Tag Archives: Digital Cinema

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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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 – Wednesday 2 April 2014

Black coal, Thin Ice

The emergence of China as the world’s second largest cinema territory after US comes as news to precisely no one. Interestingly recent Hollywood films like RoboCop and Need for Speed have earned more at the Chinese box office than in North America, helped in no small part by their 3D release.

According to a report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), China’s box office sales in 2013 achieved $3.6 billion and grew by 27%, compared to the 1% growth observed in the U.S. Many insiders predict it will surpass the U.S. in six years.

SARFT announced an alarmingly rapid proliferation of cinemas in China in 2013, with an average of 13 new theaters being built per day.

But while Chinese films have previously tended toward mythological/historic epics or reality TV show adaptations, the success of Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear-winner Black coal, Thin Ice, points towards an interesting change in the tastes of the Chinese cinema going public, as explored by this CNN article.

The cherry landed on top when the film opened in China on March 19 to unexpectedly high box office earnings. State-run news agency Xinhua reported the movie raked in US$12.8 million in its first two weeks, becoming the current king of Chinese language cinema.

“I did think that we would do better than other Chinese award-winners, but I never thought we could possibly reach the RMB 100 million mark,” says Diao, who was attending the Hong Kong International Film Festival.

The success of “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a possible game changer for the global film industry. If Chinese films continue to be so well-rounded, it could challenge the Hollywood-dominated global film scene.

While the last sentence is a tad optimistic, in that the film is only likely to do well outside of China at the art-house circuit, it could be an indication on a broadening of the types of films that get released and do well in China. If that it is the case, it will in itself be enough a challenge for Hollywood.

NAB

KenCast digital cinema

KenCast: With CinemaCon barely over, it is time already to focus attention on NAB. KenCast is one of the companies that will show off their products and solutions.

Delivering content for the military, government agencies and news media for two decades, KenCast continues to enhance its offerings to meet the latest requirements in digital cinema and even those of the future with their EdgeSpan CinemaPro appliances.

KenCast will feature a privately held 4K ad-splicing technology demonstration with Audience Response System (ARS) for cinema, at this year’s NAB exhibition, showing how theater exhibitors can splice national or local advertisements into a live stream.  LINK

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Kinoton Is Latest Victim of Switch to Digital Cinema

Kinoton logo

Venerable German cinema equipment manufacturer Kinoton is no more, becoming the latest victim of the switch to the digital projection of films. The company issued a press release on 31 March stating:

We, the shareholders of Kinoton GmbH, have decided to dissolve the company and end its business operations with effect on March 31, 2014.

The decision was not an easy one for us. For more than 65 years, Kinoton GmbH and its employees have stood for excellence in developing innovative cinema equipment and providing first-class, speedy service to our customers and business partners.

The progressive digitization of the film and cinema industry has radically changed the market, however. Kinoton GmbH’s existing business model, as an innovative developer of first-class products and vertically highly integrated manufacturer, especially where mechanical production is concerned, isn’t appropriate to the new market conditions. The coming challenges of the digital age call for new concepts and ideas that focus on software and services.

The company was founded in 1948 as Germeringer Kinoton GmbH to service cinemas in in Munich and surrounding areas. It quickly established a reputation for German precision engineering and excellence as it built 35mm projectors that were considered the premium choice for cinemas and film centres.

It must have been a tough call for the company’s managers Renate Zoller and Christoph Doble to pull the plug, but the business was simply not sustainable in the face of the switch to digital cinema. Despite Kinoton having an OEM partnership with Barco, it never established a major presence in the digital cinema projector market.

However, Kinoton will not vanish completely.

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Deluxe To Close Hollywood Film Lab

Deluxe Laboratories in Hollywood
Well, we all knew it was coming. With the motion picture industry’s transition away from 35mm film to digital production and distribution it was only a matter of time before the need for film laboratories would disappear entirely. The industry took a step closer toward that end when on Tuesday when Deluxe Laboratories announced the company would close its Hollywood film lab on May 9th.

