WOMEN IN DIGITAL CINEMA
My interest in film and media dates back to my teenage years, before I started my university studies. This became one of the main reasons why I chose to study mass media communication. When I finished university, I spent a few months living in the USA. It was difficult to find a job in my field when I finally came back to Slovakia.
I had already started to be drawn to the world of show business even before I started high school. I knew that I would be studying economics at university but the dynamics of show business made me very curious: I liked the idea of organizing and working for artists, especially musicians. That's why, in 1997, after I obtained my high school diploma, I decided to choose a course of international studies: International Business, specializing in event management. I graduated four years later at Nottingham Trent University and on my return to Italy, after an experience in Australia lasting several months, I had the chance to collaborate with all the biggest organizers of music events in Italy through my little company, Planet Wave.
In my seven years as production assistant, I gained invaluable experience both professionally and in terms of human relationships, not to mention my own personal growth. What gave me greatest pleasure was the successful conclusion of projects that were all different from one another. It was always an exciting commitment: different problems to solve, the people I worked with experienced things differently and had specific demands. It meant stress, adrenalin and the final satisfaction when the artists went on stage and my exhaustion disappeared with the audience's acclaim.
This experience forged my love of challenge and that's why, when the experience of Planet Wave came to an end, I accepted the proposal from Open Sky. It was 2009. The company was then in its start-up phase, as its Cinema division with its first broadcastings of live events had been launched only a year previously.
The show changed: from live events I shifted to cinema, always behind the scenes. It was a totally unknown sector to me: from pure organization I moved to technology, the only woman amongst the technicians and engineers! A new challenge took shape on my horizon: on the one hand, to create the network of cinemas equipped with the Open Sky satellite kit, on the other, to form relations with the distributors, so that Open Sky became the preferred carrier for their digital films. Satellite cinema in Italy was yet to be invented and Open Sky created it.
Initially I was to have dealt with live events only but in the months that followed, as "business developer" of Open Sky Cinema, I contributed to bringing to life a new market and had the opportunity to experience first-hand the whole process of digitalization of movie theatres and content, alongside the exhibitors and distributors. It was a long transformation, sometimes hard because of the investments necessary but also because of the cultural resistence that all radical changes imply. To overcome this, Open Sky had - and continues to have - the right arguments: the quality of the product and of assistance. To sum up, being a precursor of its times, Open Sky has the future on its side. And so today, six years on, I can safely say that I'm satisfied with the results Open Sky has obtained: in Italy around 600 cinemas are equipped with our kit for satellite reception, representing 86% of the market out of the total Cinetel box office.
Finally, I'd like to return to the question of challenge, in connection with the new service we launched at the end of 2014, i.e. the On Demand service. This is a new dimension in the delivery of digital content, which uses the broadband digital terrestrial connection. We created the On Demand platform to give distribution the chance of making more prolonged use of titles and to make the most of the library, whilst exhibitors were offered the possibility of rendering their programming more flexible and personalized, a tool whereby they could get hold of titles easily without wasting time and energy. By using our On Demand service, the exhibitor has the films available when he actually needs them, enjoying the maximum flexibility of the download for single transmissions.
Digital cinema is not yet at the end of its evolution.
I was born in France and at the age of 13 decided that I would move to the UK as soon as possible. I did so at 21 after graduating in International Trade in Paris. Initially, I studied at Guildhall University in London and got a degree in Film, Business and German. Whilst I am still a French national although I have been living in the UK for 24 years and my kids are British, my family is multi-cultural and multi-ethnic (I have Japanese, West Indian, French, Dutch, and Danish and Native Indian roots). I think this played a big part in my moving to the UK (I come from a long line of migrants!) and to work in the development, production and distribution of TV documentaries internationally as those encompass stories from around the world.
My career now spans some 23 years in the digital world. Some early highlights of my career include setting up the Documentary Development Funding Department for the European Commission MEDIA Programme II in the mid-90's and distributing and raising finance for documentaries for a number of UK and French based producers.
In my early 20s, I also had a strong desire to become an opera singer. However, having built a career in the media, I felt it would be hard to switch over. This is perhaps what led me to get my first job in the media selling ballet and opera programmes to airlines. Little did I know that 20 years later, in 2009, I would be heading the Cinema Department at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. I found myself now working in film distribution and had to familiarise myself quickly with the specifications of this changing industry.
It was both a fantastically exciting and challenging time as the digital roll-out in cinemas across the world was still underway and few cinemas were showing what we call alternative content or event cinema at the time. The Met had only just started the live transmissions of its operas and I was to develop with a small team the full international cinema network for the ROH. Whilst it took a lot of convincing at the beginning, cinemas saw over time an incredible surge in the audiences for this particular content and in the years that ensued the number of cinemas showing this type of content grew exponentially.
Having established a full network of 1,000 cinemas in some 45 countries at the ROH in under 5 years, I left the ROH in late 2013 to set up a consultancy, www.livedigitalcinema.com, working specifically on cinema events. My main client is the distribution company More2Screen. Because of my experience with early cinema events, I was asked to join the board of directors of the Event Cinema Association when it was created in 2012. I am thoroughly dedicated to this area and feel that the possibilities of new cinema formats are endless. However, what makes me happiest of all is to know that through live screenings in cinemas that only this digital technology can provide, people are now able to experience and enjoy the same event simultaneously around the world.
In the world of opera, they often say that the die is cast early. This certainly has been true for me.
When I was 5, I fell into the world of classical music, into the world of Opera at 13, and in 2007, into the world of digital cinema and alternative content.
Then my personal life took over my career. I was born in France, wanted to live in Italy, and moved to the US. In New York, I carried my passion for the Opera into a new dimension - the Cinema and I joined Emerging Pictures. After having spent so many years working on my own voice, my job was to watch as many productions as possible and listen to all the singers from around the world. An eye opening experience! There are not only amazing singers, but incredible directors and conductors thrilling audiences around the Globe. During my time at Emerging Pictures, while working on selecting productions to offer to digitalized cinemas, I also learned all the technical aspects of the business: DCPs, encrypted or not, KDMs, supplemental packages, satellites, subtitles format and sync … All this new and varied offering to the cinemas was possible thanks to digitalization. We introduced the concept of distribution of operas to the other great innovators in Digital Cinema like Arts Alliance with whom I compete today. Ha ha, I do not blame them, we are allies in building the overall worldwide audience.
With Giovanni Cozzi, I created Rising Alternative in 2010, to expand the distribution of our content, in a more thorough way, to the world. I've represented operas from Salzburg, Paris, San Francisco, Milan, Vienna, Barcelona, Bregenz, Munich, Madrid, Zurich, Valencia, Bologna, Torino, Parma, Taormina and many others. My watchword has always been: diversity. I love to offer world-class productions from as many different Opera Houses as possible. This is what art is all about: discovering, sharing and spreading the variety of interpretations, singers, directors, conductors.
Today I'm overseeing all sides of the company, from the financials, to strategy to marketing and operations. These are still early days for this channel of distribution. What lies ahead is very much what I focus on. And that provides all the excitement I need.
A passion for languages - as well as Hungarian, I speak French, English and Italian - and for literature were what led me to obtain my two degrees in these fields and, more in general, devote myself to spreading culture and art internationally.
I have always been fascinated by the cinema, imagining how a film was made, the technologies used, everything that was "behind the big screen".
From Digital Transition to Business Transformation
The promise sounded so good that I decided I had to help make it a reality and from that moment on I've been a woman with a mission: digitize and harvest.
Luckily the objectives were already clear when I started my assignment: achieve a 100% digital landscape for the Dutch cinema industry. We set up a project group, lined-up all the stakeholders, drafted the project plan, which translated into a business plan and finally resulted in a successful and complete digital roll-out in only 14 months. By September 2012 Cinema Digitaal brought Dutch cinemas within close reach of the digital heaven, at least I thought it did. Once the technical part was finished I thought the benefits of digital could be harvested immediately. But this was obviously not the case. We hadn't finished yet, instead we had only completed the first part of the journey from analog to digital. It was then time for phase two: influencing strategy and changing processes to embed the digital mind-set.
And with this next phase came my new job: business development. Early this year I joined the team at MACCS International to coordinate the roll-out of their DCinemaHub. MACCS Int. - a software development firm specialized in ERP solutions for the film distribution industry - is currently being used by over a 100 distributors, major and independent compagnies in 37 countries and this number is rapidly increasing as the company expands. It's estimated that over 50% of all bookings for cinemas worldwide are made on the MACCS Int. software platform.
In the fast moving world of digital cinema MACCS Int. focused on building the right tools to support the changing needs of the industry and help it align better with the newly adopted digital cinema workflow.
MACCS Int. listens closely to their customers during the transition to digital cinema. Customers often stressed that the KDM Management process in particular consumes a lot of valuable time giving both exhibitors and distributors lots of headaches. I even overheard someone calling it "the KDM inferno". The industry signaled the need for a proper solution that would support this new process and automate as many steps as possible in order to make it both effective and efficient.
MACCS Int. has responded by developing a new solution that does just that: the "DCinemaHub". As an extension to any theatrical distribution software solution it fully automates the ordering and delivery of digital content. From one interface, DCP and KDM bookings are translated into orders and forwarded to any lab, depot or delivery partner of choice, to be processed. Digital labs like Technicolor receive the orders directly in their system and once processed report back their status to the DCinemaHub. The distributor that has made the booking can keep track of the logistical operation behind his desk. In the near future we shall be able to report if an issued KDM is delivered and working on screen level by connecting with the TMS in the Cinema. The simple, color-coded dashboard in DCinemaHub will show if there is something to worry about at a glance bringing ease of mind to all stakeholders.
