21 January 2022
“Generals are always prepared to fight the last war,” is a saying by Winston Churchill that applies to more than just conventional battlefields. As cinema emerges from the COVID pandemic, there is a risk that the industry will be prepared for battles past, rather than new enemies and dangers. Having survived a costly and damaging two years, cinema owners must nevertheless start preparing for what lies ahead.
A truce has been called (for now) in the windows fight with studios, with the border shifting to the 45 day line (mostly). The cinema industry isn’t happy with this, but it’s no Treaty of Versailles and exhibitors can learn to live with it. The Omicron surge may have been big but less deadly, possibly also representing the last major offensive of the virus before it becomes endemic. Difficult peace negotiations remain with landlords over unpaid rent and the Great Resignation demobilization has led to significant staffing issues.
The battle ahead is to convince audiences to return in greater numbers for many types of films. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” demonstrated that tentpole titles can generate pre-pandemic box office numbers. The challenge is for this to translate to smaller titles, particularly those that appeal to an older audience. Putting out hand sanitizers in the lobby will not be enough. The fight for people’s leisure time and spend is only intensifying (witness Microsoft’s USD $70 billion acquisition of Activision), with out-of-home entertainment an increasingly worthy adversary in terms of service and appeal, not least towards younger consumers.
Yet there are other threats that can still come to haunt cinemas that are not prepared. Does your cinema have a gender neutral bathroom? It won’t be mandated, but do you want to risk getting caught up in the cultuel wars? And arguably, the biggest potential threat to cinemas is an invisible enemy, who has made itself known already; cyber security.
With automation, kiosks, a move to cashless transactions and a focus on data gathering (heck, AMC even accepts crypto currencies now), cinemas are increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats. This can take many forms, not least ransomware, business email compromise (BEC), Cryptojacking, SQL Injection, Zero-Day exploits, DDoS attacks, spearfishing and more. From South Korea to The Netherlands, such attacks have already occurred and will only become more frequent and damaging. Lloyd’s of London will no longer insure you against attacks attributable to nation states.
Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail, as the saying goes. When “Avatar 2” opens in December, hostile agents will be looking to target cinemas, who can find themselves locked out of their own information technology systems. If your IT team is not testing the readiness of your staff and system with simulated attacks, then they are not doing their job. In the end, only preparedness or luck will save cinemas from cyber attacks. And luck eventually runs out.
Patrick von Sychowski
, Editor, Celluloid Junkie
Chinese company AET Altai has become the latest manufacturer to get DCI certification for its Cinema LED screen technology. AET Altai thus joins the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG Electronics in having a non-projector cinema display solution that is certified to show first-run Hollywood films. Previously Shenzhen Timewaying Technology Co. Ltd. got DCI certification for its LA2K-10 model direct view display (the technical term for Cinema LED) on 18 June 2021, with Unilumin earlier approved for its equipment on 30 April 2021 (though confusingly listed as “Digital Projector with Media Block: UC-A41” on the DCI website.). So there now appears to be
two three Chinese Cinema LED companies with DCI approval, in addition to the two South Korea (Samsung and LG) and one Japanese (Sony).
For technical specifications AET Altai claims to achieve 48 nits ultra-low brightness, AET Altai BOB patented display panel packaging process (“the display effect is more uniform and soft, and the color of the picture is true and full”), 1,000,000:1 ultra-high contrast rendering, 16+bit high grayscale, 3840Hz high refresh rate, 120fps high frame rate, a viewing angle expansion that can exceed 170°, 4K+ resolution with 8M, 10M, 14M, 20M standardized size options, for a variety of picture aspect ratio formats, boasting that “Compared with the current IMAX (1.78:1), the LED cinema screen will bring a clearer and more grand viewing effect.” With a “minimum power consumption of 1000W,” it claims to offer just one-fifth of the power consumption of traditional digital cinema projectors.
