How the Gates Family Foundation Saved Small Town Cinemas from Death-by-Digital

Fox Theatre Walsenburg

As the clock ticks down for the end of 35mm film prints, so the race is on to save the last few small town cinemas that cannot afford the switch to digital. We are now talking months, not years.

In the United States funds typically come from one or a mixture of three sources, all of which we have profiled here at Celluloid Junkie in the past: local community fund-raising, on-line crowd funding and even grants or donations from the local Chambers of Commerce. There was even an effort to tap the Pepsi Refresh Project a few years back, while Honda did something similar for drive-ins.

But philanthropic foundations have had a relatively low profile until a recent effort got underway in Colorado. While charities alone cannot save all the small cinemas across the US, the experience in the Centennial State shows that they can provide critical seed funding. Over the next 12 to 24 months, this can mean the difference between life and death for thousands of small town cinemas across the United States.

Colorado’s Rural Theater Digital Conversion Grant

The key to the success of Colorado’s venture has been the bringing together of three critical actors: State authorities,  non-profit bodies and private charities. As outlines last year in The Denver Post:

A number of foundations, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and the Denver Film Society have teamed up to create grants ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 for theaters converting to the new digital equipment required by the film industry.

Film distributors, which no longer distribute traditional celluloid prints, have converted to digital format. The new distribution method requires digital projectors, which cost an average of $60,000 to $70,000 each.

The state said many rural theaters can’t afford these projectors and will probably close, threatening the arts, culture and fabric of the community.

The last sentence has been crucial in mobilising government, business and philanthropic support, as we will see.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 10 April


Kulturhuset stockholm

Three stories from my native country Sweden, to start off the Daily today. Click on the link if you are using Chrome browser (as 35.40% of you are) and you get the option of an automatic translation.

Stockholm’s Culture House is taking back the running of its small in-house cinema from SF Bio. More varied film selection and ticket prices are to be expected.

Kulturhuset tar över Klarabiografen från SF vid årsskiftet. Nu väntar en storsatsning på kvalitetsfilm och språklig mångfald sju dagar i veckan – till varierande biljettpriser.

I måndags sades avtalet med SF upp. Det går formellt ut sista december i år. På nyårsdagen 2015 inleds den nya bioverksamheten i Kulturhuset Stadsteatern på våning 2.  LINK

The decision to hand over the running of the cinematheque had previously been heavily criticised by the Swedish Film Institute and other cinema chains.

SF Bio popcorn

Concessions – SF Bio is revamping its concessions menu: by changing the name of combo deals, abolishing ‘up-sizing’ and increasing the price by SEK 5 (USD $0.77).

Mellanläsk. Stor popcorn.

I SF Bios kassasystem heter den beställningen ”Klassiker mellan+” och kostar 64 kronor för kunden.

Men från och med 14 april ska en mellanläsk och en stor popcorn kallas ”Superklassiker” och kosta 69 kronor, enligt ett internt mejl som Nöjesbladet tagit del av.  LINK

Bio Maxim

Cinema Opening/Closing – The Bio Maxim cinema in Helsingborg is NOT closing, but the the landlord will be taking over the running from the current operator who is unable to make the switch to digital.

Ryktet om Bio Maxims död är betydligt överdrivet. Ägaren Max Klintman har visserligen gett upp men nu lovar Peter Billquist, vd i bolaget som äger fastigheten: “Jag ska se till att Landskrona har en bio även i framtiden”.

I dagarna stod det klart att Bio Maxims ägare Max Klintman efter en längre tids ojämn ekonomisk kamp kastar in handduken. Gjorda investeringar och nödvändiga framtida investeringar blir alltför kostsamma. Därmed skulle ridån på Maxim gå ner för sista gången i slutet på april.  LINK

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Latin American VPF Deals Hide Regional Problems – UPDATED

Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid

[Ed: We have received lots of feedback and updated info from readers fram and active in the region. ¡Muchas Gracias/Muito Obrigado! The article has been UPDATED THROUGHOUT as a result.]

Much like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid headed to Bolivia after they had run out of banks in the Wild West to hold up, so too digital cinema integrators have moved on to Latin America, now that virtual print fee (VPF) coffers are empty in North America and Europe. Yet despite the flurry of Latin America-related VPF press releases at the recent CinemaCon, there are fundamental issues that will make it a challenge to migrate the continent to digital cinema.