DCinemaHub is now Live in 5 countries (Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Switzerland) and soon Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Turkey and the UK will join. Onboarding all MACCS Int. territories will be my main objective for the next two years. A challenge I cannot not pass up.
The cinema has always been a passion of mine: I was already a regular visitor at the single arthouse cinema in Miskolc even before taking my job.
I've found myself being described as a pioneer of late but I didn't become one until mid-career. I had 20 years' experience of the commercial management of media companies (I reached board director level at a UK national media group, Express Newspapers, then moved to become commercial director of Scottish Media Group) when I was appointed CEO of the iconic UK cinema advertising company Pearl & Dean. This was in 2001 and at the very start of the UK's transition to digital cinema. Almost immediately I was made aware of the challenges that lay ahead: Warner Village Cinemas asked P&D to deliver all elements of the film and pre-show in a new digital format as 'proof of concept' - and this within a deadline of just four weeks.
In my living room there are two cinema seats, single-handedly removed from a cinema a couple of years ago. They are very old, their dark red colour has faded and they are not at all comfortable, but they remind me of the magic of the big screen, and my love of sitting in the dark watching great films. Fortunately I do not leave my passion for film at home, I take it with me to work everyday, where I research the Dutch film industry. I'm a Master in Film Studies and a researcher at the Netherlands Film Research Foundation (Stichting Filmonderzoek), see www.filmonderzoek.nl/english. The Foundation carries out researches on the film industry in the Netherlands commissioned by the exhibitors and distributors associations and other market parties. An interesting coincidence is that the founding father of Stichting Filmonderzoek is Dr Joachim Ph. Wolff, who has been scientific advisor to the MEDIA Salles Yearbook for many years. Over the last three years I have learnt from him what good research is all about.
I hope that my research can contribute to a better understanding of what the impact of digitisation is and that my conclusions can be shared within the international community. During the Dutch Film Festival that was held in Utrecht at the end of September I observed the true impact of digitisation, as young filmmakers are given the opportunity to show and view their films on the big screen much more easily and cheaply than was possible in the 35mm era. In the long term this will be a valuable contribution to the importance of the cinema screening room. And, in my opinion, that's what digitisation should be all about: keeping the cinema theatre as the main stage for sharing the magic of film, now and in the future.
For more information, contact: email@example.com
If greed is a capital sin, surely that doesn't count when the object of it can be shared amongst many. I myself am guilty of not choosing between cultural passions. My first love was music, and I started my career working for an experimental music festival. After moving on to theatre, music theatre and opera and volunteering for music clubs and art cinema for a while, for the last four years I have been working for BAM Art. BAM Art is the Flemish support organization for visual and audiovisual arts and cinema. We help professional players (exhibitors, distributors, educational workers,...) by spreading info and knowledge: newsletters, conferences, workshops, personal advice, etc.
BAM Art has been actively involved with shaping the financially complex transfer to d-cinema equipment for the smaller and more vulnerable exhibitors in Flanders. We hired expert Sophie De Vinck to assist and coach us in negotiating the best deals while preserving cultural diversity on Flemish screens. Notwithstanding exciting opportunities - high quality image and sound, the possibility of more diversity and flexibility - there were also considerable risks involved, the most important being that of jeopardizing our exhibitors' freedom of choice in programming. We are proud that, with the help of the Flemish Culture Ministry, we have managed to help nearly all of our cultural exhibitors to make the move to digital projection.
But digital cinema is more than 2K-technology alone. It involves the convergence of different media and delivery circuits for digital storytelling. It paves the way for exciting trans-media projects: stories inhabiting the big screen or television, online, in game versions, interactively engaging with audiences on social media, and creating new formats for different screens. It involves event-based cinema, concerts, debate, and theatre pieces, interactive after-show discussions with artists, the streaming of online content etc. It also involves new modes of production and distribution.
Convinced that Europe must not shy away from other parts of the world for inspiration, two years ago I started following related developments evolving in Africa. I am now working on a PhD focusing on new media, new technology, and how they affect the production and distribution of audiovisual creative content in East-Africa. The greater focus on mobile content in particular could be an inspiration for European creative artists. Short comedy series for the small screen, animation, interactive platforms for sharing music and poetry, self-made shows shared through mobile phones... Because after all, without creative story-telling, technology is just a shell. It is great to see an ever-growing pool of creative talent making use of innovative technology to produce a myriad of new and exciting stories for us to enjoy.
As a researcher, I have found it fascinating to try and piece together the complex ins and outs of a sector where "nobody knows anything", as William Goldman once said about the film industry. After my studies (Communication Studies and an additional year in European Politics), I joined the VUB research centre SMIT (which is part of iMinds) to begin a PhD on the European audiovisual industries in the digital age. Starting out with a rather broad interest in how digital evolutions were affecting the cultural industries in Europe, I became fascinated with how these developments were shaping the future of the film sector. Even before the completion of my PhD in 2011, I became particularly interested in the challenges posed by the digital cinema transition. It is clear that this is about much more than resolution or other equipment characteristics: it is about rediscovering the magic of the cinema experience in a digital context. Here, cinema owners can use a variety of old and new tools to make their venue stand out amongst the many different leisure and culture options available. The digital future is not one of cookie-cutter solutions, but I am convinced that the additional workload that comes with it will be very rewarding, every time the right match is found between the theatre venue, the content (not necessarily only films) and the overall experience offered to the audience.
I see the installation of digital equipment in theatres as a first step in this process, and it is important to enable as many theatres as possible to take the hurdle. Ideally, this happens in a collaborative process, involving the different sector players as well as other stakeholders and policymakers. Luckily, this was the case in Belgium, where I have been actively involved in several policy initiatives to render the digital transition possible, even for smaller arthouse or neighbourhood cinemas. As such, I led the tendering process and integrator negotiations of the "Digital Cinema in Flanders" (DICIF) and the "Cinéma Numérique Wallonie-Bruxelles" (CNWB) initiatives. Both united cinemas under a common banner, centring on the idea of a buying-group VPF solution. As a researcher, it was very rewarding to be able to put my research experience to a more practical use and to collaborate intensively with different cinema owners, policy departments and other stakeholders, such as the Flemish institute for the audiovisual and cinema, visual, and media arts BAM Art.
The end of the year may bring the completion of the digital cinema roll-out in Belgium, but the journey continues, and I look forward to being a part of it.
I graduated from Transilvania University (Romania) in 2002 with a passion for marketing and communication.
After her studies of German, theatre and journalism in Munich, Gabriele Röthemeyer worked as commissioning editor and producer/director of television documentaries for educational programs at the North German Broadcasting Corp. and ZDF. Between 1982 and 1989 she served as drama adviser and producer for several film and television production companies in Hamburg (Provobis, FFP). This was followed by a five-year period of free-lance writing/directing features and documentaries for public television (culture and film departments mainly). In 1995, she was appointed CEO of MFG Film Fund, Medien- und Filmgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg.
Successful involvement in cinema digitalisation in Baden-Württemberg.
MFG Filmförderung Baden-Württemberg had already supported cinemas in the transition from analog to digital presentation technology for many years before this involvement was expanded and intensified in 2010 with the creation of the special program for cinema digitalisation. An ambitious funding project was implemented under the leadership of CEO Gabriele Röthemeyer and the consultant for cinema funding Uschi Freynick. With funding totalling 1,300,000 euros, it had already brought the latest technology to 76 screens in Baden-Württemberg by the end of 2011. A further 1,500,000 euros will be provided for cinema digitalisation within 2014. This makes Baden-Württemberg the pioneer and one of Germany's most progressive regions in the field of funding cinema digitalisation.
Röthemeyer and Freynick, two women who were there at the inception of MFG, have made it their task to maintain the above-average percentage of program cinemas and the large number of cinemas in Baden-Württemberg. The best possible digitalisation funding is to be implemented in meeting the challenges of the switch to digital particularly to ensure the future competitiveness of small cinemas and rural cinemas, which are often the only form of culture available in such areas. Funding is closely linked to quality criteria with priority being given to art-house cinemas and film theatres which focus on European and German films or are even awarded MFG's annual cinema program prizes for their high-quality programs.
All commercial cinemas, program and art film theatres in Baden-Württemberg with a maximum of six screens per cinema are eligible to apply for funding. Per year, however, only one screen per film theatre can receive it. The funding for digitalisation is in the form of a subsidy amounting to 25% of the costs eligible, up to 18,000 euros. Costs of servers and projectors as well as the installation of digital projection technology can be subsidised. The funding decision is made by the awards committee for cinema innovation loans. The possibility of combining digitalisation funding by MFG with other public funds such as from FFA and the BKM is particularly advantageous for cinema operators.
For further information:
My cinema adventure started in Slupsk, my family town, in Poland. There I finished high school, where for 4 years we had special classes in the history of cinema, theatre and fine arts. At the beginning of my university studies, I reopened a cinema club in Szczecin with my friends and started off a cinema festival. I graduated in law at the University of Szczecin in 2004; my master's thesis regarded the cinematography sector in Poland.