Along with Technicolor, Deluxe grew into one of the largest processors and handlers of 35mm film in the world, with offices in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America. The company’s Hollywood facilities date back to the founding of Deluxe in 1919, when they opened their doors adjacent to Fox Film Corporation. Both companies were founded by William Fox, one of the industry’s first movie moguls.

News of the closure came from Warren L. Stein, Deluxe’s Chief Operating Office for North America. An excerpt of the memo Stein sent out with the announcement read as follows:

The capture and exhibition of motion pictures has transitioned from film to digital in recent years. Our processing volumes have declined sharply and as a result, the laboratory has incurred significant financial losses. This has forced us to make this very difficult decision.

Following the recently-announced closure of the Deluxe laboratory in London, our only remaining film processing facility will be the small front end facility in New York.

I would like to thank all of our employees for their incredible contribution to the success of Deluxe, their dedication to meeting the needs of our many customers and their loyalty in recent years as the business declined. Our employees have been the key to all of our successes as a film processing business.

While emotionally attached to our 100 year legacy with film, we are firmly focused on the future of Deluxe. In this historic time in our industry, we wanted to thank our customers for their business and for their trust. We look forward to servicing their needs in the entertainment media marketplace for the next hundred years and beyond!

Earlier this year Paramount Pictures made public their intention to stop supporting film and only release films digitally starting with their holiday release “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Given the number of studios that Deluxe counts as clients, this is clear indicator that, as we predicted, other Hollywood distributors will soon be following Paramount’s lead.

Deluxe provided no information on whether closing its Hollywood operations will result in layoffs and if so, how many employees would be affected. Nor did the company make clear what it intends to do with the facilities in the long run; whether they intend to sell the plant or utilize it for their ongoing service offerings.

Ironically, if that’s even the correct word, it was just this past Sunday during the Oscars telecast that most of us saw a clip of director Christopher Nolan at February’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual Scientific and Technical Awards accepting an Academy Award of Merit bestowed upon “all those who built and operated film laboratories, for over a century of service to the motion picture industry”.

William Fox Studios & Deluxe Hollywood

How Kickstarter Helped Save Independent Cinemas from Digital Oblivion

Kickstarter has played a significant role in enabling small independently owned cinemas across the United States to make the transition to digital, a detailed analysis by CelluloidJunkie.com has uncovered. Reviewing 70 campaigns to raise funds to assist with upgrades to digital projection and associated technology improvements (mainly sound), we have found that the crowdfunding platform has been used to save at least 38 cinemas across 20 US states and Canada. Spanning a period from mid-2012 to the present date, the overall success rate of Kickstarter 35mm-to-digital campaigns has been 57.6 per cent, with 38 per cent unsuccessful in hitting their funding target and 4.4 per cent cancelling their campaign, while four campaigns are still active. Digging deeper yields interesting results and lessons for how to use Kickstarter effectively to achieve the fundraising goal for switching from film to digital. With Hollywood studios ending 35mm prints distribution this year we expect to see many more small and single-screen independent cinema turn to community and crowdfunding for support.

Kickstarter has in a few short years become the go-to platform for online fundraising for a variety of projects, ranging from smartphone accessories to the Oscar-nominated documentary The Square. As Digitaltrends recently noted, “More than 3 million people pledged over $480 million to Kickstarter projects last year,’ with a total of 19,911 projects successfully meeting their funding targets.  It is should come as no surprise that small cinemas that are unable to tap VPF (virtual print fee) or other forms of Hollywood studio-supported funding mechanisms have turned to the internet to raise the money needed for buying and installing DCI-grade projectors, servers and sometimes also upgrading their sound systems. Finding all of these projects on Kickstarter is no easy task as they are not grouped together, nor does a search for terms like “digital cinema” or “digital conversion” yield all the relevant campaigns. This is because the campaigns are directed by the creators towards the potential audience and supporters, usually through social media such as Facebook and Twitter, rather than towards cinema analysts. As such, we believe that our sample is comprehensive but possibly not 100 per cent complete. Statistics of Success & Failure

