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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Digital Cinema Forum   » Landmark theaters to install Sony 4K digital projectors (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: Landmark theaters to install Sony 4K digital projectors
Aaron Haney
Master Film Handler

Posts: 265
From: Cupertino, CA, USA
Registered: Jan 2001


 - posted 03-15-2005 04:29 PM      Profile for Aaron Haney   Email Aaron Haney   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
From an article in today's New York Times (registration required, or there's always bugmenot.com):

quote:
Theater Chain Buying Sony's Digital Projectors

Landmark Theaters, the art-house chain controlled by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, will become the first chain to install a new generation of digital projectors developed by Sony, which show movies at twice the resolution of previous digital projectors.

Landmark will buy six of the Sony projectors when they become available in July, and over the next few years will install others in all 58 of its theaters, Mr. Cuban said.

Hollywood has been discussing the use of digital projectors, which show movies without using film, for the last several years, but fewer than 100 are currently used in theaters to show full-length features.

Substantial questions remain both about the projectors' technical merits and, more important, who would pay for them. The main advantage of digital projection is the potential to save movie studios the expense of copying movies on film, which can cost more than $1,000 a print.

Theater owners are waiting to see if the studios will find a way to subsidize the cost of the projectors, which can be $100,000 each when the costs of the other needed hardware and software are included.

Landmark, however, chose to pay for the projectors itself, largely because it is building a business model different from that of most theater chains.

Mr. Cuban and Mr. Wagner, who together created Broadcast.com, an Internet media site that they sold to Yahoo for about $6 billion in 2001, are building a series of companies related to independent film and high-definition television. In addition to Landmark, they control HDNet, a cable network devoted to high-definition programming, and several companies involved in producing and distributing films.

Mr. Cuban, who also owns the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, said that the projectors would give his theaters flexibility to show a broader variety of programming, including broadcasts of live events, like concerts and sports events. Moreover, digital projection ability will allow Landmark to show works by independent filmmakers who are starting to use the inexpensive high-definition cameras coming to the market.

Landmark chose the new Sony model because it can display images at a resolution of 4096 by 2160 pixels, known as 4K resolution, compared with the previous generation of projectors with half the number of horizontal pixels.

Mr. Cuban said it took a trained eye and a seat close to the screen to see the difference between the sorts of projectors, but he felt the new projectors were worth the investment.

Mr. Cuban said Landmark was paying more than $100,000 for each projector and related equipment, about double the cost of lower-resolution digital projectors.

Landmark's announcement raised some eyebrows among digital cinema experts, who noted that Sony's technology is under development and that the shipping of the projectors had been delayed several times.

"I'm happy that Landmark will buy 4K projectors," said Walt Ordway, the chief technical officer of Digital Cinema Initiatives, a consortium of major film studios that is defining standards for digital projection. "I'm surprised that the sales have started prior to demonstrations of a production unit."

John Scarcella, the president of Sony's broadcast and production systems group, said the company would demonstrate a nearly complete version of the projector at the ShoWest motion picture industry conference in Las Vegas this week. "We are making some last little tweaks," he said. "We will have the projectors in the market by July."

Major theater chains do not see any pressing need for such high-definition projectors. Regal CineMedia, the nation's largest theater chain, has installed digital projectors at about 5,300 of its 6,273 screens. But those projectors have substantially lower resolution, and are used by Regal only to show commercials and some special event programs.

"There is no financial incentive for us to do it," Kurt Hall, the chief executive of Regal, said. "We can't charge more for tickets and it won't increase our attendance."

Glad to hear it's 4K, although I don't know about the whole "concerts and sporting events" thing, which always seems to get mentioned along with digital cinema. That doesn't seem like such a great way to attract customers (a discussion we've had here before).

However, the mention of independent films is pretty interesting. Do they intend to bypass distributors, and allow indie producers to book their films directly? With HD cameras reaching consumer level pricing, this could get interesting.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 8056
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 03-15-2005 06:22 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't see how cheap HD cameras will change anything. Even with film, cameras and raw stock aren't what make filmmaking expensive. It's the writing, acting, set design/art direction, and production talent which cost big $$$ if one desires a quality product. By comparison to the other costs involved with filmmaking, film stock or HD camera rental are incidental. Digital acquisition and exhibition doesn't make much difference.

As for Landmark: I'll believe this when I see it. They've made noise about this before (big press release a couple of years ago about putting in low-def DLP projectors with Windows Media Player) and nothing came out of it. This is a company that won't spend money on anything, so I have a hard time believing that they would install $100k video projectors in any quantity. It's also interesting that the model that they're supposedly buying isn't a real production unit at this point, which seems pretty risky to me....

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Carl Martin
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Oakland, CA, USA
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 - posted 03-16-2005 03:34 AM      Profile for Carl Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Carl Martin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
i do wish more money and effort would go into the "fundamentals" of film presentation before stuff like this even got considered.

ah, what that $100k could buy...

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Aaron Haney
Master Film Handler

Posts: 265
From: Cupertino, CA, USA
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 - posted 03-16-2005 08:28 PM      Profile for Aaron Haney   Email Aaron Haney   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Norwood
I don't see how cheap HD cameras will change anything.
An all-electronic system from camera to editing to exhibition might not mean as much to medium and high budget productions, but very low budget stuff, especially documentaries, could benefit from it by more cheaply reaching a wider audience.

I do agree with your point about Landmark being more talk than walk. They have indeed said this sort of thing in the past. I, too will believe it when I see it.