In the years 2004-2005, I acted as coordinator of the Art-house Cinemas Network. For many years, I was involved in cinema distribution, first as a distribution specialist, then as director of marketing and promotions working for SPI International Poland. I am a vice President of the Art-house Cinemas Association and cinema consultant for the MEDIA Programme, Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and National Film Archive.
Since 2009, in the Polish Film Institute I have been involved in the transition of cinemas to digital screening technology as well as in the digitalisation of audiovisual materials. Cinemas are at the point when the choice is to go digital or to close. Yet the costs of digital equipment are sometimes out of reach for most exhibitors. I am glad that the PFI started its grant programme last year.The number of digital, non-multiplex, screens is on the increase. And new ones will be going digital in the coming months. But... digitisation changes a lot. The method of programming has changed in digital cinemas. New possibilities, new advantages, but also disadvantages have come with it. Most cinemas have access to premiere films, which was impossible in the past. With new content available comes the question about the function of the cinema as a movie theatre or multi-art- house. I am absolutely open to new solutions, new ideas for cinema. I am keen on new technologies and possibilities on the screen. I am curious where we'll be in 5-10 years. 3D without glasses? With intelligent cinema screens and seats?
I have been working at ACEC (Area Catalana d'Exhibició Cinematogràfica) since 1999. I am part of the team dedicated to the programming of the screens belonging to the chain based in Spain. I am also a member of the Intellectual Property Commission of FECE. And I collaborate in the programming of FECINEMA, a Festival that takes place in Manresa (Barcelona) annually.
My view on digital cinema is that it is a reality and has reached a point of no return. Now that the step has been taken, we should focus on the many advantages, leaving behind the small disadvantages that we must accept.
We cannot deny that the Cinema Industry is a sector that has stayed loyal to its principles for too long when compared to other sectors. This is why many are afraid of the digital world. We are all aware of the issue of expiry dates. Technology is already obsolete the minute it is installed.
I must also add that in the crisis the sector is experiencing, due to several specific threats and the state of world affairs in general, the expenditure required is a worrying factor. Not to mention the new actors that have sprung up, the integrators. The latter have become a relief in a way, yet created alarming dependence in another.
But, let's focus on the advantages. From the programming point of view, which is the side of the business I know best, digitalization brings many advantages, which accompany a change in the exhibitor's mentality and obviously also in the distributor's.
First of all, the very easy access to copies. The original promise of all cinemas with an integrator having the desired copies makes no sense because this wouldn't change the business model but become a way to destroy it. However, it is a fact that cheaper copies - nowadays the VPF increases the price of the copy to the distributor - will make it possible to reach more cinemas in the long run.
Above all, programming can be improved when it comes down to versatility: the chance to have more than one film loaded in different versions; the alternative content that provides advantages; a diversified offer of events that not only enriches the programming but can get rid of the many dead times in the cinema; the chance to provide double programming, rediscovering old versions (the role of the marketing department is also very important when it comes to creating exceptional events). It is a good time to recover the copyrights of many old titles, which can find their place with not too expensive copies and, especially, be offered in good condition.
Obviously, advantages do not come only from the programming side. The advantages in logistics and the quality of the copies is another fact that deserves attention:
A hard disc with KDM is infinitely more operational than the old 35mm copies, not to mention coming improvements like the smart jog that will enhance it even more in the future. Moreover, the intangibility of the product is also a reality and it also makes us much more dependent on technical support that is not physically available in the cinema. However, this service is taking gigantic steps forward.
There is also the image quality, even though it cannot be immediately appreciated by the viewer, where it will be made clear in the long run that the quality offered is far superior.
However, I insist this has to be a team effort between owners of the screens and distributors. I believe that although digitalization means a substantial improvement in the quality of the services offered and is a necessary step to be taken by the sector, we cannot forget that our main worry will still be to have the audience that appreciates the social value of cinema-going.
My career in cinema began at the age of six, when my family started running a newly-built cinema in our small town. Of course the whole family, kids included, was helping out and so I got to spend my childhood in a cinema environment, and naturally continued on the given path to my adulthood, learning the booth work and taking on regular shifts behind the counter at fifteen.
Digital Cinema: A Flexible Medium for Corporate Communication
Until a few years ago, we in Corporate Communication had to make do with what we today call the ‘conventional' communication channels: printed media, analogue audiovisual messages etc. As the digitalization trend grew apace, we all eagerly jumped onto the bandwagon of electronic media. The volume of corporate communication messages which are transmitted by electronic means nowadays has taken on remarkable proportions.
With the extension of digitalization to the film medium, and since most of our Kinepolis theatres are equipped with the appropriate technology, a world of new digital communication possibilities has opened up. Both internal and external target audiences can now be reached. Digitalization not only stands for quality, but for flexibility as well, both in terms of the subject matter of the communication and the target audiences we have in mind.
The wide range of internal communication efforts can be extended to the theatres. A message from the CEO is no longer only disseminated over the Intranet. Today we bring our CEO to the big screen where he can address all colleagues in all Kinepolis theatres in all countries in a totally different context than on the small PC screen. Other internal communications, too, or even certain training courses, can be presented in a simple and flexible manner by audiovisual means in our own cinema halls, in digital quality.
For external target audiences, cinema appears to present an ideal medium. Viewers are accustomed to seeing commercials and informative messages before the film starts. Awareness campaigns, such as those on the prevention and sorting of waste, or informative clips, for example on the use of 3D spectacles, can easily be fitted into the programming by digital means. Commercials, too, are heading for a new future. They will be easily adaptable to the kind of audience that may be expected in the cinema for a particular film shown.
Digital cinema will create new communication channels and efforts. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that in the future press conferences will be held digitally in several theatres simultaneously. By broadening the product offer Kinepolis constantly attracts new stakeholders, such as senior citizens, minority groups, sports and music enthusiasts. The flexibility offered by digital cinema makes it highly likely that our future communication efforts will focus far more specifically on these different target audiences. Everyone who comes to one of our theatres will, more than ever before, feel in touch with a targeted communication which is released to the right audience swiftly, cost effectively and in digital quality.
Marta is thirty and since she was a teenager she has been connected to cinema. Being impressed by the mystery of cinema exhibition she worked voluntarily at the 36th to 44th editions of the Krakow Film Festival devoted to shorts. During her studies she won an internship at the Apollo Film Institution, where she was dealing with distribution issues. When she was on the Socrates Erasmus scholarship - Strasbourg (IEP Robert Schuman University), she applied for the Eurimages internship and during that time she deepened her knowledge of film co-production and as a consequence she gathered material to write a master's thesis.
After her studies Marta took a job at Apollo Film - the commercialized former national institution, where she was responsible for new media and marketing. In those times, there were very few people in Poland who knew what D-cinema was. One of them was Tomasz Maciejowski, CEO of Apollo Films. His dilemma was how to save Kiev cinema (Kijów), which is a place where famous premières and national film events have taken place. The history of the biggest cinema, which seats 828, started in 1967, when it was built and opened to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the October Revolution. The gigantic cinema screen (18m x 10m) showed such events as the world première of Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" featuring the cast and crew of the film. However, the increasing number of multiplexes constituted a threat to the cinema and hence resulted in the lack of 35mm prints for traditional cinemas to show films on their first run.
The natural solution was to introduce the D-cinema technology, but the problem was not only financing but also a lack of critical mass making the investment profitable. In 2005 Marta was leading a team, whose goal was to prepare a proposal for a call from SPO WKP 2004-2006 (a sectorial operational funding programme oriented to strategic investment in SME's). Despite being positively noted and approved, unfortunately, the project was put on a reserve list waiting for allocation, which never came. Finally in 2006, the cinema was equipped with a 2K Christie d-cinema projector, a Doremi server, a scaler and a 3D Xpand (former Nuvision) system entering the XDC lease agreement.
After this, the opportunity came up: the benefit of the synergy and scale effect due to creating a regional d-cinema network from the traditional, local cinemas. But it took four years to achieve this goal. Apollo Film, as a limited company, had no direct interest in support for sustainable film development because of its profit orientation; this is why in 2006 it established the Cinema Development Foundation. In January 2006 Marta Materska-Samek became the Vice President of the Foundation and a month later she was the happy mother of Maja Samek - her daughter. The same year the Foundation, prepared two crucial projects that received financial support. The first of them was Digital Days in the Kiev cinema. It was an international professional conference with seminars, screenings and trade shows on new technologies. The second one was a media literacy project "The Multimedia School" for fifty schools of the region. It consisted in introducing individual school programmes supported by ICT tools taking into account the influence of culture as a factor of human development. The budget was half a million Euros and the project was co-financed by the European Social Fund.
Meanwhile Marta was looking for an opportunity to implement the d-cinema project. In 2008 there was a call for proposals for the Malopolska Operational Program 2007-2013, Priority 3: Tourism and entertainment industries. It aimed at enhancing the tourist attractiveness of the region, so the digitization project focused on network creation as well as on the transformation of the local cinemas into tourist attractions. It thus aimed at the creation of "digital art houses" showing new product (alternative content), value-added product (3D and premières shown in digital with 5.1.Dolby Digital sound), combined products (weekends with sightseeing and cinema screening), cross-promotion (promos on attractions of the cities in the network).
