Monthly Archives: March 2011

CinemaCon 2011: Fithian Urges NATO Members To Begin Digital Transition

John Fithian At CinemaCon 2011

John Fithian At CinemaCon 2011

John Fithian, President of the National Association of Theatre Owners, gave his annual State of the Industry address yesterday at the trade group’s inaugural CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas. His speech covered all the necessary points while reiterating some of the comments about the digital cinema transition which Fithian has made to smaller groups over the past several months.

He began with a handful of statistics that highlighted some economic figures, including a global box office which climbed 30% over the past five years to reach USD $31.8 billion in 2010. North American box office receipts rose 15% to USD $10.6 billion in that same period, while inflation only rose 8%. In what was perhaps a jab at the studios rumored plans to begin offering new films via premium video-on-demand, Fithian compared these numbers to home video sales, which have declined 13% during the past five years.

Fithian also provided an update on North America’s digital cinema roll out, telling the audience of over 2,000 delegates that almost 16,000 screens, out of a total of 39,000 had been converted to digital. Nearly 9,000 of those screens are equipped for 3D projection. After running through more industry numbers than most could ever remember, Fithian paused as he came to the most important point in his speech:

“For any exhibitor who can hear my voice who hasn’t begun your digital transition, I urge you to get moving. The distribution and exhibition industries achieved history when we agreed to technical standards and a virtual print fee model to enable this transition. But the VPFs won’t last forever. Domestically, you must be installed by the end of 2012 if you want to qualify. Equally significantly, based on our assessment of the roll-out schedule and our conversations with our distribution partners, I believe that film prints could be unavailable as early as the end of 2013. Simply put, if you don’t make the decision to get on the digital train soon, you will be making the decision to get out of the business.”

Fithian went on to remark that admissions had climbed in each of the last four decades and that 3D grosses in 2010 made up 21% of total receipts, doubling the amount such films earned in 2009. However, his earlier comments about the ongoing digital cinema transition is what most of the show’s attendees focused on after Fithian’s speech concluded. Was it true that all cinema owners had to convert their screens to digital before 2012 to qualify for a VPF? Are studios really going to stop distributing 35mm film prints after 2013?

Read More »

CinemaCon 2011: Chris Dodd Makes Debut As MPAA Chairman

Chris Dodd At CinemaCon 2011

Chris Dodd At CinemaCon 2011

Nine days into his new position as Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Senator Christopher Dodd showed up at CinemaCon yesterday to address more than 2,000 delegates from the exhibition and distribution industries in what he called “the first performance of this new chapter in my life”. As expected, Dodd’s speech focused on piracy and the increased expansion of Hollywood films in the global marketplace.

Before getting into the meat of his speech, Dodd tried to defuse the tension developing between exhibitors and distributors over the studio’s premium video-on-demand offerings. “Our films are still made to be shown on big screens in dark theatres filled with people,” said Dodd, speaking directly to exhibitors. “As the new CEO and Chairman of the MPAA, I passionately believe there remains no better way to see a movie than in theatre, and no more important relationship for our studios to maintain than the the one we have with you.”

Dodd went on to discuss a subject matter that continuously came during his initial conversations with studio heads; piracy. Calling it the single biggest threat the industry faces, Dodd avoided using the label for what he believes too many people see as a victimless crime. Instead he replaced the word piracy with the phrase “movie theft”.

The politician in Dodd came out as he stood before the crowd proclaiming, “It is critical that we aggressively educate people to understand that movie theft is not just a Hollywood problem. It is an American problem.” He went on to talk about the 2.5 million, mostly middle class, people who work in the film industry earning USD $140 billion in annual wages, all of whom are hurt by movie piracy.

Read More »

CinemaCon 2011: Dolby Lines Up New Releases For 7.1 Surround Sound

Dolby Surround 7.1 Logo.jpgDolby is using CinemaCon to announce a slate of new titles that will be released with Dolby Surround 7.1 audio.