There are many conclusions to be drawn from the completed campaigns, both the ones that achieved their funding target and those that failed or pulled out. In total more than $2.66m was raised from a collective goal of $2.38m by more than 25,000 backers for digitising 42 screens in 38 cinemas, with an average donation of $109. Given that the majority of cinemas that started a campaign are independent single-screen theatres, the cost of a single projector and server is largely fixed, with the amount varying depending on additional upgrades to the theatre. As such we found that the campaigns typically ranged from $35,000 to $80,000, with most asking for around $40,000 to $50,000, though there were a handful of campaigns aiming and achieving more.

In two cases in Colorado targets of no less than $150,000 targets were met, in one campaign for four digital projectors for the Denver Film Society ($176,925), while in the other was for two projectors for the Lyric in Fort Collins ($158,692). The latter also had the largest number of backers of any campaign with 2,324 people pledging their support. Yet the single highest amount raised was $195,043 (for a target of $175,000) for the Village Picture Show, Manchester, VT’s “only movie theatre,” by 1,006 backers. Notably, there was also the “Cinefamily Digital Projection & Theater Restoration!” that raised $158,541 for digitising the former Silent Movie Theatre in West Hollywood.

There were 25 campaigns that were unsuccessful in meeting their campaigns’ funding targets. Of a hoped-for $1.6m only around $200,000 was raised. This highlights the fact that almost all Kickstarter cinema digitisation campaign that failed fell well short of their target, rather than just missing out. Of the 25, only three came close to or just over 50 per cent of their target, with many not even achieving ten per cent of their goal. Interestingly the average contribution for failed campaigns was still $94, putting it very close to the average of $109 for the campaigns that succeeded. A further three campaigns were cancelled before they finished, while four are still active, with two of these looking likely to meet their target.

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Paramount Reportedly Stops Delivery of Film Prints

35mm Film Platter

Well, it may finally have happened. Everyone working in any capacity of the motion picture industry knew the day would come when Hollywood studios would stop distributing their releases on 35-millimeter film prints. If Saturday’s story in the Los Angeles Times is to be believed, that day may finally have come.

More precisely, it came and went. According to the Times, who relied on anonymous sources identified as “theater industry executives”, Paramount Picture’s Oscar-nominated release “The Wolf of Wall Street” was distributed in North America solely in digital format, i.e. without the use of 35mm film prints.

That should finally answer the longstanding question which arises at every industry standards meeting or trade conference; Has any studio released a title in digital-only and, if not, what will be the first title for which no 35mm prints are distributed? That the answer should be “Wolf of Wall Street” is an irony likely not to be overlooked by many.

The movie is helmed by Martin Scorsese, a director who has been a longstanding advocate for the preservation of film. Arguably a poster child for film historians, Scorsese is often credited with having an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium. His 2011 film, “Hugo”, was an ode to F. W. Murnau and the early days of cinema.

Paramount’s move toward all-digital wide releases seems to have only affected the distribution of titles in the North American market. According to the Times, the studio will still be sending out film prints in international territories such as Europe and Latin America, where the conversion rates for digital cinema are not as high.

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) estimates that over 90% of the 40,000+ screens in the United States have converted to digital. This is especially true of the big exhibition chains which were able to finance large scale, expensive digital cinema deployments over the last five to ten years.

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Honda Extends Project Drive-In Campaign Due To Enormous Response

YouTube Preview Image

Here is a follow up to our story back in early-September about Honda’s Project Drive-In Campaign which was launched this past summer. What began as a way to help five of the roughly 150 outdoor theatres throughout the United States convert to digital projection has wound up being such a hit that Honda has expanded and extended their effort.