The project was submitted in July 2008. The selection process took 5 months and lasted until the end of December. Unfortunately, the project got first place on a reserve list, but by the end of March 2009 the allocation was made and on 9 May 2009 the Cinema Development Foundation signed an agreement guaranteeing Malopolska D-cinema Network structural funds for co-financing.
After the public tender procedure that took half a year, the contractor was chosen and on 12 February 2010 the Cinema Wisla in Brzeszcze showed Avatar 3D with a new NEC digital projector, Doremi server and Dolby 3D system. Since then there have been openings every weekend and the last cinema in the network (the Cinema Klaps in Limanowa) was open on 22 April.
The second part of the project consists in implementation of a regional platform helping the cinemas in the Internet aided marketing (CRM, newsletter, on-line bookings etc.). The project has also to meet the success indicators:
Marta Materska-Samek is a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Management and Social Communication of the Jagiellonian University (Cracow). She is preparing a thesis on strategic innovation in local cultural institutions as a result of digitizing their cinemas. She was a graduate of the programme for young researchers Doctus and a Scholarship and Training Fund scholar who received a research grant (Action III- Individual Mobility Grants). The grant was devoted to the study of local cinemas in Norway. Being an experienced project manager and a specialist in the cinema management field, she works as a Vice-President of the Cinema Development Foundation and as a coordinator of the "Malopolska D-cinemas Network", which is co-financed by the structural funds of the regional D-cinema project in Europe.
DCP, KDM, NGB, OMG: how am I ever going to learn all this?
My name is Cara Jones and I work for Apollo Cinemas Ltd, based in the UK.
The Finnish Film Foundation is an independent foundation which is supervised by the Department for Cultural Policy in the Ministry of Education.
Something about myself: I have been working in the cinema industry for a long time. I started my film work in the film lab, in the evenings I was selling tickets, coffee and candies in the cinema. I left the laboratory and found myself in the projection room, where I was very happy. I had, for example, the possibility to show 70mm film, and I felt like being on the top of my career … actually I still feel the same: that was the most challenging moment. This change to a digital system brings a whole different challenge: you don't need muscles for lifting the hard disks but knowing the data technology helps a lot. I took part in the "DigiTraining Plus" course in 2007 and it was very important to gain knowledge from the experts and meet colleagues who already had some experience of the new technology.
I myself and the Finnish Film Foundation warmly welcome "DigiTraining Plus 2010" course participants to our beautiful Helsinki.
Maria Costeira - DGT online informer No. 52
I run a cinema circuit, Savon Kinot Oy, with my four siblings and our company is a genuine family business - our father started his career in cinemas in 1945. I have been working in cinemas since I was ten and my current position in our company is the Head of Programming.
Our company is the second biggest cinema circuit in Finland, though our market share is only 4% (2008) whilst the biggest operator, Finnkino Oy, holds 70% of the market. We are operating in six towns in Eastern Finland and we have seven cinemas there with 12 screens altogether.
Only one of our screens is digitalised up to now; it's in our latest cinema in Joensuu, where we had the chance to add a digital projector alongside a traditional 35mm projector in the biggest auditorium of this miniplex. It's crucial to have at least one more screen there digitalised in the near future, because of the programming. In this current situation, we still need a 35mm print when the movie shifts to the smaller auditorium.
3D was the main reason for us to start digitalisation in the first place; the audience will see the technical developments best in 3D form and 3D films are selling more tickets than traditional films. I think 3D has brilliant possibilities to get us more customers and widen the content in cinema programming.
In digitalisation we also have a challenge in our older cinemas. They are built - especially the projection rooms - for the use of 35mm projectors. There's simply no room for an additional projector in the old projection rooms, and abandoning the 35mm projectors is not an option yet, especially in smaller towns and cinemas.
Not having any VPF system in Finland, we are lucky to have the Finnish Government to give financial support to digitalisation in cinemas. Even with that support the smallest cinemas have to face the fact that the investment that digitalisation requires may never be covered by the profits from their ticket sales.
For around 15 years I have been managing the Cinema Eliseo Multisala in Cesena, a town of 90,000 inhabitants in the heart of Romagna, about 90 kilometres from Bologna. It is a fine building in the old part of the town and comprises four screens devoted to both commercial and art-house movies, seating a total audience of 700, with a hospitable Cinecafé where aperitifs and tea can be sipped whilst browsing through film magazines and books on the cinema, as well as an inside bar with popcorn and liquorice. Equipped as a polifunctional centre, it is able to host conferences and multi-media events. The venue was opened by my maternal grandfather in 1949, then altered to house two separate screens in 1992 (one of the very first in Italy) and later completely restructured in 2006 and equipped with a first digital projection installation - consisting of a Christie projector, Doremi server and 3D XpanD system - in August 2009.
I manage three single-screen cinemas in my home town of Sassari, in Sardinia, Italy. I can say that I have inherited my passion for cinema, which has been passed on to me by my father, together with my passion for this work, which he started as far back as 1960.
I took up the post of analyst at the Nevafilm Company in the middle of 2006; and that year saw the beginning of the digital era in Russian cinema exhibition.
I joined XDC in fall 2008, but I have always lived with cinema, since my father is a film director and my mother is producing films.
I am responsible for all matters related to content. On the one hand, I am in charge of our Digital Content Lab, making the price quotations as well as informing Distributors, Producers, Sales Agents about digital cinema. To date, there is still work to be done in order to inform more about the digital workflow. Digital represents a major change for smaller companies, and it is necessary to spend time explaining the advantages of going digital and to assist them from scene to screen. We are currently working with many distributors all over Europe and every day there are more clients showing interest in this new and better way to release a film.
On the other hand, I am responsible for meeting all European distributors regarding the VPF model. Last year we signed agreements with the 6 major studios in order to co-finance the digital roll-out of maximum 8,000 screens in 22 countries. That means that, in four to five years, digital will become a standard for films. In fact, we will also need the support of independent distributors. My role is to explain to them how this model works, and why it is important to switch to digital. We have already started this roll-out in Austria, so it is important everyone knows about the VPF.
I really enjoy this new challenge. Working with XDC is a great opportunity for me since I can contribute to a fast-growing company within a nice business area, a perfect mix between technology and entertainment!
Testing the future
In Norway we have decided to run a test. Two digital projects with 22 DCI-compliant screens were established back in 2006. They were followed by 12 more screens in 2007. Each of the two projects is organized as a consortium, Nordic Digital Alliance (NDA) and NORDIC. The two companies Arts Alliance Media (NDA) and Unique Digital (NORDIC) are central partners. The projects are supported and evaluated by FILM&KINO, the national cinema owners organization.
These pilot projects are testing:
• technical issues, such as interoperability, automation, functionality and moving of equipment;
FILM&KINO is planning the future digitization of Norwegian cinemas. We support and evaluate these pilot projects in order to develop a knowledge we think will be necessary in the future. The more we learn about managing a digital cinema, the better we will be able to carry out the big project which is to digitize all the Norwegian cinemas within one and the same process.
Norway is a small country with a scattered population of only 4.6 million inhabitants. We have 229 cinemas with 426 screens and a travelling cinema with 236 sites. Most of the cinemas are small, due to the population in rural areas, and they are owned by the municipalities. They will never have a chance to be digitized the commercial way. But they are, on the other hand, very important to their communities. Small Norwegian cinemas often have a function also as a community house. We generally call them cultural houses and they are in fact a meeting place for the local people.
Due to the importance of the small Norwegian cinemas there has been political willingness to support the digitization process. The National Assembly (Stortinget) has allowed the use of a fund, managed by FILM&KINO and based on a fee on cinema tickets and DVDs, to finance part of the digitization of the Norwegian cinemas. The supposition is that the distributors take their part as they would have done through a VPF (Virtual Print Fee) in a commercial system.
We are negotiating the terms with the studios in Hollywood and planning for a roll-out starting in 2009. There are still lots of questions to be solved and I think we have a long way to go. But in the meantime we are testing out the future through two pilot projects which have already shown themselves to be of great value.
Elisabeth Berradouan - DGT online informer No. 38
Eye balls and Euros - Digital Cinema is at the end of the beginning and primed for growth
As we celebrate our 10th year in the film industry, DLP Cinema projection technology is installed in over 6,000 theatres on every continent except Antarctica. Today there are more than 1,200 theatres that offer the digital 3D experience powered by DLP Cinema technology, and this number will continue to increase as more DLP projectors are deployed globally.
It was over ten years ago that Texas Instruments and other companies began working on digital cinema and today we've reached the point where we have a viable market. While a little less than five percent of the world's cinema screens have been converted to digital projection, it is fair to say that we have now arrived at the end of the beginning. Of the early adopters, approximately 75 percent of digital cinemas are in North America, with the rest split between Europe and Asia. It's been a decade in the making, but we are finally past the point of beta testing and committees deciding standards.
It could be argued that the slow take-up of digital projection technology has been due to the need to agree to standards, to test equipment, and so on. However, it's more likely that the primary reason why the pace of product development in digital projection technology has been slow is because the true cost and benefits of digital cinema to the main interested parties - equipment manufacturers, film distributors and exhibitors - are not reliably known or properly understood. The lack of solid facts about the economics of digital cinema has led to a very long game of poker. Such games aside, the long term picture looks rosy for exhibition, distribution and equipment manufacturers. Ultimately, it will become more viable to show movies to much larger audiences since digital prints cost less, require less handling, and offer far more flexibility in programming.
