Digital Cinema

19 06 2007

Cathchword of the Zeroes (as in Eighties, Nineties and then…).

In today’s Hollywood Reporter Monthly magazine, Juliana Koranteng asks a number of people in European disribution when they think their markets will “be digital” (meaning when will there be digital distribution). The answers range from depressing to… well… depressing. On a lot of levels.

Tom Cotton, of Technicolor, says that “Europe will be digitized two to three years after the U.S. has fully digitized.” That’s like saying that we’ll all get ice cream cones after all of the dieters get their ice cream cones. About the only one who is optimistic is the woman from Texas Instruments who has, shall we say, a vested interest in selling projectors (she talks about the “benefits” of DLP Cinema).

While this may all be true, there are at least two levels where I “sneeze in their general direction.” The first is that there has yet to emerge a viable financial model for massive digital distribution in minor markets, much less major markets. While it is attractive to think of sending out 50% of your “print run” digitally, it won’t substantially reduce your costs until they are all digital. Why? It’s supply and demand. Labs make their money on release printing and as the number of prints ordered goes down, the price per foot will go up. It will cost more to make 500 prints than it does today. Way more.

So the United States isn’t going to be going major digital distribution for a long time. Which means, according to Cotton’s estimation, that Europe will go digital about two to three years after “a long time.”

The second reason why the article is depressing is that it doesn’t seem to take into account the multitude of other distribution methods that will be emerging by 2013 and beyond. It’s as if the only change that theatres need to make is to “go digital.” I want them to talk about putting their presence into small arenas, computer screens and more. We certainly won’t be creating media primarily for the big screen.

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