Most of the films are highly anticipated summer tentpole releases and include Walt Disney Studios “Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides”, DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 2″, Disney/Pixar’s “Cars 2″ and Paramount Pictures’ “Transformers: Dark Of The Moon”. Dolby also landed the first Indian film to feature their enhanced audio offering; Ramesh Sippy Entertainment’s “Dum Maaro Dum” will be released in April with Dolby Surround 7.1.

Since introducing the product to exhibitors in June of 2010, more than 1,300 Dolby Surround 7.1 installations have been completed. Dolby now says it is one of the “fastest adopted cinema audio formats” in the company’s history.

Of course, what makes the enhanced audio offering possible are the 16 audio tracks, or channels, within digital cinema packages (DCPs). Including additional audio tracks in digital releases seems like a no brainer, however exhibitors still have to be equipped to playback the extra channels. That means having wiring in place for left rear and right rear surround channels, not to mention an audio processor that can route the audio to the proper speakers.

Read More »

Chris McGurk Says Cinedigm’s Future Is In Software And Content

Chris McGurk

Cinedigm's Chris McGurk

Not sure if you noticed, but over the past week Cinedigm’s stock price jumped over 33% from USD $1.50 to USD $2.00. It closed Friday out at USD $1.88. The sudden price increase in Cinedigm’s stock is likely due to a number of factors, rather than a single reason.

It has been a busy year so far for North America’s largest digital cinema deployment entity. In January industry veteran Chris McGurk (formerly with Overture Films and MGM) joined Cinedigm as it’s new chairman and CEO. In February the company announced improved financial results for the third quarter for fiscal 2011, hired back David Gajda as the chairman of their software division and signed Southern Theatres to a d-cinema deployment contract.

Last week AMC, the second largest U.S. theatre chain, selected Cinedigm’s Exhibition Management Solution to handle such head office tasks as film rental and revenue auditing. This was a day after the third annual Gabelli & Company Movie Industry Conference, where Cinedigm was represented by McGurk, whose presentation on maintaining theatrical film windows was reportedly well received.

In the following conversation, which took place on the eve of the first annual CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, McGurk openly discusses the company’s stock price, digital Cinema, and most importantly, Cinedgim’s future business direction.

Celluloid Junkie: So, as someone who has attended ShoWest in the past as a studio executive, how does it feel to be heading to Las Vegas for CinemaCon as the head of a digital cinema deployment entity?

Chris McGurk: There’s a little bit of a difference but I think it’s kind of great because we’re positioned right in the middle. We’re not on the studio side and we’re not on the exhibition side, but we’re basically a facilitator for what both sides are trying to do and right now that’s a great position to be in. I was just at the Gabelli Conference last week in New York where we presented and listened to everyone talk for six hours. It seems the level of tension that exists between studios and exhibitors right now is higher than it’s ever been, primarily because of windowing. But I think a company like Cinedigm, a digital services provider, a provider of alternative content and software solutions, I think we’re in kind of a unique position to sort of get in the middle of all that and help find some solutions to make things work.

Read More »

Les Moore Discusses Kodak Laser Projection Technology

Kodak Laser Projection SystemAt the end of February when the FDA approved a variance clearing the way for Kodak to sell their laser projection technology to cinema exhibitors we ran a post which started out stating it was meant to be a competitor to Texas Instruments DLP chip. It didn’t take long for a commenter to point out that the Kodak’s system actually uses the DLP chip.

I spent considerable time searching through all of Kodak’s marketing material and press releases trying to find any reference to TI’s DLP chip and came up empty. Multiple searches on Google, that bastion of all knowledge, finally turned up some information which seemed to confirm that Kodak employed DLP in its solution.

All of this made me realize how little I actually knew about Kodak’s laser technology. I figured there could be no better source for information on the system than Kodak itself. Thankfully, I was able to speak with Les Moore, Kodak’s chief operating officer for Digital Cinema, who managed to shed some light (no pun intended) on the new technology. Surely, my first question should come as no surprise.