For exhibitors as a whole, there is also the prospect of higher revenues from sources such as alternative content and the 3D revival. In addition, it has been suggested that potential gains exist from programming content by daypart and by demographics. Many would argue that targeting audiences throughout the day will also increase revenue thanks to the ability to deliver relevant advertising messages to the changing demographics.
Regardless of studio incentives and deployment plans, d-cinema installations will certainly heat up in 2008, as there are many more digital 3D titles in the production pipeline. In fact, there are expected to be 12 to 18 3D movies by 2010. Whether 3D exhibition is a novelty, or becomes part of mainstream cinema for the foreseeable future, the increased box office results make the exhibitor's conversion a more local, immediate and understandable business decision. And some exhibitors are not waiting; the recent announcement of Odeon UCI regarding its intention to install 500 3D systems over two years is explicitly targeted at the high-profile slate of 3D movies in the pipeline.
The problem in the minds of some is whether 3D is just a gimmick or something that is actually an artistic aspect of cinema. At ShowEast 2007, Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, stated that moviegoing is going to become more exhilarating in a way never-before-seen thanks to digital 3D technology. The idea is that the audiences will be pulled into the film, instead of reached out to, which was the "gimmick" idea that 3D originally started with.
Although many predict the number of 3D screens around the world will reach nearly 5,000 by the end of 2009, Katzenberg is predicting that 6,000 3D-equipped screens will be installed by March of 2009. Katzenberg boldly stated at ShowEast, "[3D] is going to be the majority of your business" in the future. In addition, Katzenberg strongly believes that consumers will be "excited" to pay a premium for an exceptional quality product. Time will tell, but there is no debate that digital 3D is not a gimmick. And without a digital cinema system, you will miss the chance to see if he's right.
The central problem in the adoption of digital cinema technology has been that the technology initially shifts costs from software (reels of film) to hardware (digital files). This immediate problem has tended to overshadow larger benefits of digital technology everywhere. Interestingly, the conversion is estimated to cost approximately $8 billion or only 32% of the worldwide box office last year. Nevertheless, an immediate problem demands a solution and one is the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) model widely adopted in the United States. Locally, CGR Cinemas (France) is the first European exhibitor to sign up to a VPF-based rollout with one of the three major integrators. However, there are other financing models in the market, including exhibitors who have spent their own money to reap the benefits of digital technology.
Regardless of the business model, there is a great appetite to accelerate digital cinema deployment in Europe. Compared to the US, the European market is more complex and consequently the ability to set up a deal has been made more difficult by multiple languages and more complicated relationships. In addition, the European market is more fragmented. It has one of the largest populations of smaller and remote cinemas. In October 2007, the European digital forum announced completion of a study that found the average cinema screen in Europe to be slightly more than 26 feet wide or less, with seating for 180. As a result, there is train of thought that the full Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) specifications are considered "excessive" and another standard for smaller theatres and specialty markets should be considered. Although this could solve specific problems such as antiquated cinemas in rural areas, it is not a viable solution in the light of the loss of revenue from piracy. Perhaps instead of playing poker, it might be time for all the parties to sit down and hammer out a solution.
Looking forward there are still some big uncertainties regarding the future impact digital cinema will have on the industry. Digital Cinema is a relatively small market in which a few deals can make a big difference. It is likely, within the next couple of years, that one or more large exhibitors will decide to go it wholly or partly alone.
Although it is possible that the forecasts will be exceeded, the peak adoption of the new technology will fall in the period just after that covered by the five year forecasts you see rather than within it. If this is correct then half the world's cinema screens could be digital by 2013, compared to a third in 2011, and five percent today.
As members of the Entertainment industry we need to step back and realize that we are all facing hyper competition on patrons' time and entertainment budget. Let me say it simply, we are at war against all other forms of entertainment for "eye balls" and Euros! We need to be diligent and serious about bringing and keeping our patrons in our movie theatres. Better content or product on screens, a better experience at the movie theatre, and the conversion to digital quality movies with the emerging 3D and alternative content, are some of the tools we have available to us to fight with. We need to get serious about enabling the transition to digital cinema. The cost of projectors, in the long run, will not be the limiting factor for our success, but rather our limited vision of the competitive threat we face. Digital projectors will get cheaper and are going to be very easy to use.
Reduced costs in delivering movies to cinemas means that more movies will be brought to cinemas, to improve the choice available to consumers, to take advantage of the dead spots created by current programming practices, and so on. These changes also mean that there will be more cinemas...thus more choices for consumers. Probably not more megaplexes showing blockbusters, but more small cinemas showing a greater variety of movies to smaller audiences.
Ten years in and most of the fog and confusion around digital cinema has, at last, blown away allowing the path ahead to be viewed with relative clarity. Who would ever have thought it would be that "simple"!
When Elisabetta Brunella of MEDIA Salles asked me to write an article about Digital Cinema, from my point of view and what my sensations were, the first words that came to mind were transition and opening of a new era. Working in this sector, we have the clear sensation that, after many years of "technological stagnation", something of great importance is about to happen in Italian cinemas, thanks to the evolution in the equipment, the working methods and the way we are now considering these new movie theatres.
They are the same sensations and changes that encouraged me to take up this challenge of working with Digima, a company active in the electronic and digital cinema field since 2005, which has the objective of advancing film and theatrical shows (lyrics, theatre, concerts, dance) in digital movie cinemas or halls such as municipalities and cultural communities. Digima has created and patented a technological platform for the booking, transmission and final projection in movie houses via high-speed internet access and has made arrangements with Italian distributors to provide the digital contents.
Collaborating as sales manager with the dynamic team at Digima, my primary objective is to advertise the Digima brand, make its image known throughout Italy and expand its network of digital cinemas. There are many tools I use to accomplish this, which can be summed up as follows:
I believe it's extremely important to hold these encounters/events with exhibitors, in which the transitional phase mentioned above can inevitably be a phase of confusion with much information provided, not all of which is correct. It is for this reason that we have decided to organize a Road Show Digima in Italy, for all of 2008 (roughly 2 stages per month) in which, with the help of experts in the sector and direct experience with exhibitors, we will spread the technical information and concepts clearly and comprehensively.
I do not deny the difficulty I encounter every day in my work, in an innovative and difficult market such as Digital Cinema, but there is always the great enthusiasm of being part, even in a small way, of this important phase of transition in Italian cinema.
Sara Crimeni graduated in 2001 in Public Relations at IULM in Milan, and during the same year she gained a Master in Human Resource Management and New Technologies. She accumulated a five-year experience in education and training and as a conference manager working as a Training & Conference Manager first with the Gruppo Editoriale Reed Business Information and then with the IIR - Istituto di Ricerca Internazionale.
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 haven't 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.
When the lights go off, that's when the magic begins. This anticipation of the roughly two hours that are to come filled with great emotions, stunning images and engaging stories, is one of my dearest moments of the cinema experience.
The experience of going to the cinema is at the core of a current project called "Digital Alfie" that I'm managing. The aim is to identify and select services for the cinema goer and the exhibitor that are digital and are empowered by digital cinema technology and that open up new sources of revenues as well as savings. What excites me about this project is that what sounds reasonable and promising in theory, will actually be put into practice and hence be truly evaluated. Testing concepts in real life settings has continued to fascinate me ever since I did an evaluation of an e-learning software on film language at a private school in London. No matter how thorough your research was or how clever the ideas, you'll only know if it works once you go out there and make it happen.
About 18 months ago, our team at Peacefulfish decided to spend considerable effort and time on investigating the issue of financing the digital roll out not from an industry top down point of view, but from the customers' point of view. What would actually change for the cinema goer through digital cinema technology?
The most immediate answer was: not much. Through the UK Film Council's Digital Screen Network it already emerged that people either didn't notice a difference or had assumed that cinema was already digital. So the impeccable and lasting projection quality alone is unlikely to reignite the passion for cinema for the masses. Hence Peacefulfish, in cooperation with the Lapland Centre of Expertise for the Experience Industry, set out to conduct a study (focus groups and expert interviews) to find out more about the cinema experience and what the digital cinema experience could be like ("The Digital Cinema Experience", ISBN 978-952-5585-61-1, www.dodona.co.uk/experience.htm). Part of our conclusion was that for many people, customers and experts alike, the cinema, in theory, is still the best place to watch movies due to the big screen, the superb sound quality and the genuine atmosphere of this dedicated place. However, in reality many people are less enthusiastic about their local theatre.
There are many reasons why this is the case - the film selection on offer isn't attractive, the venue itself is found to be not appealing or not well maintained, the other members of the audience impede the experience through disrupting behaviour, there is no option to extend the experience at a bar or café after the film has finished, etc. At the core of all these issues there are three main factors: the content, socialising opportunities and the venue. So ideally, your venue would be in easy reach for your patrons, it would show a range and number of films that appeal to them, it would offer space and the right atmosphere for them to gather before and after the screening to socialise and share the cinema experience. Now, where does digital come in?
The beauty of digital becomes clear when looking into this ideal scenario in more detail:
The new quality that digital brings is that interactivity, so important in any demand, supply relationship, that is now available for both parties at a fraction of the cost and effort it formerly was. In other words: it has never been so easy to get to know each other. The social component is very much a physical one. It depends if there is space in your venue where a bar or café could be established. Even if there is not, it might be worthwhile looking into partnerships with appropriate venues that are close by. What such services regarding all three factors can look like in detail - that is exactly what the "Digital Alfie" project develops (further information at www.digitalfie.com).
