a democratic choice?
Interview with Kees Ryninks, Managing Director
of CinemaNet Europe
In issue no. 2/2005
of our Newsletter and in the “Course Report” of “DigiTraining
Plus” 2004, we discussed the transition from DocuZone to CinemaNet
Europe and the objectives of this circuit. One year on, how has CinemaNet
After its opening weekend in November
2004, in which eight documentaries from the participating countries were
shown, CinemaNet Europe evolved in 2005 more or less as planned. The roll-out
to the cinemas in the countries has been completed and since January CNE
has jointly released 10 documentaries which were in general well received
by the press and audience alike. Equally all countries digitally released
local features and documentaries. More than 100 titles were shown across
the whole network totalling more than 15,000 digital screenings.
What are the most significant steps
and the most interesting projects?
With the advantages of digital distribution becoming more familiar
to European makers and thus the prospect of more titles being offered,
CNE is now looking into the release of alternative content. In August
Germany premiered on 4 consecutive Sundays the full 18 hours of Wagner’s
‘Das Ring des Nibelungen’ with many theatres being fully booked,
often in advance. This local success encouraged some partners of CNE to
celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday by releasing several
of his well-known operas this January. Again many cinemas were sold out.
More importantly these were new audiences for the cinemas, strengthening
our idea that with alternative content the cinemas can look forward to
increasing their audience base. On a technical level CNE continues to
develop. Our 1.4K DLP Panasonic projectors are proving very popular with
the audience for their film-like look and with the cinema operators for
their reliability. Working on High Definition, and therefore having to
upscale most of our products, CNE has managed to keep the technical quality
of their masters close to 2K. This all confirms our belief that for our
kind of small, independent cinemas (with screen sizes up to 8 meters),
the DCI specs are wholly inappropriate and unnecessary.
What objectives still remain to be
CNE has many more objectives to achieve. In March we are adopting
MXF as the packaging technology, specified encryption and key delivery
methods recommended by DCI for our whole network. In Germany, The Netherlands
and Spain we are starting with distribution by ADSL2+ connections. Having
spent a big part of 2005 exploring and testing satellite distribution
it was the sudden expansion of the internet which gave us the opportunity
to become the first to leave hard disk transport behind and start experimenting
with network distribution. With part of these live links in place we can
now seriously explore the opportunities of live introductions and Question
& Answer sessions to spark up our premieres, both for the CNE and
the local releases.
Why are so many European countries
missing from this circuit?
With seven countries involved CNE is the largest international digital
network with content being delivered on a weekly basis. CNE has regular
talks with like-minded networks in Europe like the Folkets Hus initiative.
Unfortunately due to the commercial priorities of some manufacturers,
the most attractive element of working digitally, namely the easy exchange
of programming, has failed thus far, as inter-operability seems a long
way off. But talks continue with other European countries to expand the
network in the near future.
The technology chosen by CinemaNet
Europe is an alternative to that recognised by the DCI specifications.
A “democratic” choice, certainly more accessible. But…
is something lost?
CNE made its technical decisions in July 2004 after rigorous testing
(and one year before the DCI specs were presented). Our choice of 1.4K
DLP projectors and the GDC servers was based on quality and price. Waiting
for any organisation to set the standards was no option and as we can
see now is hindering the start of any other serious roll-out due to prohibitive
pricing levels. Across 2005 we have been fighting our technical corner
and managed to convince many sceptics of the viability of our chosen technology.
We cater for a particular section of the European art-house movies and
we are of the opinion that the dominance of American main-stream should
not control our exhibition and distribution networks again, like it has
done since the second World War. It is therefore painful to see how happy
other European organisations seem to follow the Americans unquestioningly,
unlike for instance the Chinese where E-Cinema serves screens up to 8
meters and D-Cinema all sizes above. With a bit more imagination and willingness
to stand up and be counted the European digital roll-out could have been
much further advanced. That in turn could have served the cinemas and
distributors very well, since in 2005 they had to deal with a drop in
their audience figures of more than 10%. Saving money on release prints
could have made the difference.
If you had to persuade an exhibitor
of the advisability of changing over to digital cinema, what would you
say to him?
Talk to cinemas that are in our network. They are now experiencing
the first advantages of digital cinema. More flexibility in programming
so they can cater more for niche audiences, more opportunities to find
new audiences, more effective use of screenings and more choice in content.
You were a speaker at “DigiTraining
Plus” 2004: what impression has that experience left you?
That we need to repeat over and over again the advantages of going
digital, particularly for the smaller art-house cinemas and movies. That
this will be a very long road and that those who have involved themselves
in this process of conversion have a responsibility to make it work.