Celluloid Junkie: After being corrected in a recent post about Kodak Laser Technology and its use of the DLP chip I found it difficult to determine conclusively whether you are actually using the chip. Are you?

Les Moore: Yes. What we did was we said, “Lasers are starting to hit a price power point that makes some sense for theatrical use. Let’s see what we can do to design a projector using lasers as the light source. Let’s take a good hard look at the benefits that lasers can bring to a projector and then optimize the projector to make use of the lasers. There are a few manufacturers out there making good products in the industry with DLP, let’s base it around a DLP engine.” So that’s what we did.

CJ: The reason I ask is that there is no reference to DLP in any of your marketing or technical material. Was that intentional?

LM: I thought we had said it. I don’t believe it is described in the FDA variance. You might be right. There was no intent to not include that information. I think you’re aware we’ve held some open sessions here in Rochester where folks can hear a presentation that walks through the technology from front to back and then we take people up to a theatre and do a demonstration. It’s been very clear in those presentations that it’s designed around a DLP. Maybe that’s something we need to work on. It wasn’t intentional.

Read More »

MPAA Selects Chris Dodd For Top Job And Huge Challenges

Christopher J. Dodd

Christopher J. Dodd

All the rumors being reported by the mainstream press as a foregone conclusion were actually correct. This week the Motion Picture Association of America announced that Christopher Dodd, the former U.S. Senator from Connecticut, would become their chairman and chief executive beginning March 17th.

The position, often viewed as Hollywood’s top lobbyist, had been vacant for a year. MPAA president, Bob Pisano, filled in during that time and did what many consider to be a stellar job; he made sure Congress banned two movie futures trading exchanges and gained the Federal Communication’s approval for Selective Output Control (SOC) technology which is meant to prevent home entertainment devices from pirating video-on-demand content. Pisano will help Dodd make the transition into his new role with the MPAA.

Some news reports pointed out that Dodd, who is 66, comes to the job with no entertainment industry experience. But Jack Valenti, who led the MPAA for 38 years, came to the job with the same deficit in 1966. Though Dodd has a few industry connections with the likes of Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, from whom he sought advice before taking the position, it is his political background the MPAA found so appealing.

As a senator with five-terms under his belt, Dodd has a bit of experience negotiating complicated deals and drafting legislation like the Family and Medical Leave Act. During his 30 year run in the Senate he’s made a few influential friends in Washington. As an added bonus, Dodd has a reputation of being an intelligent and amiable person, traits which helped him during an unsuccessful campaign for President in 2008.

Read More »

Studios Are Fighting Movie Piracy On College Campuses

Piracy On College Campuses

A Warning To Copyright Infringers At Cornell

It looks as if the MPAA may be spying on college students, or at the very least monitoring their file sharing activity. Last week on CNET’s daily tech news podcast Buzz Out Loud the hosts read an email from a listener named Chris who explained how the MPAA has been leaving notes for students they believe are sharing movies online.

Illegal (and legal) file sharing is a constant topic of discussion on Buzz Out Loud as are the attempts of the MPAA and RIAA to prosecute those who participate in such activity. So Chris, a college student who lives in a dorm on the Cornell University campus, wrote in to pass along the news that the MPAA has identified his dorm as a den of illegal downloading. He writes (no emphasis added):

…my university (Cornell) has had run-ins with the MPAA and RIAA in the past over our school’s file sharing network. Everyday when I get back from class, I see a new notice on the message board in the lobby. About once a week there is a particular kind of message; this week’s reads:

‘Attention! Someone in Eddygate (my building) IS or WAS uploading the movie THE FIGHTER. STOP NOW!!! PARAMOUNT PICTURES WANTS YOU!!!

Last week it was ‘SONY PICTURES IS WATCHING YOU!’ for some other movie.

Are they now threatening college students specifically? … Are they possibly monitoring our specific building?… Are they really going through the effort to contact landlords and apartment managers to tell their residents to stop committing the ultimate evil?

Read More »