The AET Altai certification is important as China has a goal to become less reliant on foreign films and technology for its cinema sector, which is now the world’s largest, both in terms of number of screens and box office. China currently has 80,000 cinema screens and plans to grow by more than 10% each year, with more than 100,000 cinema screens expected by 2025. Much is made of the need for less reliance on foreign film and technology:
In the “14th Five-Year Plan” China Film Development Plan issued by the State Film Administration of China, it is mentioned that it is necessary to focus on researching technologies and equipment such as cinema LED screens with independent intellectual property rights, seize the commanding heights of technology, and break the monopoly of foreign technology
There has previously been mention of at least 2% of all new cinema screens within China being Cinema LED systems, with one percent of previous screens converted to the new technology by 2025. This will make China the global leader by far in direct view displays for cinemas, with domestic manufacturers stealing a march on the likes of Samsung, LG and Sony.
UPDATE: This article was modified on 8 February 2022 to include a mention on Unilumin’s Cinema LED screen.
The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), the industry group representing the interests of European cinema trade associations and operators across 39 territories, issued a rallying call last week for all European and global cinema industry stakeholders to support the sector as its strong recovery from the impacts of COVID accelerates into 2022. Their statement read, in part:
Having faced the unprecedented challenges of the COVID pandemic, 2021 saw cinemas across the globe move swiftly along the road to recovery, with all signs suggesting that 2022 will be a pivotal year for the industry.
Across Europe in particular, last year saw significant gains on 2020 box office revenues as cinema audiences flocked back to an exciting and diverse slate of new releases.
Leading industry analysts Gower Street Analytics estimate that 2021 box office for the EMEA region was, at $4.4 billion, 45 percent higher than 2020. Underpinning that strong performance, UK and Ireland (+85 per cent), Russia (+78 per cent), Portugal (+50 per cent), France (+47 per cent), Spain (+45 per cent) and Germany (+26 per cent) all recorded significant box office growth, this despite experiencing months of closure during the year… (Continue reading on CJ Wire.)
Polands three big multiplex chains have all announced cinema ticket price rises. The move in one of Europe largest and most competitive cinema markets could be the start of inflationary pressures on movie theatres across Europe. At the same time there is a fear that consumers will cut back on spending for cultural activities, thus hampering cinema industry recovery efforts.
Cinema ticket price rises have so far been small but telling. Cineworld-owned Cinema City increased ticket prices by PLZ 0.50 (USD $0.13) in late 2021. Helios is increasing prices by PLZ 1.00 (USD $0.25) as of early 2022 for tickets bought on the same day as the screening, though not for pre-booked tickets. Vue-owned Multikino also changed ticket prices in late 2021, which now range from PLZ 19.90 (USD $4.99) to PLZ 32.90 (USD $8.26). “We sincerely hope that further hikes will not be necessary. We analyze the impact of rising prices in the country on our costs on an ongoing basis, ”said Katarzyna Opertowska, Marketing and PR director of Cinema City in an interview with the Wirtualne Media portal. Independent cinemas such as Kino Pod Baranami have also put up their ticket price by one Polish zloty.
Cinemas are not the only business upping their prices in Poland, with legit theatres and museums also hiking up the ticket price, in line with an overall increase in the cost of living. At the same time, polling by ARC Rynek has found that consumers are most likely to cut back on cultural consumption in the face of rising prices, according to 28% of those polled. Cinema ticket price rises have already been seen in territories such as Korea, where cinema operators try to claw back COVID-era losses. It is highly likely that they will spread to more European territories to compensate for increases in costs of everything from electricity to staffing.
South Korean cinema major CJ CGV has introduced a sports climbing gym in CGV Piccadilly 1958 located in Seoul’s Jongno District. The launch is the latest example of diversification, which has seen multiplexes in South Korea try out everything from virtual reality zones to Manga libraries. The sports climbing gym caters towards both health conscious and experiential lifestyle focused consumers – as well as being very Instagrammable. The cinema was able to accommodate the climbing installation due to its high ceilings, which avoided the need for a costly construction overhaul.
CJ CGV has pioneered the expansion of experiential cinema in recent years. This has both taken the form of immersive in-auditorium experiences such as 4DX motion seats and ScreenX 270-degree viewing experiences. But it has put an equally strong focus on improved food and beverage VIP screens, customer service, automation (robots that direct patrons) and new uses of its multiplex lobby areas, as have its competitors Lotte and Megabox. CJ CGV has also been testing the use of its cinemas as lecture halls, online wedding halls and concert halls, to try and make up for losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week Korea also lifts the requirement to show a COVID pass for entry into movie theatres, raising the hopes for the beleaguered cinema sector.
The Korea Bizwire
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