The bottom line is that going digital demands investment, not just in terms of finance but also in terms of concepts. There are already a lot of brilliant ideas out there, what we need to do is bring them together and create a concept that fully uses the potential of digital cinema and digital technology. And then putting it into practice - I can already feel the anticipation rising...
Frauke Feuer has been a consultant at peacefulfish for over two years, specialising in digital cinema and film financing. Being one of the best 10% of her year, she holds a master's degree in Applied Media Science from the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany, and a master's degree in Film and Moving Image Production from the Northern Film School, now part of Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, where she trained as a director before starting to explore the world of digital cinema and film financing.
In academic studies of business and modes of business communication the challenges to cinematographic communication arising from the adoption of digital technology are considered with a cautious attitude but also with great interest.
The cautiousness is linked to an awareness that the paths of development, affirmation and wide-scale spread of the new information and communications technologies (including digital), which in the recent past have underpinned the appearance and evolution of the new and net economies, are characterised by far quicker timing compared to the time involved for the needs, expectations and competences of the potential target users to mature. This has regarded and continues to regard the application of digital technology to television, which has recently seen the development of a wide-ranging debate in Italy both on the advisability of improving television viewing offered by digital cable and on its potential spread in the medium term. The slow penetration of this technology in Italy is, in fact, demonstrating that there is more need for caution than ever when it is a question of such radical innovations, capable of making an impact on the cultural dimensions of a country and on its capacity for technological modernisation.
The great interest is connected to the considerable potential for competitive differentiation and gain in spectator loyalty, both offered as examples for the adoption by movie theatres of digital projection systems.
I teach corporate communications at the Catholic University of Milan and ever since discussing my thesis on strategies for building and communicating the identities of movie theatres in order to improve their competitive edge in their territories, I have always kept a particularly keen eye on developments in the cinema sector and, in particular, on innovations concerning exhibition. This is because of the wealth of research opportunities arising in connection with some of the main and more recent themes in company communications, such as: the construction of unique and memorable theatrical viewing experiences, the management of cinema-going as an event, the implementation of a cinema brand policy, integrated communication of the theatre's offer.
The mere installation of digital projections systems is not enough to produce a competitive edge for the movie theatre: the technological innovation must be adequately supported by an intense and targeted promotional policy that will make spectators aware of its potential and of the differentiation of offer and provision of a unique and memorable viewing experience, leading them to appreciate it.
In particular, the challenge of a promotional policy consists in the "promise of quality" offered to spectators by the digital movie theatre. An all-encompassing quality regarding not only the technological aspect connected to the type of sound and vision experience made possible by digital projection, but also involving the whole range of services the theatre offers its spectators.
In connection with this, and in the context of my teaching, I have recently launched a research project, in collaboration with MEDIA Salles, that draws on contributions from theses by some of my best higher-degree students, analyzing the impact of adopting digital technologies on a significant sample of digital cinemas in Italy and on a sample of theatre-goers. More specifically, the research project aims to investigate the following aspects:
Dr.Rossella Gambetti is Assistant Professor in Management at Milan's Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, where she teaches "Economics and techniques of Business Communication" and "Audiovisuals in Business Communication".
Microcinema was founded in 1997 on the initiative of five founder partners and the technological support of the RAI research centre in Turin, to study and develop digital cinema in Italy. Today Microcinema is a reality that manages content for cinemas, in areas that are currently not "served" by premises and/or by products. It also offers new services through digital technology and bidirectional satellite transmission, such as: live events, remote systems control and maintenance, automatic invoicing of royalties by means of the ticketing system, and, most of all, it turns the cinema into something more flexible, usable / user-friendly, open and closer to the real needs of users (owners and public).
Silvana Molino was born in 1974 in Turin, to a couple of great parents and with the logistic support of two fantastic brothers. Today she is the chief financial officer and head of network relations for Microcinema.
Microcinema and Silvana came together in December 2003: a very cold winter and love at first sight!
From that moment on, the story has been a crescendo, starting from a single note and becoming a symphony, an aria, the sound of opera which, from Pordenone to Bari, crossed Italy on April 20th 2007 on the satellite connection that Microcinema had set up as the first Italian bidirectional digital cinemas network.
"Personally, I took up the challenge of demonstrating that digital cinema management is possible and economic if it is run as a network: digital projection is the only choice for small and medium exhibitors and it is the only chance for interesting independent content to circulate across the Europe and worldwide.
The challenge of my digital adventure grows with me day by day in two ways: as a woman in a predominantly male sector and as a manager in field that is innovative, difficult, interesting and full of possibilities. I think tomorrow my son will be able to say, "My mom trusted and worked hard for a revolution that today allows me to have this kind of cinema and this kind of content, and this kind of place near my home in which I can learn, dream and spend time with friends."
Spread the understanding of digital cinema and reap
For some people the term 'digital cinema' can be confusing. But producers, exhibitors and distributors usually share a clear and 'technical' interpretation of the concept. The confusion starts outside of the film sets, theatres and projection booths. Many may think it has something to do with computer generated images, games or the transition from analogical material to any type of digital format that can be viewed via internet.
In my work as a teacher and researcher in digital communication and media studies, I have noticed the confusion about the interpretation of digital cinema in other, often related, sectors. I have come across all sorts of assumptions, in particular in three important domains: media education, digital communication research and local governments dealing with 'digitalisation'. These interpretations - of an obviously very general and 'open' term - are not 'wrong', but what surprises me most is the lack of knowledge on the innovation of digital cinema as the industry understands it. This blind spot of information is not helping the understanding of digital cinema in general, and most of all, the supporting, discussing or further innovation of it.
In my university classes I meet enthusiastic film and media students, knowing all about digital effects, but very little about the revolution of digital cinema. Meanwhile archives stocked with film, video and photo material are looking into the opportunity of digitalisation but don't seem to need or receive information about goings-on in the cinemas. And above all, national and local governments that are keen to get on the 'digital innovation bandwagon' often understand digital cinema as digital film content, to be delivered to users mostly via Adsl, cd roms or dvds, while ignoring the local cinema theatres. Somehow, often in these environments no or very little information about 'digital cinema' - as experts understand it - reaches these keen ears.
Likewise, professionals within the cinema industry often do not have time or see the point in making a connection with the proceedings within the above mentioned sectors - education, archives, local governments.
And if people - from both sides - know something about the other's activity, not many seem to attempt to research the possibilities of fruitful collaborations. Unfortunately, for many people who ought to know, digital cinema seems to be left in the dark theatres.
But why should they know more about digital cinema? And why should a cinema exhibitor care about a small film archive looking into the possibility of digitalising some of its films? Why does a film student need to learn about 2K or 4K film?
The answer is obvious: when people learn about important activities going on outside of their sector they may pick up on collaborations helping to develop interests for all involved. It may result in more possibilities for the supporting and development of digital cinema, getting new talent on board, provide a stronger vote for funding schemes, create inventive partner projects etc. More concretely: a cinema theatre owner mulling over the question of how to pay for the new digital cinema projector may be interested in opening one of its theatres to show 'alternative content', like digitalised film from the nearby archive, or screen other content for big screens. They may invite telecommunication companies to get more use out of the content, bringing in commercial sponsors and/or finance by the local government. It all depends on inventive and creative ideas, strategies and cooperation.
Fortunately there are many people, organisations and institutes that do know about the importance of assembling and providing information about digital cinema from and to various professional worlds. Thanks to the work of organisations like MEDIA Salles, Smpte, Edcf and the spread of information by experts or research and consultancy centres, digital cinema is given the chance to spread and develop, sparking off many other interesting digital innovations in its course.
Mrs. Brecht van Eyndhoven (1971, The Netherlands) is a freelance teacher, researcher and coordinator in film and new media. She has worked for film industry websites, film festivals, production companies and universities. Brecht van Eyndhoven has lived and worked in Amsterdam, Arnhem, Maastricht (NL),and in Dublin (IRL). She currently lives and works in Rome, (I).
I have been working for the Furlan Cinecity Group for 18 years and over this long period of time I have experienced, together with my company, all the transformations that have made it into what it is today - one of the leading Italian groups in the cinema exhibition industry.
In this respect, our investment in digital cinema - which began towards the end of 2004 - is certainly one of the most important and "courageous" turning points, particularly when taking into account the "pioneer" spirit in which the Furlan Group started out on the long path to the new technology, which in practice represents the future of cinema.
At present, in our four Cinecity multiplexes (in Silea, Pradamano, Trieste and in the most recent complex in Limena, opened in December 2005), 11 digital systems exist, allowing us to offer all the films released in digital format in Italy up to now, always with exceptional results in terms of admissions and approval from our audiences, who are now used to the quality of digital, especially for the more "spectacular" products. In addition, at the time of writing we are completing the upgrade of our digital equipment in the Limena Cinecity where, as from 8 June, it will be possible to see "Meet the Robinsons" in the new Disney Digital 3D digital format - for the first time in Italy.
By using a series of devices and optical "illusions", this system makes it possible to add a sense of depth, adding a third dimension to what we are used to seeing on the screen.
The incredible effect of Disney Digital 3D is ensured by the use of active electronic lenses - comfortable, light and which can be worn over any sort of eyeglasses - that are regulated by remote control thanks to an infra-red transmitter. The latter, placed inside a projection booth, transmits the signal to 2 emitters located at the sides of the screen which, in turn, bounce it back to each single pair of lenses in the theatre.
