Tag Archives: Dolby

CJ@IBC ‘High Dynamic Range imaging – contrasting views?’

IMG_1665.JPG

The quest for better-(not-just-more)-pixels is a big theme at this year’s IBC conference – primarily for television but with major implications for film and cinema too. For anyone thinking of buying a 4K/UHD TV, this is the session that tells you to wait until more than just the resolution of the big television sets improves.

Session chair Alberto Morello (RAI, Italy) calls this one of the “most interesting development in the evolution of video.” He singles out (more) pixels, (higher) frame rate and HDR (high dynamic range) as the things that “will give pleasure” to our viewers.

Touradj Ebrahimi (EPFL, Switzerland) goes up to the podium first to present an overview of the topic. He starts off by confessing to being an IBC virgin, but being ‘impressed’. Prof Ebrahimi stresses the importance of being able to measure to quantify improvements such as HDR.

Tests used Dolby Pulsar Display 42″, calling Dolby their “good friend” who “defined past, present and probably future” of high quality innovation. For content they “begged again” and Dolby provided that as well. Test material was shown sequentially and side-by-side in four different grades/mappings (4,000, 1,000, 400 and 100 nit). Appropriately one of the pieces of content was “Star Trek: Into Darkness”, but he wasn’t authorised to show that to us.
Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 5 September 2014

Selfridge cinema

London’s luxury department store Selfridges (star of the ITV drama series about its eponymous American founder) will be one of the first stores in the world to have its own in-house cinema. We like the look of it so much that we even break our usual policy of only posting on photo per story to show you both the outside (above) and inside (below) – so no artwork for China BO.

Selfridges opens the world’s first department store cinema in its iconic Oxford Street store today, which will screen classic and contemporary films.

Selfridges has teamed up with the independent chain Everyman to install the 60-seat 3,500 sq ft experience, located on the store’s lower-ground floor.

The cinema, which will be at Selfridges until spring 2015, will initially screen films selected by designers from the store’s Masters campaign, which showcases the work of 12 influential designers such as Paul Smith, Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta.  LINK

Selfridge cinema

China (PRC) – Chinese Mainland box office it set to pass USD $5 billion this year, according to THR.

China’s box office has just passed the key 20 billion yuan ($3.26 billion) threshold, a full three months faster than last year, and is already swiftly approaching last year’s $3.55 billion total.

With a raft of major Hollywood and domestic titles still to come this year in the world’s second-biggest film market, box office is on track for $5 billion in full-year 2014, according to M1905, which is the official website of the state broadcaster’s movie channel, CCTV6.

It took 246 days to break through the 20-billion-yuan marker, which is 96 days faster than last year.  LINK

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Tuesday 26 August 2014

Quad Cinema New York

USA (NY) – Manhattan’s arthouse Quad Cinema has been sold and it could frankly not have asked for a better new owner.

At first, news that the revered Quad Cinema in New York’s Greenwich Village had been sold to a real estate magnate caused us alarm. But it turns out that Charles S. Cohen, in addition to being the president and chief executive of Cohen Bros. Realty Corp., is also a major supporter of great film, both as a distributor and as a historian.

Cohen is a film producer and distributor through the Cohen Media Group, which has distributed films such as “Le Chef,” “Chinese Puzzle” and “Farewell, My Queen.” Cohen also runs the Cohen Film Collection, which includes 700 film titles, including classics by Jean-Luc Godard, D. W. Griffith, Alfred Hitchcock and Buster Keaton.  LINK

Cinema Popcorn Buckets

Europe is behind the US when it comes to the sophistication of the popcorn market. Gourmet flavour and so-called healthy-option popcorn apparently represent untapped markets according to a new report.

Global launches of popcorn rose over 8% in the 12 months to the end of June 2014. The large and mature US market was the leading individual country, accounting for over 20% of total introductions. But this was behind Europe, where the large number of countries involved took its share to 36%, according to data recorded by Innova Market Insights.

Meanwhile, gourmet lines, already established in the USA, are starting to make their way across the Atlantic, bringing a whole raft of more complex flavours and moving the sector away from its traditional ‘cinema’ image and a simple sweet or salty flavour choice.  LINK

Read More »

Future of Cinema Advertising on Show at SAWA Cannes Lions 2014

YouTube Preview Image

The Screen Advertising World Association (SAWA) held its annual showcase of Cinema Advertising innovation at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2014 on Monday 16 June. For those of you unable to attend (perhaps understandably, as CineEurope kicked off the same day), we bring you a report of what was said and shown.