We have already discussed the press releases from CinemaCon 2014, including those  related to Latin America, so for a full breakdown have a look HERE. We will not provide a full analysis or analyse each deal, but try to look at the context and outlook for the region, as it struggles to catch up with the rest of the world in going digital.

As we pointed out during ShowEast 2012 it was the last chance for Latin American countries to get a VPF deal and we are unlikely to see many more major deals after this one. Gary Johns from Sony Electronics commented then that their VPF deals for North America were available until 31 March 2013, i.e. almost exactly a year ago. While international deals do have a little longer to run, studios like Twentieth Century Fox have politely but firmly informed exhibitors, distributors and (perhaps most importantly) government representatives in Brazil and elsewhere in Asia that the end of 35mm prints is nigh.

GDC at the Forefront – of press release announcements

It is noteworthy that deployment entities like Scrabble and GDC have signed separate VPF deployment deals with Hollywood studios (here and here respectively), highlighting that the continent could not easily follow deployment patterns and terms even for non-US or EU territories such as India and China. Of these two entities GDC has been the more active, with no less than five announcements relating to Latin America, while Scrabble has been largely silent recently. So what’s the motivation to be aggressive on the VPF front in Latin America?

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Daily Cinema Digest – Wednesday 9 April 2014

ArcLight Santa monica

Normally we bury cinema openings further down in the Daily, but this merits top billing.

Back in January we wrote about how premium cinema operator ArcLight had set its sights on Los Angeles’ Santa Monica market and whether this would create a screen glut.

Now news reaches us that ArcLight is already planning a second multiplex in downtown Santa Monica, which would include an Imax screen.

ArcLight Cinemas is in negotiations with City Hall to put a theater on the land where Parking Structure 3 currently stands — on Fourth Street at Arizona Avenue, said Andy Agle, director of Housing and Economic Development.

A preliminary agreement that would allow ArcLight to start drawing up official plans could go before City Council later this month.

At that same meeting, council will consider final approval of another ArcLight theater proposed for the third level of the Santa Monica Place mall. Those plans have been in the works since last year. The Santa Monica Place theater could include up to 13 screens and 1,500 seats.  LINK

Meanwhile other cinemas in the area, such as Laemmle, are reducing seating capacity and expanding concessions and cafe areas instead. AMC is also expected to reduce the number of seats.

Business

Russian cinema

Russia: Rather than introducing a quota on foreign films, as had been previously mooted, it looks like Russia will instead introduce a levy this summer.

The government plans to popularize Russian films on the home market by introducing extra charges for Western movies and granting tax breaks to domestic ones may do no more than mildly handicap foreign competitors while failing to meet the industry’s underlying needs.

The suggestions, published Monday on the government website, are directed at increasing the presence of Russian films in theaters, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting of the council on the development of national cinema in late March during which the measures were discussed.  LINK

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Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 8 April 2014

Imax China

Imax is to sell 20% of its China business to two Chinese-based entities in return for USD $80 million and a firmer foot hold in the world’s soon-to-be largest cinema market.

IMAX Chief Executive Richard Gelfond said in an interview that investment fund China Media Capital and private-equity firm FountainVest Partners would pay $40 million each for 10% stakes by early 2015. He said the deal gives IMAX local partners who will open up expansion opportunities in one of its most important markets.

The investors will shepherd a public offering of shares of the China operation, IMAX China Holding Inc., in the next five years, Mr. Gelfond said. IMAX China will be paying IMAX Corp. an ongoing trademark and licensing fee for the right to use the IMAX trademark in China, a spokeswoman said. IMAX China is aiming to list in Hong Kong but will be positioning itself to list on other China exchanges, such as in Shanghai, in case that doesn’t work out or a better opportunity arises on the mainland, a spokeswoman said.  LINK

Not only will this allow for expansion in China, but Imax must also be hoping to neutralise the nascent threat from CFGS - though this is not mentioned in the above article.

NAB

Barco laser projection

USA (LV): Lasers are coming! This follow-up article from David Keene provides excellent insights from the pre-NAB Cinema Summit on what is happening on the laser front.

The first shots were fired on Saturday, in the session “Laser Illuminated Projectors: What’s New and When Will They Arrive? Bill Beck, President of BTM Consulting moderated panelists Pete Ludé, CTO of Mission Rock Digital; Goran Stojmenovik , Product Manager Laser Projection, Barco; Richard McPherson of NEC Display Solutions; and Don Shaw, Senior Director of Product Management for Entertainment Solutions at Christie.

