digital Pied Piper right over the cliff to mediocrity.

Where are those exhibitors who went screaming and kicking for a decade before finally breaking down and installing Dolby STEREO? (There is a multiplex in Brooklyn that STILL has some of its screens playing MONO while other were upgraded to front/read "stereo"). Where are the exhibitors we all knew and loved who won't buy new bulbs until you could barely see the image? Now exhibitors seem to think nothing of jumbing on this $120,000 per screen bandwaggon with the hopes of NOTHING in return. I don't get it; have they all been lobotomized? Has distribution put something in the drinks at ShowWest? Or is there even something more cynical going on here....some conspiracy that will allow Hollywood to take over every cinema screen and video outlet in the world? Something under the surface here doesn't meet the eye. I have a sickening feeling we will find out what it is when it is too late and down will come The Bijoux marquee and up will go the corporate logo of TIME-WARNER-REGAL-COMCAST-NEWS COMPANY-SONY THEATRES-FOX-TECHNICOLOR all merged into one global conglomerate. And we....we will be doomed to mediocrity.

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Stephen Furley
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quote:
There is at least one still in ue to my knowledge Stephen, Hewitic IIRC. Fascinating piece of kit, like something straight out of Dr Who!

I don't know for certain, but I would guess that Hewitic rectifiers are related to Peter Cooper-Hewitt, who designed the first practical mercury vapour lamp. Info here: It was a weird thing, with a large bulb of mercury at one end. To start it you tilted the lamp so that the mercury ran along the tube until it touched the other electrode, then let it run back, which struck the arc.

The Post Office underground railway used to have mercury rectifiers, but they were replaced several years before it closed. The Isle of Man electric railway also had them, but they were gradually being replaced several years ago, I don't know if there are any left. Most of the main-line railway ones were steel tanks, big 12 anode things, I've seen one which, in its tank was about 2 metres high, and about 2.5 metres in diameter. There were some substations on the London Underground which used very large glass bulbs; when I was young I used to like to look through the keyhole of one, to see the strange blue glow which filled the whole building; now long gone. Going back to even older technology, the New York Subway only shut down its last 25Hz. rotary converters in 1999. A few 60Hz. automatic ones on the IND division lasted slightly longer.

The last few mercury rectifiers I have seen were in lift machine rooms. We had our last D.C. lift replaced at the College where I work last year, but that was motor-generator powered. There's a picture of one powering a lift at Belsize Park deep-level shelter a few years ago on this web page Again, I don't know if it's still there.

Is the one you know of in a cinema; I didn't know there were any left? I've also seen them used for charging very large batteries, and in a plating works.

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