The theme this year was “Back to the Future”, in honour of the imminent key year of 2015 that featured in all three films of the trilogy, which is also predicted to be the biggest year in box office history. As Cheryl Wannell, General Manager of SAWA pointed out in a pre-show interview, “there is no better time to use the cinema medium.

SAWA together with its sponsors pulled out all stops to stand out in the crowded Cannes Lions schedule, not least attracting attention by hiring one of the original DeLorean cars from Universal and parking it in front of the Palais. Delegates filled out the Estrelle auditorium in the Palais De Festivale as the music and trailer from Back To The Future (BTTF) played.

The regular MC channelled Doc Emmet Brown from the films and with an electric arc flash opened ‘the portal to the future’ that is cinema big screen, in terms of showcasing innovation. Speaker after speaker would return to this point, that innovations are often imagined in films before the become reality as real life technology. Nothing matches cinema’s ability to inspire innovation, as the audience was about to be told and show.

First up was a clip reel combining gadgets and technologies such as interactive driving maps, hand-held communicators, swipeable surfaces and voice controlled computers from films such as James Bond, Star Trek and Minority Report, coupled with adverts from companies such as General Motors, Samsung, Microsoft and Apple that had brought these technologies to life.

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 15 August 2014

China Film Giant Screen

China’s Entgroup Consulting has released an investment report on the Chinese exhibition business. While current growth is strong (14.5 screens per day), the report predicts that “the future number of Chinese cinema will be flat to down” and that there will be significant industry consolidation with just five to ten major players. Overview of report can be found here.

Arts and Grace advisory issued “2013-2014 Chinese Theater Investment and Development Report.” The report shows that Chinese cinema audiences growing at an annual rate of more than 30% of rapid growth. Data show that in 2013 China’s sustained rapid growth in the development of the theater, the new theater within the range of 903 theaters nationwide, up to 4583 the total number of cinema. The number of new screens for 5280, the new daily average 14.5 screen. Cinema growth rate dropped 6.9 percent compared to 2012, was 24.5%; screen count growth rate was 40.3%, down 1.0%. Arts and grace that the current investment market there are still many theaters are not rational investment, the future number of Chinese cinema will be flat to down. In the long term, the integration of acquisitions become inevitable between theaters, a few years later, eventually in the formation of 5 ~ 10 large-scale leading theaters.  LINK

New York Indian cinema audience

The New York Times looks at what small cinema in New York City’s boroughs are doing to stay open and attract customers – lower prices and more mixed programming seems to be key. It also features our favourite NYC cinema, the Nitehawk.

Independent movie theaters are an endangered lot as they compete with corporate multiplexes while facing declining ticket sales and the prohibitive cost of converting to digital projection. Many independent theaters have closed in recent years.

For those that remain, staying in business means coming up with creative ways to put people into theater seats, particularly in the boroughs outside Manhattan.

“There’s a very diverse ecosystem of theaters and some interesting things going on,” Matthew Viragh, the founder of Nitehawk Cinema, said.  LINK

Read More »

Daily Cinema Digest – Friday 1 August 2014

Secret Cinema

Great Scott, they did it in the end! Secret Cinema’s delayed Back to the Future event went off yesterday without a problem. The company’s founder had a few words of contrition before the start of the film, as reported in The Guardian.

“I was always confident we would pull this off, thought to be fair I was confident we would open last Thursday and I really pushed the timing. I look back and I think, I made a mistake. When you work in theatre, when you work in events, you are always close to the wire, whatever happens, but this was a massive show. The issues I had with the reports saying that we weren’t ready, well, we were ready to open but the technical aspects – and I think when people come they will really see them, because it’s quite a complex show – were the things we just had to work on.”

He added: “Hands up, Secret Cinema has grown really fast and with this show it was always going to be something quite special, and we had to aim high because I can’t take on a film that is loved to such a degree and not aim high. A lot of people say, well, Secret Cinema is not that secret anymore, but for me the idea is that you build a community of people who like to explore and have adventures and become other characters and live through their favourite films.”  LINK

Secret Cinema Back to the Future

The Guardian even sent along its film reviewer to get his take on the whole experience.