The most significant thing about this article (to me, anyway) is that people are starting to talk seriously about standardizing on 4K. Just a few years ago, it seemed everyone had the idea that 2K was "good enough". This is a good sign.

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John Pytlak
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From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
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 - posted 03-16-2005 09:21 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Kodak was talking 4K as the desireable goal years ago:

Kodak Digital Cinema

quote:
Rodli says that Kodak is committed to a 4K system and will provide leadership as digital projection technology continues to evolve. He also stresses that film quality sets a moving target.

"We have made a quantum leap forward in emulsion technology with the new generation of KODAK VISION2 films," Rodli says. "When you couple that ongoing progress with gains being made in digital intermediate technology, the possibilities for creating more nuanced and visually compelling motion pictures are unlimited."

Rodli lauds the pioneering work done by the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) in collaboration with Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), representing the seven major studios. That collaborative effort resulted in the production of a short film designed for use as standard evaluation material for prototype digital projectors. Rodli notes that the original 35 mm negative was scanned at 6K resolution, and the ASC/DCI test material is available at both 2K and 4K resolution.


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David Stambaugh
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 - posted 03-16-2005 10:13 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Oh come on John, everything's KODAK KODAK KODAK with you. Geez, a person would think you work for Kodak or something!

[Big Grin]

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John Pytlak
Film God

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From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
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 - posted 03-16-2005 10:18 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Geez, a person would think you work for Kodak or something!
Let me check my paystub...

By gosh, I do work for Kodak! [Big Grin]

I enjoy what I do. [thumbsup]

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Dean Kollet
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Florida State University
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 - posted 03-16-2005 10:24 PM      Profile for Dean Kollet   Email Dean Kollet   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
what John isn't telling us is that he has a 6k in his office ready to be mass-produced [Big Grin]

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John Pytlak
Film God

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From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
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 - posted 03-18-2005 08:57 AM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Dean Kollet
What John isn't telling us is that he has a 6k in his office ready to be mass-produced. [Big Grin]

All I can say is that I don't have a 6K projector in my office. [Wink]

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 03-18-2005 09:57 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Norwood
As for Landmark: I'll believe this when I see it.
My sentiments as well.

I suppose the one that could make this happen is Mark Cuban's infatuation with digital video projection. It seems a little strange to me that Landmark would target the not quite ready for prime time Sony 4K unit when Cuban has said in previous interviews that existing video projection systems were better than film. Okay.

Even if/when Sony is able to bring their 4K unit to the marketplace there's still going to be the issue of content. It is not likely much of it will be of 4K variety. More likely, studios will keep churning out 2K stuff (particularly CGI work) at "good enough" levels. This is in spite of the fact computing technology, particularly in graphics acceleration areas, has 15 times the level of performance than it did 5 years ago. I guess we'll have to see what happens. If the Sony 4K units perform well and are installed in a respectable number of theaters, I'll judge the continued use of 2K as even more of a cost savings thing than I do now.

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David Stambaugh
Film God

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From: Eugene, Oregon
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 - posted 03-18-2005 10:44 AM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Was the Sony-AMC Theaters arrangment that placed SDDS in AMC's theaters some kind of a sweetheart deal for AMC? In other words, did AMC get some kind of big discount on SDDS systems, with Sony banking on the supposed publicity they would get out of it with a major exhibitor choosing SDDS?

I'm wondering if this is a similar arrangement between Sony and Landmark. Landmark goes on the record as choosing the Sony 4K system, gets the projectors at some below-market price, while Sony hopes to create some momentum and recoup in the long run by selling more projectors to other chains.

Just speculating. Sony was odd-man-out in the digital sound battle. Maybe they're hoping not to repeat that mistake. For all I know the Sony 4K system will turn out to be awesome. I'll believe it when I see it though...

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James R. Hammonds, Jr
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From: Houston, TX, USA
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 - posted 03-18-2005 11:47 AM      Profile for James R. Hammonds, Jr   Email James R. Hammonds, Jr   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
David, I do believe AMC did get a big discount on SDDS products when they made the agreement to install SDDS exclusively on all screens.
I was told that was the reason they went with SDDS rather than Dolby Digital.

I think Sony getting into digital cinema projection is great.
Now we will have picture dropouts to match the sound dropouts! [Big Grin]

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Paul Linfesty
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From: Bakersfield, CA, USA
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 - posted 03-18-2005 12:06 PM      Profile for Paul Linfesty   Email Paul Linfesty   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: James R. Hammonds, Jr
I was told that was the reason they went with SDDS rather than Dolby Digital.

I'm sure that's true. At the time of the deal, though, a PUBLIC explanation AMC made was that SDDS was obviously the best system because it was the MOST EXPENSIVE! (and this from a company that once tried to drive the industry towards 16mm prints for screens with less than 400 seats so that they could save shipping costs!)

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David Stambaugh
Film God

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From: Eugene, Oregon
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 - posted 03-18-2005 01:32 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It's all marketing strategy, PR, and spin control. AMC and Sony made what they thought was the right business decision at the time. That's what Landmark and Sony are doing now. The projector deal with Landmark gets Sony some press and mindshare among other exhibitors. But those same exhibitors aren't likely to forget SDDS.

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Paul Mayer
Oh get out of it Melvin, before it pulls you under!

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From: Albuquerque, NM
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 - posted 03-18-2005 02:32 PM      Profile for Paul Mayer   Author's Homepage   Email Paul Mayer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I didn't get to see any 4k demos at Showest this year. The projectors are one thing, serving and LAN distribution quite something else at these bit rates. I'd like to see how they're serving up these 4k image streams.

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