Unlike what happened in the past, electronic control of the image eliminates faults like "ghost images" (due to the left eye catching a fragment of a frame destined for the right eye and vice-versa), spatial or temporal misalignment of the 2 images and excess eye strain.
I believe that constant investment in digital cinema - however costly - is of vital importance for achieving customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, and that it represents a necessary step towards the Group's prime objective: complete digitalisation of its cinemas, making it possible - in what we trust will be a not too distant future - to propose all films (as well as alternative content) in the only format able to guarantee top performance in terms of quality and economy of management.
The NFRF was founded in 1993 as a subsidiary of The Netherlands Cinematographic Federation (producers, distributors and exhibitors). It is the only research institute in The Netherlands that is specialized in research in the film sector. Since 1st January 2004, the NFRF has been an independent organization, associated with Utrecht University. Since February 2004, I have collaborated on projects for the Netherlands Film Fund, The Netherlands Association of Exhibitors and The Netherlands Association of Distributors, amongst others. My most recent project was a national survey on cinema going and the effect of discount actions on this behavior.
As a researcher I am very interested in new developments in European cinema exhibition. In this article I will address some of the recent developments and discussions in the Netherlands on digital cinema. As a recent inventory (1) made clear, The Netherlands so far has been lacking research regarding digital cinema. It seemed the subject had not seriously touched ground. Recently, as in many European countries, new initiatives have been coming up and innovators and early adopters have been looking into the new possibilities. A Dutch Think Tank was founded to facilitate discussion between the different parties in the market and the industry has been pushing to get this subject on the political agenda.
What's interesting in this matter is that one of the first Dutch exhibitors that went digital has recently decided to put its five projectors aside and go back to 100% 35mm projection. Jan van Dommelen of Jogchem's theatres comments: "We bought these projectors to test the technology. The projectors are fine, but we refuse to pay for the hardware all by ourselves, especially since there is a lack of content. We will wait until there is a virtual print fee" (2) . Because of this last downfall, the total number of Dutch digital projectors is at the moment insufficient for distributors to print digital, which is of course worrying for further developments.
In April 2007, the national film industry gathered several times to discuss the status quo of digital in the country and mainly to continue the discussion on who will pay. One initiative by the name of Cinemanet was getting quite a lot of attention. Their aim is to get all film theatres, art-houses and at least 60% of the mainstream cinemas organized in one digital network in a public limited company. Of course, they are not the only party that is offering to facilitate the digital process. The most important issues for Dutch exhibitors and distributors in this matter are not to lose control over the content and to keep the interoperability of the different systems in mind.
Another meeting, organized by the Dutch Organization of Feature Film Producers, concluded that consumers would benefit most from digital, since screening films will become a lot more flexible. The question remains, if this consumer would want to pay 20% more for a digital screening, as in surrounding countries. Research has always shown that the price of the ticket is one of the most important reasons why Dutch people do not go to cinemas or don't go more often. A recent study shows however, that in the last year the price of the ticket has become less of an issue for Dutch audiences. There is a growing appreciation for the superb quality of image and sound in cinemas, mainly by the male audience (3). Hopefully, this recent information will give digitalization in The Netherlands the boost it needs.
Folkets Hus och Parker (FHP), The National Federation of People's Parks and Community Centres, are unique in the world with the basic idea that everyone should have somewhere to meet, experience culture of different kinds and interact with their community. Within our 692 venues there are 240 cinemas and 245 screens. Most of them are situated in smaller towns and villages with between 200 and 20,000 inhabitants.
In 1999 FHP realised that digital cinema was an important transition and that we had to take action if we wanted our cinemas to survive. For the next two years we gathered information and prepared for a pilot project. In September 2001 we had our first public screening of a commercial film in Smedjebacken, one of seven pilot cinemas. During 2005 and 2006 the first cinemas were accompanied by another 33 of ours and 17 run by other smaller exhibitors thanks to a new lease. Apart from four 2K screens, all are 1.4K. For FHP, digital cinema isn't a pilot project anymore but a daily and very real business.
My work at FHP covers two areas: firstly, programmer and consultant; secondly, Head of Bio Kontrast, which is our nationwide art-house circuit. It's very diversified and rewarding work where the key element is the communication between me and the managers. Since many of them work on a non-profit basis in their spare-time and have autonomy regarding content and program, I have to be very supportive and be able to guide them to the 'right' decisions through all kinds of questions.
For the past six years FHP has tested all types of content in our digital cinemas. Some of them have had little success and some of them have made huge leaps forward. All these experiences are equally important for us and everyone in the business. To mention a few: live events like the studio-concert with David Bowie, the Robbie Williams concert, the New Year's Concert from Vienna (four years in a row), the European Football Championships (in HD), the World Cup (in HD), opera from the Metropolitan in New York (in HD) and all of them via satellite; pre-recorded Broadway Musicals; live local sports events with local commentators; video- and computer games (Playstation, X-box, Wii, LAN parties); live European Song Contest (televised); previews of Swedish TV-series; Viasat Sports channels; interactive conferences by high capacity broadband; digital advertising, both local and national; Swedish documentaries and art-house movies on standard-, HD- and BlueRay-DVD; Swedish blockbusters on generic and non-generic hard drives; Hollywood blockbusters on generic hard drives.
One of our most recent successes was the live opera from the Metropolitan. The screening on March 24 was The Barber of Seville; 17 cinemas had an audience of 2,400 people, with 11 cinemas sold-out. Actually, this is roughly the same amount of ticket sales as Night at the Museum at these cinemas. We also got 10 full pages in the nationwide newspapers over a five-day-period and boundless coverage by local media. Nevertheless the main purpose of these digital houses is feature-film screenings. We have shown that there's a huge part of the market out there for us. If we just could get hold of the digital prints at the premiere. The most recent example is a Swedish film Göta Kanal 2. Thirty of our digital cinemas in the first week alone took 6% of the total admissions. FHP's total market share during 2006 was 3.7%. When 30 out of 245 cinemas can make 6% that's a huge opportunity both for us and the distributors!
This gives us leverage, with an enormous potential to earn money but still there's a lot of outdated thinking and maybe excessive consideration of the Hollywood Studios in Sweden. The DCI specifications are hand-stitched for the US and the large multiplexes. In fact a 2K projector projects a specified amount of pixels in a line irrespective of the screen size, meaning that in order to follow the DCI specs FHP's cinemas have to project a picture almost twice as sharp as the multiplex-screens. This doesn't seem fair, does it? Another consideration is that the 2K projectors are too big for our machine rooms and the projected light is too strong for our small venues. FHP believes in and works for scalability, i.e. smaller screens with smaller projectors show high quality, and should be able to get content. A relaxing of the DCI specs is the only way to prevent the wide-scale disappearance of European cinemas during the Big Roll Out!
I feel my contributions to international marketing both in the international fashion business and most recently in digital cinema exhibition have benefited from my MA in Economics coupled with the four languages I speak.
Being interested in new technologies and how they would impact on cinema with the advent and the future potential of the D-cinema, I started with XDC in January 2006.
By a long lead, XDC is the leading digital cinema service company in Europe. It offers technical and financial customized solutions to the cinema business and all the necessary related services distributors and exhibitors need to show motion pictures flawlessly and securely.
XDC offers exhibitors a wide range of technical (2K projectors, secure servers and integration components) and financing (rental, leasing or selling) solutions. Moreover, XDC offers full logistical services for distributors, including digital content preparation (encoding and encryption), delivery, and quality control and archiving. At the time of writing, 16 January 2007, over 200 movies have been processed by XDC Content Servicing Laboratory.
I fulfil the role of Area Sales Manager for the Southern and some Northern European countries. I see these markets as very promising because of the quantity and quality of their production. My responsibilities include the business development and sales of our services to the exhibitors. I ensure contacts are followed up, the presentation of the XDC Business Proposal and, most importantly, make sure contracts are signed. Coordination and ensuring that our local integrators comply and carry out their work according to XDC's stringent quality guidelines are also part of my job. Preferred system integration partners are essential. They know the language, the way of working and the local characteristics of their territory. They enable XDC to accelerate the progress of its business approach.
Even in these emancipated times, outside the US and the eastern European countries, women are still underrepresented in technology industries. At the beginning, I have to admit that it was not so easy to prevail in a male dominated area, but the innovative challenge which is digital cinema and my strong personality have enabled me to integrate into this hitherto male sector.
XDC has a very important digital market share in Europe, of the order of 80 to 85%. However, it is necessary to see these figures in an overall context because, even though significant, our almost 300 screens in comparison with the 18,000 screens in the prospective countries are not that many. And because of this, my role is more educational than 'pure business'.
One of our major assets is certainly the quality of our services and the experience our team possesses. We have developed some essential tools to facilitate digital deployment. Probably one of the most important is XDC's Network Operations Centre that allows direct communication with projectionists all over Europe and the remote control of the server and cinema automations systems.
We work every day to make digital cinema a concrete, reliable and advantageous solution for the cinema industry and I help exhibitors make it possible.
Digital cinema is a revolution, but "coming soon" to your screens too...