The panel was straight forward– not your typical panel involving a lot of speculation and vague talk of coming solutions. It was three major projector manufactures explaining their new Laser projectors. And surprisingly, this was not a “me too” exercise: each company is launching a very different kind of Laser projector and/or 3D solution into the market this spring.  LINK

You Will Be Amazed To Find Out What The Differences Between The Different Laser Projector Solutions Are!

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Daily Cinema Digest – Monday 7 April 2014

NAB_SHOW_2014

A mere two weeks after CinemaCon, NAB rolled into Las Vegas this past weekend and wasted no time setting its sights on the future of the cinematic experience.

Variety’s always excellent David Cohen was there, for the benefit of all those of you who couldn’t face returning to Vegas so soon. Sounds like there was a wealth of great speakers, including Sony Picture’s recently departed Head of Technology, Chris Cookson.

Cookson told the audience of engineers and technologists from around the world: ”Our job on the technology side is to make the technology disappear, to make applications and interfaces that are so powerful and intuitive that storytellers can focus only on telling their stories.”

Asked by a member of the audience what frame rate will be used in 2064, he said “In 2064 you won’t even ask the question, it’ll be whatever it takes to convey the feeling,” and went on to predict frame rates will even change scene to scene, if that’s what serves the story.

An old friend of Celluloid Junkie was on the panel that followed, injecting some reality checks into the discussion that was drifting in the direction of Occulus and holo-deck virtual relity cinema.

A panel on the future of cinema following Cookson’s speech expanded on his ideas. “Filmmakers are going to have more of an infinite palette to play with: frame rate, high dynamic range… It’ll be whatever you want it to be,” said Rob Hummell, president of Group 47 and a Hollywood tech stalwart. “But don’t think any of this stuff is what’s guaranteed to get audiences into theaters,” he warned, harkening back to a survey in the early 1980s that asked theater patrons which exhibition innovations mattered most to them. “Cupholders” was their answer, said Hummel.  LINK

Concessions

Fish and chips popcorn

UK: Fish and chips-flavoured popcorn? It could only be a Empire Cinema’s ‘What pops your corn?’ competition in the UK.

A HIGH Wycombe man hopes his idea of fish and chips flavoured popcorn will take first prize in an Empire cinemas competition.

Nick Sykes has been shortlisted in the competition to create a fantasy popcorn flavour.

Hundreds of entries have flooded in from across the country from people describing their dream popcorn flavour.  LINK

Event Cinema

Monty Python reunion

UK: The Pythons have decided against taking their stage re-union on tour, but it is like to come to cinemas. No word on whether it will be live or a concert film like Monty Python’s famous Live at the Hollywood Bowl.

Palin has also revealed fans who were not lucky enough to snap up a ticket for the 10 performances might be able to see the stage show in the cinema. He concludes, “I think it’s going to be filmed and go out to cinemas and all that. It will be a great show but it is the last time we’ll be working together.”  LINK

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CinemaCon 2014: Press Release Roundup

CinemaCon Logo

PLEASE NOTE: If we missed any individual press release it was not done purposefully. If you would like us to include a CinemaCon related press announcement in a future roundup, please forward it to tips@celluloidjunkie.com.

Historically companies and organizations doing business at trade shows and conferences have relied heavily upon press releases to get their message out to an industry. This has been especially true at CinemaCon and ShoWest before it. This year was no different.

The first day of the show always sees a flurry of announcements “hit the wire”. As the week (and convention) progresses the number of releases tends to dwindle. We thought it might be useful to sum up all of the announcements made at this year’s show, and when appropriate, provide a bit of insight or analysis. Here are the releases published during CinemaCon 2014 listed in alphabetical order by company name:


Arts Alliance Media
The London based digital cinema integrator and software developer is is always good for a few releases during industry trade shows. CinemaCon saw them release no fewer than four. The first announced the launch of a new software solution called AdFuser. The software was designed for all aspects of on-screen cinema advertising. The software is capable of planning campaigns and managing inventory, targeting ads to appropriate genres or audience demographics, automated ad playlist creation, ad content delivery, reporting and much more. AdFuser can be used in either an extremely granular or completely automated fashion.