Well, maybe Secret Cinema was having its Eric Stoltz moment: I like to think the delay was an elaborate postmodern joke about the fact that Back To The Future was originally cast with Stoltz in the lead role – an actor who was sacked after five weeks because he wasn’t funny enough – and filming had to start all over again with [Michael J.] Fox.

As a Secret Cinema virgin I found the event engaging and entertainingly bizarre: faux-American and yet very English in all its fancy-dress eccentricity. It isn’t exactly an immersive, wraparound experience – you could get that better by seeing the film at an old-fashioned cinema showing. But it turned into an impressive festival of fan love, a Comic-Con-ish event in which so many audience members dressed up in 1950s clothes which were as authentic as those of the actors employed by the production, that everyone was a co-contributor: it was virtually a user-generated live event.  LINK

But Peter Bradshaw saves his best observation for the penultimate paragraph, and it is one worth highlighting: “I’m not sure exactly what Secret Cinema seriously offers the business of film distribution and exhibition – but in our digital downloading age, we increasingly yearn for live events, real communal happenings, and Secret Cinema caters to that.

China cinema food safety

China – Food safety remains a hot topic in China and cinema concessions are not exempt. Looks like there are quite a few shortcomings, based on this survey by Wenzhou City Market Supervisory Authority and the released ”Wenzhou City in 2014 circulation theater food quality sampling Table”

Recently, Wenzhou City Market Supervisory Authority in Lucheng, Ou Sea, Bay, Ryan and other counties (cities, districts) of the meat market, preserves, puffed food, soy and other special quality to carry out monitoring activities. The random sampling of settled include Wanda Cinema, Cinema of New China, including 20 White Deer Studios theater food distributor sold a total of 83 batches of food, which qualified 58 batches, pass rate 69.88%. Among them, a new era of Movie World, Wanda Cinema, Hang Lung Studios, Yongjia National Theater, Pingyang Studios theater settled within this five dealers sold food subjects were qualified, especially Wanda Cinema, Hang Lung Studios The two theaters, a maximum number of subjects and all batches of food were qualified.

“From the sampling results, the total number of [sample bacterial] colonies failed, the amount of sulfur dioxide exceeded, peroxide value substandard, colorants substandard food distributors theater is settled within several major problems exist in the sale of food.” According to market oversight City Food at the relevant staff of the Authority, said the total number of [sample bacterial]  colonies exceeded easily cause diarrhea and gastrointestinal infections. Sampling of substandard fruit preserves mostly inferior raw materials, some unscrupulous manufacturers to sell to make candied fruit lover, harmful sulfur dioxide added during processing. Part of the informal food manufacturers using peroxide value has exceeded the raw material for the production of edible oil or cooking oil stored improperly or stored too long, the consumer consumption will lead to gastrointestinal discomfort, diarrhea, and even liver damage.  LINK

Read More »

Quarterly Earnings: Regal, Imax and Dolby

 

Quarterly figures have been arriving thick and fast this week. We look at three key cinema companies: Regal Entertainment, Imax Corporation and Dolby Laboratories.

regal-entertainment1

The world’s largest cinema operator announced its quarterly figures and they were not what the analysts had hoped for, with revenue of USD $770.3 million, down 8.5% year-on-year and misses expectations by USD $41.41 million. There was a dividend of USD $0.22 per share. The CEO put a brave face on the drop and found a silver lining to highlight, though I’m not sure about her positive take on this year’s BO potential.

In a challenging summer box office environment, the growth in our average concession sales per patron and our focus on controlling variable costs helped drive Adjusted EBITDA margin of over 19%, stated Amy Miles, CEO of Regal Entertainment Group. With year-to-date industry box office results on par with last years record setting pace and an exciting film slate in the back half of the year, we are optimistic regarding the potential for further box office success in 2014.  LINK

In the earnings call that followed there was an acknowledgment of the harsher realities faced this summer but also some historical perspective by Ms Miles.

When viewed from a broader perspective, this year’s second quarter industry box office revenue was in line with the historical average for the last 5 years. On — one other item of note as it relates to the second quarter box office performance, we were again encouraged by the studios’ willingness to expand the summer box office season by delivering high-profile films throughout the quarter. Difficult comparisons aside, we continue to believe that a diverse film slate and a well-spaced release calendar increase the long-term potential for box office success for us and our studio partners.  LINK

Concessions, better consumer amenities, premium seats as well as Imax/RPX (premium large format) screens are the key to riding out the financial troughs.

