Daily Cinema Roundup – Fri 24 April

By Patrick von Sychowski | April 24, 2009 5:07 am PDT

Imax’s presence in China is expanding through a new deal, according to THR.com’s Asia edition. “Imax on Thursday signed a deal with China Film Group to open a super-size screen in a new multiplex in Tianjin, China, this October. The deal brings to 41 the number of screens Imax expects to have by 2012 in China, its second-largest market after the U.S.” We also note and congratulate our friends and colleague Patrick Frater, who has joined THR Asia, thus completing the hat trick of working for Screen, Variety and now THR, having done stellar work at them all;

– Projector makes Christie has given details about its digital cinema NOC (network operation centre). The press release gives some impressive stats, “Christie Managed Services currently provides round-the-clock monitoring of 32,431 devices, including 3,780 digital cinema screens and 4,700 pre-show advertising screens in over 830 sites across North America. It is staffed with over 180 remote and customer service personnel and field technicians.” Make sure you visit it if you ever pass through Cyprus, CA. Any time. We hear its open 24/7;

– The first European live 3D broadcast over satellite went out to multi locations across Italy on April 19th, showing a of a complete basketball game. This was part of an announcement at NAB about the coming together of several stereoscopic distribution pioneers, “International Datacasting Corp and Sensio Technologies announced today the beginning of their first operational roll-out of live 3D in high definition for digital cinema in Europe” and “OpenSky has formed the 3D Stereoscopic group (3DSG), a partnership with dBW Communication and Eutelsat for the end-to-end production and distribution of 3D live events across Europe.” Expect to see more in the coming year;

– On an adjacent frequency, Dolby has formed a partnership with Arqiva to deliver alternative content across Europe, according to today’s press release. “Dolby Laboratories today launched Dolby Direct Distribution Services—a pan-European satellite content delivery network for digital cinemas. The service is provided in association with leading digital network solutions provider Arqiva and uses their international satellite infrastructure to distribute feature movies, trailers, and advertising content direct to their participating exhibitors and cinemas throughout Europe.” The interesting question is whether they will open up this network wider and be a service provider, rather than equipment vendor;

Sony does deal with Sony for digital cinema in Asia, is the essence of this press release. “Sony Pictures Releasing International Corporation (SPRI) has entered into an agreement with Sony Electronics’ Digital Cinema Solutions and Services (DCSS) group for 4K DCI-compliant digital cinema deployments in Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.” But trust us, even a seemingly semi-internal agreement like this is much more difficult to orchestrate than you might think. Now the challenge will be to get more Hollywood studios to sign up. And why no India?;

– UK’s Cinema Exhibitor’s Association (CEA) is kicking off a digital road-show this coming Monday in Manchester. “The events, which the CEA is running jointly with the UK Film Council and with the support of Screen Digest, are intended to give all of those attending an opportunity to hear a comprehensive and objective summary of the challenges and opportunities presented by digital cinema projection, with discussion of funding, operational and technical matters.” It is 8 1/2 years since the last major road show in UK (‘Celluloid or Silicon?‘) that discussed the implications of all things digital cinema. [insert joke about digital cinema’s long time in the coming HERE];

– Want to sell liquor for consumption with screenings of operas and sporting events in your cinema? It’s not as easy as you might think, according to this article from Grand Rapids News. “Celebration Cinema owner John Loeks Jr. must spell out the type of “special events” at which he wants to serve alcohol before city planners will allow him to uncork any bottles or tap any kegs.” Asked to define ‘special events, Loeks told the commission, “I’m not sure there is a precise definition.” So much for grouping it together under the moniker of ODS (other digital stuff);

– And yet more proof if needed that box office is doing well across the globe, this time from China, courtesy of AFP. “China may be a paradise for addicts of pirated DVDs, but the box office is also booming thanks to a growing audience of well-off young urbanites and more big-ticket Chinese films… “The crisis is actually a godsend because as everyone talks about the economic crisis, people want to go to the cinema to relax,” said Zhao Jing, a Beijing marketing executive with cinema operators Wanda Group.” Wanda (pictured above) is expanding from 40 cinemas to 100 by 2010. As noted in the article, a pirate DVD may cost one tenth of a cinema ticket, but it just does not give the same EXPERIENCE;

– Only India appears to be suffering badly, with the non-release of new Hindi films entering its fourth week. A journalist from Indian Express took a tour of the deserted cinema halls and chats to employees. It’s grim. ““We’ve closed down one screen for renovation and are on a cost-cutting spree. We’ve switched to low voltage bulbs and keep half the lobby lights switched off. The air-conditioning too is not switched on till before the show.”” Not even any major Hollywood films are opening this weekend (unless you count “My Mom’s New Boyfriend“). Soon weevils will start blowing through the corridors;

– But it’s even worse for one Indian exhibitor. “Sebi on Thursday barred Pyramid Saimira Theatre promoters Nirmal N Kotecha and CMD PS Saminathan from trading in the equities market, accusing the latter of allegedly forging a letter from the markets regulator, the revelation of whose contents last December sent the company’s stock price soaring. The Sebi letter had purportedly asked the promoters to make an open offer to buy out minority shareholders.” Ouch, but the Securities & Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) can come down hard at times;

– Ending on a semi-positive note, at least if you are living in Detroit. ‘Unemployed? Movie theaters offer free tickets.‘ The headline says it all.

Patrick von Sychowski
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