More than 2.5 million votes were cast for the 116 participating drive-in theatres that are participating in the fundraiser. Originally voting was scheduled to end on September 9th with winners being announced shortly thereafter. The campaign was so successful that Honda will now push the date back to the end of 2013 hoping to aid as many theatres as possible.

Almost immediately the car manufacturer added four additional drive-ins to the initial five, bringing the total number of cinemas receiving contributions to nine. The addition of the four ozoners (as they are known in the biz) was made possible thanks, in part, by a contribution of two digital projectors from Christie Digital Systems, the company supplying equipment for Project Drive-In.

The nine drive-ins to win the original poll were as follows (in alphabetical order):

  • 99W Drive-In in Newberg, Ore
  • Cherry Bowl Drive-In in Honor, Mich.
  • Graham Drive-In in Graham, Texas
  • McHenry Outdoor Theater in McHenry, Ill.
  • Monetta Drive-In in Monetta, S.C.
  • Ocala Drive-In in Ocala, Fla.
  • Saco Drive-In in Saco, Maine.
  • Starlite Drive-In in Cadet, Mo.
  • Stateline Drive-In in Elizabethton, Tenn.

These theatres were notified in the last week of September that they would receive digital projection equipment as part of Project Drive-In. Honda produced a touching video of the winners being notified which can be seen above.

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D-Cinema Makes Recutting Current Releases Like “Sallinger” A Reality

Salinger Movie PosterWe may look back at this past week as a noteworthy milestone in the motion picture business due to something that rarely, if ever, happens; a film already playing in theatres was significantly recut and re-distributed.

The few media outlets that made hay over the occurrence focused mostly on the what and why of the story, rather than the how. Maybe the nitty gritty technical details that made the whole situation possible aren’t as exciting to a broad audience. For those of us who actually have a professional interest in such matters here is a recap of the story, along with a few relevant thoughts.

After bowing to mixed reviews at its Telluride Film Festival premiere, Shane Salerno’s documentary on renown author J.D. Salinger went on to open theatrically in New York and Los Angeles to similarly poor reviews. Simply titled “Salinger“, critics found the film’s use of reenactments and dramatic music cues a bit cheesy. Among the film’s chorus of detractors was author Joyce Maynard, whose romantic relationship with Salinger is detailed in the documentary.

With the film set to expand in the United States last weekend to more than 138 screens in 60 markets, The Weinstein Company and Salerno chose to distribute a recut version of the film. Though “Salinger” needed to be reworked slightly for broadcast as a part of PBS’ American Masters series, the re-edited “Salinger” takes some of the previous criticism into account.

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Honda Campaign Helps Drive-Ins Convert To Digital

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In film school I was taught how extremely effective a “ticking clock” can be in storytelling, especially when used in suspense movies. Now, this plot device is being employed to discuss the survival of the venues in which some of those films are shown; drive-in movie theatres.

With summer drawing to a close in the northern hemisphere so to is the season in which most, if not all, drive-ins operate in the United States. As the owners of drive-in theatres shutter their complexes for the winter a majority of them are uncertain how they will open again next summer, unable to afford the conversion from 35mm to digital cinema. Honda, the world’s seventh largest automobile manufacturer, is in the midst of a campaign to assure that at least five of the remaining drive-ins in the U.S. will make the transition.

Starting in mid-July the plight of the country’s remaining drive-ins received a flurry of media attention thanks a Washington Post article which featured two Virginia theatres; the Family Drive-In Theatre and the Goochland Drive-In. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first drive-in in Pennsauken, New Jersey., a state which ironically no longer has any drive-ins. By 1958 the number of drive-ins in the U.S. had peaked at more than 4,000, however by the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s cable television and VCRs began to steal away customers.

Today there are roughly 600 drive-in movie screens at 357 locations throughout the U.S., most of which still use 35mm to screen films. Because many studios expect to stop distributing celluloid prints by the beginning of 2014, if a drive in doesn’t convert to digital before next summer, they will likely find themselves without any movies to show. Thus, the ticking clock.

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