Our Take: AAM’s cinema advertising software has been in development for years so it is interesting to see them finally launch the product. We have yet to have a close demonstration of the solution, but look forward to seeing it in action. The company is entering a niche market with a stiff competitor (Unique Digital) that has more than a decade head start in the space.

AAM announced a software deal with Vox Cinemas, a cinema chain based in the Middle East. The circuit will be employing AAM’s suite of software to manage their digital cinema technology and operations. This includes solutions such as Screenwriter Plus (Theatre Management System), Producer (Enterprise Circuit Management System) and Locksmith (Enterprise KDM Management) and Lifeguard (NOC Tools). Vox operates 9 complexes which account for 92 screens in Lebanon and the UAE.

Finnkino was already using AAM’s theatre management system (TMS) and will now upgrade to Screenwriter Plus, which has additional features for automation and monitoring. The circuit will rollout the new version of Screenwriter Plus throughout their 14 sites and at a later date has the option to include their 11 Forum Cinemas located in the Baltic.

AAM began as a digital cinema integrator with their own virtual print fees (VPFs) in Europe. They have now entered the complicated Latin American market with a series of partners, most recently Quanta-DGT. The trio announced three deals for VPF rollouts with three exhibitors in Uruguay; Grupo Cine, Life Cinemas and Movie.

Our Take: This agreement is a perfect example of just how complex Latin America can be for the motion picture business. While the combined 61 screens covered in the contract already have digital cinema equipment installed, these screens will now fall under AAM/Quanta-DGT’s VPF agreements.


Barco
CinemaBarcoThe Belgian based projector manufacturer was incredibly active during this year’s CinemaCon, showing up at the conference with half a dozen press releases. Many of the notices centered around their new CinemaBarco initiative, specifically the 60,000-lumen laser projector the company is bringing to market. The projector is DCI-compliant and capable of showing 4K content all the way up to 60 frames per second. The Barco 6P laser projector is capable of showing 3D content in 4K at 14 ftL and is fully integrated within the DCI-compliant projector. It will be commercially available immediately in the United States and China before being distributed in the rest of the world by the end of 2014. The company demonstrated the projector at CinemaCon without a “shaking” screen.

To prove just how market ready their laser projector is, Barco announced that Cinemark would be the first exhibitor to install the new technology. The release didn’t specify precisely which sites Barco would be installing its high-tech projector in, though don’t be surprised if Cinemark Century 16 South Point and XD winds up being the first. That’s the Las Vegas cinema in which Barco was conducting off-site demonstrations of its laser projector during CinemaCon.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 4 April 2014

Dreamloungers

We have written a lot about the cinemas in Fargo, North Dakota in the Daily before (here, here, here and here), but it is an interesting microcosm of the evolution that the US exhibition industry as a whole is going through.

This article highlight changes that three of Marcus Theatres’ Fargo properties are undergoing.

Century Cinema

The current big screen at Century Cinema, located at 3931 9th Ave. S.W., has just been converted to an Ultra Screen DLX with Dolby Atmos Sound.

That auditorium and all of the other auditoriums at Century Cinema are getting new DreamLounger chairs. According to Menefee, the chairs allow for full reclining, “Just like you’d have at home.”

The size of the DreamLoungers mean each auditorium at Century Cinema will see its seating capacity drop by about 40 percent, but Menefee said the popularity of the chairs should keep auditoriums full.

So fewer seats but higher comfort (and ticket price?) for the new seats in this USD $1.2 million upgrade

West Acres Cinema

As part of its makeover of the West Acres Cinema, Marcus Theatres is pursuing a liquor license for the site. If approved, the company plans to build a Take Five lounge where adult beverages would be served.

When the idea for a theater drinking lounge was discussed earlier this year at a liquor control board meeting, a number of city officials and city residents expressed doubts about the plan.

Menefee said if the lounge plan is approved, West Acres Cinema also will get a Zaffiro’s Express, a small restaurant that will serve pizza, sandwiches, salads and desserts.

So bar and cine-dining are on the menu in this $700,000 upgrade.

Safari Theater

Last year, Marcus Theatres indicated the Safari 7 Cinema, located at 925 30th Ave. S., in Moorhead, was up for sale.

The theater shows second-run movies on 35mm film at discounted prices.