Digitalizing Finland from an exhibitor point of view
Writing this article is definitely not one of the easiest tasks that I've had in my time working in the cinema business as an exhibitor. Especially when the title is "Women in Digital" and digital cinema is still an egg not yet hatched in Finland.
Finland is a small country with 5.2 million inhabitants and 221 cinemas with a total of 341 screens. The total number of admissions in 2006 was 6.9 million. Most of the cinemas in Finland are single-screen theatres and work in rural areas. Finnkino is a major market leader with multiplexes in 9 locations.
The Cinema I run is a three-screen theatre with 99/98/78 seats. We operate in a small town in southern Finland with 47.429 inhabitants. We have approximately 50-55,000 admissions annually which is a small number compared to the major cities in Europe, including Helsinki with 2.2 million admissions in 2005. But with 47,583 admissions in 2005 we were the 20th largest cinema in Finland.
To date major digital rollout in Finland has only been a dream - and it will be so for the near future at least. At the moment we have one digital screen in the whole country. This screen started operating in December 2006.
The largest problems are of course the same as in any other place: how can we afford the investment, given the expensive equipment involved? Will there be digital prints available? etc. But we also have the problem of single-screen exhibitors in a large, fragmented area. Will it be worthwhile to invest more than 100,000 euros per screen in a town where there are less than 10,000 admissions annually? It's a huge risk - whoever pays. However it works out, it has to be a way that is equal for all, multiplex or single-screen. Not one that just rewards multiplexes, forgetting about those who offer their territories this wonderful form of culture.
From an exhibitor's point of view, it would be a certain suicide to try to pay for the conversion individually. And as we can't afford the rollout by ourselves, how do we do it? There have been suggestions of local funding (cities, companies), national funding (the Ministry of Education being most mentioned) and of course private funding. The biggest problem in my opinion is that there is not enough material available for those who would like to know more about digitalisation. Why not try to find the best possible solutions and live with it?
At the moment we are investigating the possibilities of different forms of financial help for cinemas of different sizes. As we all know, the investments are huge and at the moment there is not enough experience on the market to tell us how to proceed to make the best choices. Mostly I fear for all the small rural areas where the theatre may be the only one within several miles? Where the movie is shown months after the premiere and you could already buy it or rent it. Where the print is often so scratched that it makes the atmosphere special. Where going to the movies is really an experience, not just a way of spending Saturday night. This might be a bigger threat than the VHS and DVD revolutions were to these locations.
Of course we have alternative content also, but if our major income is from showing films, how can we suddenly change our image and function to being something else? How do we get the permission to show the movie on only a few nights of the week as we have alternative content for our audience on other nights? How do we know that it will work? These are questions that no-one is prepared to answer. And still these are the biggest questions for those who have made their living in this business for years. And especially here: you might be the 2nd or even the 3rd generation running the same cinema - would you like to lose your legacy?
I know it will take time before we reach the point of not receiving any more prints in the way we do now, but still the day might come sooner than we expect. And I would not like to be the one explaining to the customers that we're not able to show the movie as it is only available in digital.
Maybe my article wasn't so much about women in digital, but gives you an insight of the thoughts of facing with the reality of conversion and the problems we face daily dealing with digital cinema.
In 2004 I took part in the first "DigiTraining Plus" at Kuurne. Partly as a consequence of this experience, when we started out to restructure the old Apollo cinema (1,200 seats right in the centre of Milan) with my partner Lionello Cerri, in 2004, we aimed to create a place that was technologically in the avant-garde.
Digital cinema is an emerging field often compared to a steamroller: slow to start but impossible to avoid! Following somewhat the legacy of television, the silver screen will one day make the transition from analogue to digital. Replacing film - a robust, standardized, century-old technology - is a complex process. With this transition, cinema professionals, distributors, exhibitors and audiences expect a quality level and efficiency that is equal to or surpasses what currently exists.
Since November 2004, I have embarked on an intensive investigation of the entire cinema chain, with a special focus on digital cinema. This project has taken me to various cities and events in Europe and the United States, where I have interviewed and conversed with manufacturers, researchers, associations and cinema professionals from production, through to exhibition.
The conversion from film to digital requires not only robust technological developments and viable business models, but also clear communication from the many sectors involved, as well as transparent education/training. Beyond the above, the concept of digital cinema distribution and exhibition also has clear economic, political and cultural ramifications.
What is the future of digital cinema? How will digital cinema ultimately affect the distribution and exhibition communities around the world? These are enormous questions that have been debated for the last few decades while in parallel new equipment and exciting future possibilities are taking place. This is a time for analysis and participation from all sectors that make up this 'chain'.
Around the world various digital cinema installations are taking place, opening doors for new business models in the postproduction, distribution and exhibition sectors. Digital technologies have revolutionized both production and postproduction, and will have a great impact in cinema distribution and exhibition. Ideally, the emerging business models and technologies should both respect the existing business relationships between distributors and exhibitors that have been set in place for decades as well as foster new possibilities for access to content and programming in theatres.
Digital cinema will in the future have a clear international standardization as well as the technology that replicates film's legacy to produce and project stunning images. It is here that international standards organizations such as ITU and SMPTE take on great importance. There is also the great relevance of resolutions - HD, 2K, 4K - as well as colour spaces, compressions, security management, equipment interoperability and life span, international certification, and finally business models that have viability for all kinds of cinemas, both big and small.
Although these issues can seem overwhelming for many in the distribution and exhibition communities, it is crucial that there is feedback and participation for the future; the common goal between all sectors involved in the digital cinema future should be to design systems - technological and economic - that can have the legacy of 35mm film and offer new opportunities for content and quality levels, which directly relate to the true life force of the entire cinema chain, the audience.
With the developments of home cinema, dvds, release date windows, Internet and the continuous offers for leisure, many in the exhibition industry can feel the impact in their cinemas. Once more networks, systems and viable business models are set in place; a possible advantage of digital cinema distribution - whether via physical media, cable or in the future satellite - is the flexibility in accessing content and programming.
Like the dvd, digital cinema packages and exhibition systems can be designed to offer a variety of language and subtitle selections as well as options for the visually and/or hearing impaired.
It is impossible to come to a clear conclusion at this point in time, which for many can be understandably frustrating. We are at a cross roads and the best advice I can humbly give is to continue accumulating information and look to those pioneers around the world who are active in this conversion process.
For those who are interested in the future of digital cinema, I leave you with three 'investigation' areas in which continuous developments, proposals and possible future solutions are taking place:
1. Search for publications and connection to groups that are actively working for education and dissemination about these issues, like MEDIA Salles, UNIC, EDCF, IMAGO, NATO, DCI and many more associations around the world.
2. Attendance, participation or representation in international and national digital cinema events. It is here that manufacturers, associations and standards organizations are also present and available for questions and answers. These events also provide excellent networking opportunities.
3. Look to those who have demonstrated experience in funding and cinema business models. Unlike the United States, Europe currently has many markets, thus making the situation complex. Through time, with continued development and the opening of markets, there will be clearer solutions to this challenge.
This is not an easy transition, but there are many involved this emerging field who are committed to designing the future so that the magic and true power of cinema in theatres will continue.
I joined Arts Alliance Media (AAM) in September 2002 and am currently Director of Digital Cinema, responsible for the growth and operations of the digital cinema business in the UK and Europe. In particular I head up the rollout and operation of the UK Film Council's Digital Screen Network, Europe's largest 2k digital cinema network.
The concept of digital cinema is a new one that makes more headway every day throughout the media.
At the moment my theatres are fitted with a Sanyo 1.3K projector for screening movies in an electronic format. In all there are 75 cinemas in Spain equipped with these projectors and connected via satellite, waiting for the opportunity to offer content.
We have started our "digital adventure" as pioneers in Italy back in the pre-history of digital cinema, i. e. in 2001. We had equipped one of our screens, "Fire Theatre", with the digital technology available on the market at that time, i.e. the first-generation 1.3K DLP Cinema™ projectors and a server that was initially a QuBit. Over the following years we have always paid close attention to the evolution of the equipment and gradually adopted all the technology that allowed us to make additional improvements to the presentation system.
At present we have three digital screens inside the ARCADIA complex: Fire Theatre, Air Theatre and our biggest auditorium called Energy. All three theatres are fitted with 2K digital projectors, DLP Cinema™ technology and Avica, Dolby and QuVis servers.
For around 5 years the ARCADIA was the only Italian cinema equipped for digital screening and the great difficulty was to obtain movies in this format from the distributors. For this reason we decided that the best strategy was to convince other fellow exhibitors to equip their own theatres, so that the demand for digital copies would provoke a rapid response from distribution. And this is what happened: since early 2005 our first two fellow exhibitors - Furlan and Giometti - have joined ARCADIA and equipped their theatres.
And so, since 2005, with the release of Shark Tale and Constantine, a host of requests to make digital copies available has brought a prompt response from distributors. Nonetheless, despite some relief, the problem has not yet been completely solved, since not all films distributed in digital format on the international market succeed in gaining digital distribution in Italy, too. Particularly at present, in a phase of transition from the compression system currently used to that indicated by the DCI specifications, great difficulty is still found in obtaining titles in digital format.
In the future we shall continue to pay attention to the progress made in digital technology and, together with our fellow exhibitors, we will make sure that in Italy a wider variety of titles are distributed in digital. In the future, we shall go on following this path and, step by step, deal with all the issues that up to now, in an experimental phase like the one we are experiencing at present, have not yet been solved.