WOMEN IN DIGITAL CINEMA
Gemma Richardson
Sales and Marketing Director
Arts Alliance Media

I have worked at Arts Alliance Media (AAM) for just over 2 years now. It is remarkable how much has been achieved in that time, compared with my past experience with a similar kind of analog-to-digital conversion challenge - the theatrical digital sound format war back in the 90's. I spent six years battling away on the launch and worldwide rollout of Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS). Working in a large corporation is a great character-building experience! I remember the layers upon layers of management across continents, resulting in stifling bureaucracy and internal politics that often suffocated the innovative spirit and sheer determination needed to take on a technology revolution.

AAM is the antithesis of that world. It is a privately-held company, founded by an innovative entrepreneur in 2003 to build a pan-European digital entertainment network. Equalitarian in structure, AAM is run by empowered employees throughout the company. There is a great energy in everything we do. The idealist in me thinks that perhaps this is what Sony was like in its formative years during the aftermath of World War II, under its founding visionaries Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita.

There is nothing like seeing a great film on the big screen, with fantastic picture and sound and being totally immersed in the experience. This is the best and ultimate way to see movies. AAM is committed to working with exhibition and distribution to reinvent cinemas into high-end digital entertainment centres. Cinemas need smart, fast-moving and reliable technology and content partners, like AAM. Cinemas are competing not only with sophisticated, affordable and convenient home viewing options but also with increasingly popular mobile platforms. Unique cinemagoing experiences like 3D movies and alternative content on the big screen are pulling in cinema audiences and often with higher ticket prices. 3D is even a defence against piracy. Now, more than ever, upgrading to digital cinema is a must. AAM is the only company in Europe with a viable and transparent business model for widespread digital cinema rollout. To date, five major studios - Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures International, Paramount Pictures International, Sony Pictures Releasing International and Walt Disney Studios International, have signed long term agreements with us to support our DCI compliant digital cinema deployment with a guaranteed supply of digital films and with financial contributions (Virtual Print Fees) for up to 7,000 screens across Europe. CGR Cinemas in France were the first European exhibitor to jump on board last December and we are currently converting 100% of their 400 screens. Negotiations are ongoing with other exhibitors and distributors and further announcements will be made shortly.

Recently, we have been focusing on developing our alternative content business. We are sourcing, content managing and distributing concert events, music-related documentary films and opera. So far, the biggest challenge seems to be how to reach audiences and to convince them to go to the cinema to watch this type of entertainment. Undoubtedly, opera is a big hit and is even bringing people back to the cinema that havenít been for years. We are distributing a La Scala opera series in the UK and Norway until the end of June 2008, after which we will be working with the world-renowned Royal Opera House and Digiscreen Corporation to bring the incredible performances from the Royal Ballet and the Royal Opera to cinemas across Europe. AAM will be responsible for cinema exhibitor booking negotiation, digital print services and security, live event project management, as well as comprehensive marketing and public relations support. There is much to look forward to and I am very excited to be a part of it.

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