scot mcphee on 5 Nov 2000 23:34:44 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

[Nettime-bold] Wired News : Digital Projection: Coming Soon?

A note from scot mcphee:

   Digital film projection is the Next Big Thing according to this Wired correspondent. On the other hand, the offered list of prior 'revolutions' in cinema appear to miss the two LARGEST changes; The coming of Sound, and the death of the studios in 60s followed by the rise of the blockbuster in the 70s and 80s. That this 'blockbuster' age is coming to a close, I don't doubt, even as the blockbuster gets more and more digital with each successive attempt. But, what will replace it, and will the *projection technology* be that catalyst?
   Digital production has already radically reshaped the cinema. Will digital distribution and projection have this same affect? 
   Will it just look like a 50 foot wide, headache inducing TELEVISION? Isn't the real innovation (in the Macchiavellian sense of the word) here the attempt at digital *distribution* rather than the glorified TV projection that is triumphantly announced here? 
   Given the lesson of the Internet, where we went from the utopian promise of the Everyman Publisher to the big-business bonanza of the NASDAQ bubble, will this live up to its utopian promise, or will it more just concentrate more power into the hands of the already huge BUSINESS of cinema -- one of America's top foreign exchange earners? Stay tuned for more technologically deterministic theorisations courtesy of Wired News. (or, alternatively, make up your own here on nettime).


 From Wired News, available online at:,1294,39652,00.html

Digital Projection: Coming Soon?  
by Jason Silverman  

2:00 a.m. Nov. 3, 2000 PST 

Color film arrived in the '30s, Cinemascope in the '50s, carbon arc
lamps in the '60s and '70s. 

None of these landmarks in motion picture projection technology
compare to the one that some film industry insiders see on the
horizon. Their prediction? Digital projection is coming -- and much
sooner than you think. 

Gary Meyer, co-founder of Landmark Theaters, guesses it'll take less
than six years for digital projectors to outnumber conventional 35mm
projectors in commercial theaters. Richard Brandt, president of
Trans-Lux Theaters, believes film projection could be a relic by 2005,
and calls digital projection "the biggest revolution since sound." 

"There have been innovations and changes over the years, but
fundamentally you were still showing the same thing -- it was all
film," said Brandt, whose family has been in the theater business
since 1914. 

"But now everyone knows digital projection will happen. We talk about
it at our trade meetings and we've seen enough good samples to know." 

Some believe that digital projection can help address some industry

Audiences would see pristine versions of the movie even after opening
night. That's not the case with 35mm prints, which generally receive a
beating while churning through commercial projection systems. 

Theater owners, now locked into a cycle of blockbuster programming and
declining revenues, could have more flexibility and freedom in

"Chains could break out of having to screen the same movie 42 times
each week, break out of the system where films have to make all of
their money in the first weekend," said Eva Kolodner, head of
production for Madstone Films. 

With digital projection, she said, "you'll have a multipurpose theater
and maximize the real estate, showing the material that audiences want
to see at any particular time." 

But there are those who are dubious about digital projection saving

According to film critic Roger Ebert, the digital projection
revolution remains "an urban legend." 

"The projection equipment is too expensive and touchy, and picture
quality is not high enough," said Ebert, who has written extensively
about technology's impact on cinema. 

There are other issues that will keep 35mm film running through
projectors in the foreseeable future. 

One is security. The chains are looking for assurances that hackers
won't end up watching Gladiator II on their laptops on opening night. 

Another issue is standardization. The studios are still stinging from
the recent installation of three competing stereo systems in theaters,
which force them to create three different versions of their latest

Delivering the digitized images is another problem. Ebert said that
the technology doesn't exist for satellite transmission. If studios
try to send DVDs to each theater, it'll be, in Ebert's words, "Hello,

Then there is the question of who will pick up the sizable tab. 

"With theater chains declaring bankruptcy, the notion of $100,000 to
$150,000 per screen for the equipment is not reasonable," Ebert said.
"The rest of the world is nowhere near ready for digital ... so since
prints are needed for India, China, Europe, Latin America, etc.,
digital is an extra expense rather than a savings." 

Nevertheless, both Brandt and Meyer believe that the rewards are high
enough for these problems to be resolved over the next few years. 

With commercial theaters equipped with digital projections, the
studios would no longer have to create, ship, insure and store 35mm
prints in the U.S. -- a savings of an estimated $1 billion per year. 

And that's real money, even in Tinseltown. That's five Titantics, 13
X-Men or 16,000 Blair Witch Projects.   

Related Wired Links:  

Hollywood Tech: It's Alive!  
Sep. 28, 2000 

Digital Rests Easy at Resfest  
Sep. 11, 2000 

Digital Films: The Real Indies?  
Sep. 7, 2000 

Film Studios Dip into the Stream  
Aug. 15, 2000 

405: Filmmakers' Road to Success  
Aug. 12, 2000 

Copyright  1994-2000 Wired Digital Inc. All rights reserved. 

Nettime-bold mailing list