Marcus Theatres was looking to sell the property because it did not want to incur the cost of upgrading the theater to show movies in digital format.

At present, the property is not for sale, and Marcus Theatres is in the process of reviewing possible enhancements for the theater, Menefee said.

What those improvements are Marcus won’t reveal just yet, but to keep going it will need digital projectors.

Business

Hayden Orpheum in Cremorne

Australia: Cinema tickets are getting more expensive Down Under. But there is also a growing trend towards discounting in order to drive sales.

In what could a psychological barrier for movie-goers, the top price of an ordinary cinema ticket has hit $20.

Two Sydney cinemas have pioneered the price increase — the Cremorne Orpheum and Palace Norton Street in Leichhardt — and others are expected to follow around the country soon.

“It’s just a question of a short period of time,” said the chief executive of Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola, who blamed increases in wages, rent and maintenance and energy costs.

“Ticket prices need to keep pace with rising costs. It’s horrendously expensive running cinemas.”  LINK

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Unique’s MovieTransit Scores Major Deals in Denmark and UK

While satellite delivery was the talk of CinemaCon 2014, Unique Digital notched up two significant victories in Europe that point to fibre delivery playing a greater role for digital cinema in Europe.

The deals with UK’s BT and The Danish Distributors Association (FAFID) for Unique’s MovieTransit system also cement the company’s digital cinema service credentials in its two core markets of Scandinavia and the British Isles.

Unique Digital was selected by Denmark’s FAFID after a long evaluation and tender process to deliver DCPs to cinemas using its MovieTransit system. Quoted in the press release:

“Among the reasons we chose to use Unique’s services are their flexibility, the ease of use of the system, and its robust, tried & tested approach to content delivery. We are extremely happy to be able to offer the Danish market with this secure and flexible solution” says Dorte Wiedemann the Head of Secretariat

The agreement will grant all Danish Cinemas, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands, access to Unique Digital’s world leading solution MovieTransit™ which when launched in Norway in 2012 was the first terrestrial electronic distribution system for feature films to be deployed across an entire territory.

The selection of the fellow Scandinavian solutions provider was not a foregone conclusion as Unique had initially lost out in the race to digitise Denmark’s cinema advertising operation to a smaller competitor five years ago – though it won the Danes over last year.

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Daily Cinema Digest – Thursday 3 April 2014

Noah and Captain america

NATO President John Fithian was vocal at CinemaCon about getting studios to spread the releases more widely than just the summer and holiday windows. This year it looks like he is getting his wish, with summer already starting in April with films like Noah, Captain America 2, Rio 2 and Transcendence.

As Bloomberg news notes in an article with the telling title ‘Studios Dodge Slugfest Opening ‘Captain America’ in April‘:

The studios are angling to avoid a repeat of last summer, when too many big-budget films came out at the same time. While industry sales set a record, the releases cannibalized each other. By staggering them, studios and exhibitors limit head-to-head competition for target audiences and cut the risk a costly picture will be overshadowed too quickly.

“What you are seeing this year is absolutely a conscious move to space out releases,” Jeff Goldstein, executive vice president for domestic distribution at Warner Bros., said in an interview. “It is an important change.”

Exhibitors are also keen to stress the benefits that an extended release schedule brings.

“You’re always going to want certain films to be in that key summer period, because children are out of school and you want that repeat business,” Amy Miles, chief executive officer of Regal Entertainment Group, the No. 1 U.S. cinema chain, said at a Deutsche Bank conference last month. “But I do think the studios are getting better from a scheduling perspective.”

However, it is worth remembering that with international markets (read: China) growing in importance, the US ‘summer window’ is becoming less significant for Hollywood studios keen on big global returns for their films.

Security

Prasad Imax Hydrabad

India: Exposing lax security at malls and cinemas in India, an undercover investigation in Hydrabad saw teams being able to smuggle guns into Prasad’s Imax cinema:

The decoy teams deployed by the central zone police of Hyderabad exposed security loopholes at several busy multiplexes and shopping malls in city on Wednesday. According to Central Zone DCP VB Kamalasan Reddy, the decoy teams managed to enter Prasad’s I-Max multiplex at Necklace Road, Big Bazar shopping complex in Abids and several other places in the city with guns. “We have found out that the screening of customers at certain shopping malls and multiplexes is not up to the mark and notices will be issued to the managers of these places immediately,” the DCP said.  LINK

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