While Tivos and iPod have liberated consumers from the tyranny of fixed TV schedules and pre-set playlist orders of songs, cinemas remain a viewing-by-appointment medium. So could digital technology end this and make it a more show-by-show consumer demand oriented medium? The Brazilians appear to be the first to try this on a large scale, with e-cinema pioneers Rain Networks launching a cinema-on-demand (CoD) trial. From Variety article:
Rain Network, Latin America’s biggest digital cinema operator, will launch a pilot theatrical-on-demand (TOD) system in Brazil in the first quarter.
Rain has already aided the installation of digital projection systems and software theater management systems — allowing digital systems to function — in all of Brazil’s 134 arthouse screens.
It has also begun to access indie and Brazilian movies for screening at these cinemas. Beginning early next year, Rain’s novel TOD will allow moviegoers, grouped in online YouRain Internet film clubs, to recommend what films play when and where over Rain’s digital cinema network.
Virtual cinema club members can also refer wishlists to friends, and, exploiting You Rain’s social networking system, let other people know what films they’re attending.
While the idea of films-on-demand in the cinema hs some appeal, it is important to remember that already with 35mm films, large multiplexes are able to screen the biggest blockbusters at staggered 15 to 30 minute intervals across multiple screens. However, for smaller releases and single screen cinemas the idea of TOD/CoD could help to better anticipate customer demand and preferences. However, this would severely impact existing rental terms if cinemas were able to pull or ramp up the number of screenings based on perceived demand (or lack thereof) for a particular title.
As so often with digital, the new technology enables, but it is existing contractual relationship that ultimately determines what gets implemented and what will have to wait for practices to catch up with possibilities. We have also yet ot see this tested with a proper 2K DCI digital cinema set-up, as opposed to Rain’s Windows Media 9 e-cinema network. Trials for this are underway in the UK, but NDAs prevent me from spilling the beans on it just yet.