And finally, the early returns on our initial investments in luxury, reclining seats are very promising, and in most cases, ahead of our expectations. We have fully converted 5 locations with 46 screens and are on track to complete 25 locations with 275 screens by the end of the year. As a reminder, this concept is not right for every location. Many of our theaters are simply too busy to sustain the seat loss that results from the installation of the larger recliners.

But in some situations, where the theater has been impacted by competition or simply nearing the end of its useful life, a return-minded investment in reclining seats can rejuvenate and potentially even extend the life of an existing theater. Based on the early success of these auditoriums, we believe we will have further opportunities to invest in our asset base in both 2015 and ’16. We remain excited about the potential for growth and financial returns associated with these initiatives and look forward to updating you as they progress.  LINK

Other insights: average ticket price was up by USD $0.05, premium screens attract 17% of box office, operating expenses were down by 1% (“due primarily to decreases in attendance-driven theater-level cost and lower payments associated with premium format revenue”), New York City and Washington D.C. were down by more than the market average, while alcoholic beverage serving was up from 31 to 39 locations. Interestingly the company doesn’t think it is possible to cut staffing levels any more than they already have.

Obviously, we’ll always look to reduce costs where we can in a low-attendance environment, and I think our managers and our field personnel will continue to do a great job doing that. But to ask them to do a lot more than that I think is going to be tough for us.  LINK

Read More »

CineEurope 2014: Immersive Sound Focus Session

Immersive Audio Panel at CineEurope 2014

With just 60 seats in a temporary room the middle of the trade show, there are 30+ people standing at the back. Either the immersive audio session is a wild success or the venue is too small. And there is plenty of surround sound which can be seen throughout the rest of the show.  The following are highlights from the panel discussion as submitted via iPhone:

Dave Monk of the European Digital Cinema Forum says time is short and wants to gets to grips with, ‘what is immersive sound’.

Brian Claypool from Barco talks about Auro and a “natural sense of immersion” that was cost effective that could easily integrate with existing workflows. “Let’s have the premium experience at the cinema,” he says. Monk asks what key differentiator between 5.1 surround and immersive audio is. In one word, ‘height’. Three levels – two 5.1 plus overhead sound.

Stuart Bowling (standing in for Dean Bullock?) from Dolby says that sound had taken a backseat as a way to transport you away as a cinemas goer. “Pushing the envelope pushed us to Atmos. Sounds is that narrative of motion pictures that gives you an emotional response.”

Read More »

The Cannes Film Festival Overcomes Its Digital Dilemma

2014 Cannes Film Festival
As the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival came to a close last week, artistic director Thierry Fremaux scheduled a last minute press conference so that journalists from around the world could speak with filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. The director was visiting the festival for a 20th anniversary screening of his second feature, “Pulp Fiction”, which premiered at Cannes in 1994 and won its top prize, the Palm d’Or. It’s a safe bet nobody predicted the lead story coming out of Tarantino’s 48 minutes with journalists would be about digital cinema and serve to underscore the learning curve film festivals are grappling with when it comes to the new technology.

Yet, every year in Cannes there is at least one press conference where a filmmaker or actor says something that gets tossed into the media echo chamber and published around the globe en masse. Director Lars von Trier’s comments about Nazis a few years back are a perfect case in point. In 2014, the honor went to Tarantino, whose animated, hyperactive Cannes press conferences are the stuff of legend. This year he managed to bolster his Cannes cred after negative comments he made about digital cinema were turned into headlines by every major media outlet in all languages.

As Fremaux pointed out while introducing Tarantino, the filmmaker’s name is closely tied to Cannes and the year “Pulp Fiction” won the Palm d’Or is an important milestone in the festival’s history. That is why Tarantino was asked to participate in a press conference, an activity usually reserved for filmmakers with movies premiering in Cannes. Fremaux also noted that “Pulp Fiction” was the only title in the festival to be projected using 35mm film. “Everything else is DCP, digital,” Fremaux reported. “But obviously we wanted this film to be shown in 35mm.”

With that said, it didn’t take long for Tarantino to turn his attention, not to mention his ire, toward digital cinema. “As far as I’m concerned digital projection and DCPs is the death of cinema as I know it,” Tarantino proclaimed. “The fact that most films now are not presented in 35mm means that the war is lost. Digital projection, that’s just television in public. Apparently the whole world is okay with television in public, but what I knew as cinema is dead.”

After comments such as that, you can only imagine how many headlines screamed “Tarantino Declares Cinema Is Dead”. More than likely you’ve already seen a few of the thousands of stories in which the filmmaker’s comments on the subject are extensively quoted.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going through a woozy romantic period with the ease of digital and I’m hoping while this generation is completely hopeless that the next generation will demand the real thing,” he continued. “I’m very hopeful that future generations are much smarter than this generation and realize what they’ve lost.”

Read More »

China’s ‘Last Mile’ Plan for Digital Cinema: Ditch Western Technology

Sun Xiaobin

Is Chen Xing the biggest and most important digital cinema company that you’ve never heard of? Quite likely.

With the conversion of existing cinemas to digital winding up around the world, future focus of manufacturers will be on territories with organic growth, before the the replacement cycle sets in towards the end of this decade.

And no market right now has more focus on it than China, with it strong (though likely unsustainable) growth of 18 new screens per day. This means that there is still a need for thousands of projectors, servers, speakers, screens and more every quarter in China. Even other emerging markets like Russia, Turkey and Indonesia can’t match that level of demand.

Given that China started early with digital cinema installations, it also means that its replacement cycle will start earlier than many other territories as next-generation laser projectors with HDR/HFR (high dynamic range/high frame-rate) come onto the market.

So it should come as a wakeup call to western digital cinema equipment manufacturers when a smart, ambitious and heavily R&D-focused Chinese manufacturer comes along as states that ‘cinema equipment autonomy will be China’s film industry digital revolution “last mile.”‘

Chen Xing Technology Development (Beijing) Co., Ltd. 

Chances are that you have not heard of Sun Xiaobin, or even the company that he heads, Chen Xing Technology Development (Beijing) Co., Ltd., or the Oristar brand under which its products are sold. But all that is likely to change soon.

Mild mannered and sweater-wearing, Mr Sun is nevertheless as laser-focused and as unwaveringly determined as Steve Jobs in his vision; by the time China overtakes the United States as the world’s largest cinema market it will be his company and not Christie, Dolby/Doremi or GDC that is the dominant technology player in the cinema technology space.

In a lengthy Q&A interview in China’s Enterprise Observer titled ‘Leader in Digital Cinema Revolution Last Mile‘ Mr. Sun lays down his precise vision and methodology for how Chen Xing is going about becoming the Mainland’s leading cinema technology company.

It is a vision that goes far beyond just new servers and technology autonomy, but encompasses a holistic view of the cinema technology environment. But servers are the obvious entry point for the company.

We see the enormous capacity of the Chinese film market and the fact that it relies on imports for digital cinema servers. We at Chen Xing Technology think that independently developed digital cinema servers can not only break the technical barriers abroad, but also has a huge market potential.

With 35mm film movies starting to be replaced by the digital cinema trend, starting in 2006, Chen Xing Technology homed in on the needs of the digital transformation of the theater with a systematic analysis and research of digital cinema encoding system, so that we developed sophisticated digital cinema servers and digital cinema auto show management systems.

In 2011 we had developed AQ10 digital cinema server, which finally passed the third grade U.S. FIPS security certification, also passed the certification test of DCI. Chen Xing Technology is unique in this whole industry because it is China’s first to achieve DCI-certified digital cinema servers. Previously, only foreign companies developed a DCI-compliant 2K screenings server. Now, AQ10 is on Disney’s official website as having also become a recognized facility.

Marketed as the Oristar AQ10 digital cinema servers, details about it can be found here. The focus on servers is a smart move as they are likely to be replaced before the digital cinema projectors they are tethered to. This is particularly true if servers are to offer HFR of 60fps or even up to 120fps, with the next Avatar films likely to push such an envelope, since many early servers can’t handle any DCPs encoded above 48fps.

AQ10 digital cinema server

But Chen Xing is thinking way beyond the server to a whole end-to-end technology ecosystem for the theatre.

Read More »