Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×

Digital Cinema Not Quite There Yet 233

An anonymous reader writes "A Reuters article explains how, in some ways, the digital future of movie theatres isn't quite here yet. Despite the push for new technology in the projection booth, theaters have been slow to adopt the new and expensive gear." From the article: " Many in the movie industry hope digital cinema will help revive theater attendance, which fell 9 percent in 2005 in the United States. The studios stand to save about $1 billion a year in print distribution costs because they will be shipping digital movies via computer hard drives, satellite and broadband cable, versus old celluloid canisters. But digital deployment is expensive at about $100,000 per screen, and while the studios agreed to foot most of the bill, current equipment does not meet all the technology standards set by the industry."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Digital Cinema Not Quite There Yet

Comments Filter:
  • Movie Attendance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:29AM (#14901735)
    Many in the movie industry hope digital cinema will help revive theater attendance, which fell 9 percent in 2005 in the United States.

    My guess is that releasing movies that don't suck would increase movie attendance.
    • I guarantee you the vast majority of films released in any given year have always sucked, and will suck always, as long as people keep going in droves to see them, forever and ever. The good news is that in a decade or two, we'll have forgotten Ultraviolet and the rest of the dreck--we'll just remember the classics, and so we'll all still be able to bitch about the decline of modern cinema.
      • people have said that before, then they made this show called MST3k where they pulled up the most god awful horrible flicks they could, and made as many sarcastic comments as they could with their 'shadow' heads in the way.

        and people watched it enough to keep it on the air for a few more seasons than it really needed to be on so clearly people can't get enough of BAD movies!
        • Nobody watched MST3k for the movies, infact some of the movies were so bad it was hard to enjoy the part you are actualy watching, the work of a bunch of comedians with great wit. If you ever watched a MST3k movie without the riffing*, you will know what I mean.

          *Unless you are having a party with a bunch of like minded and funny friends.
    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @08:44AM (#14902092) Homepage
      Ah to amplify your point. I was going to take my family out to the movies this past saturday. so we opened up rottentomatoes and the local theatre web pages and started looking. the ONLY movie currently playing that has any decent rating is "8 below" a sappy drippy disney kid movie. Everything else had a rating of "horribly sucky" on rottentomatoes. Granted they typically pan everything but after going to wathc the trailers, reading other reviews, etc.. we decided to do something else.

      We go to fewer and fewer movies over the past 12 months because almost everything they have been putting out are simply polished turds. As an indie film maker I have seen movies shot and editied on a crappy VHS camcorder for less than $1500.00US that are more entertaining and higher quality than many of the multi million dollar movie that has overpaid bad acting, seem like the script was being written as they were shooting, and now features the trademark "shakey cam" that must mean that hollywood can no longer afford tripods.

      MPAA is dying faster than the RIAA. Movies have more indie talent than all of hollywood and many of the best actors are now starting to star in indie films. (Seeing Robin Williams in a really low budget film that he helped finance is a sign of the times.)

      The only problem is that indie films are typically direct to DVD. Most theatres will not show indie films and none of the filmmakers have the money to get their film overhyped and marketed on all the networks.
      • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:31AM (#14902625) Homepage Journal
        Well, this isn't a particularly good time to take a data point on movie quality. January, February, and March are classically the time when studios release their dogs. They figure that the kids are in school, and people would rather spend wintry evenings at home than braving the weather to go to the theater.

        They release a bunch of good movies around Thanksgiving and New Year's, when people take breaks. That's also when most of the potential Oscar nominees are released, just before the end of the year (to be fresh in the Academy's mind).

        And they're waiting for the summer for people to be on vacation again, so they release the stuff that they thought was not good enough to attract attention during the summer and winter rushes of great movies, and the real losers that they're hoping will be able to recoup their losses as long as there's nothing else good to see.

        Not that I agree with this "logic"; the studios love to pander to a "conventional wisdom" and never question it. When Spider-Man was released a few weeks _before_ the traditional Memorial Day weekend rush, they were stunned to discover that people who had five months of cruddy movies would throw gobs of money at a good one.

        But logic good or ill, movies are cruddy now because that's when the cruddy movies come out. Last year's whole movie season was pretty bad, and the studios deserved to see attendance fall 9%. But if the studios have learned a lesson, you won't see the results until the late spring. They're still flushing their crap. Sorry.
    • Re:Movie Attendance (Score:2, Informative)

      by drsquare ( 530038 )
      My guess is that releasing movies that don't suck would increase movie attendance.

      There have been some good films released over the last year, the same as any other year. There have been crap films released since the history of films. Your theory is therefore flawed.
      • There have been some good films released over the last year, the same as any other year. There have been crap films released since the history of films. Your theory is therefore flawed.

        Oh come on - this has been one of the WORST years for quality movies in a long time. Just look at the Oscar nominations this year. Yeah, individual movie opinions are of course very subjective, but as an aggregate they had a far wider range of reviews (ie a lot more BAD ones) than your usual crop of Oscar contenders.

        Persona
    • Many in the movie industry hope digital cinema will help revive theater attendance

      Oh c'mon! Yes many of us our geeks and notice the occasional crack or 'crop circle' on our latest action sequence despite coming at us at 30-odd frames per second. Lets be realistic for a moment. IMAX movies aren't usually hits, and that's the extreme of digital quality to the point of looking 3D. Why do they possibly think that pixelating and upping the resolution of my movie may make me come to more of them?

      It's a lame e

    • Another problem is that it costs too much to go to a movie. Between tickets and snacks it costs a couple between 30 and 40 dollars to go to a movie. Multiply that figure if you are bringing the kids. If the price of seeing a movie goes up even more to pay for digital projectors, there will be even fewer people going to the movies after the "ooh! aah!" factor of seeing digital projection subsides.
      • True, it's expensive but there's no law that you have to buy their garbage popcorn and sugar water. You can last 1.5 to 2 hrs without that stuff.
    • by yabos ( 719499 )
      But it's those damn movie pirates on teh bittorrent that do it!
    • Yup. And I notice that those theatres that have digital are also the ones that show television ads on the big screen. I paid for the movie, why do you think I want to see that crap? no thanks.
    • by pcgabe ( 712924 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @06:50PM (#14904268) Homepage Journal
      (From Roger Ebert's "Answer Man" [suntimes.com])

      Q. If this was such a great year for movies, why are box-office receipts so far down from last year, even though admission prices are at an all-time high? Do you feel that there is such a growing disconnect between Hollywood and America that Hollywood had better wake up or face serious consequences?

      Cal Ford, Corsicana, Texas

      A: No, I don't, because the "box-office slump" is an urban myth that has been tiresomely created by news media recycling one another. By mid-December, according to the Hollywood Reporter, receipts were down between 4 percent and 5 percent from 2004, a record year when the totals were boosted by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which grossed $370 million. Many of those tickets were sold to people who rarely go to the movies. 2005 will eventually be the second or third best year in box-office history. Industry analyst David Poland at moviecitynews.com has been consistently right about this non-story.


      Additionally, you can read his ideas for real ways to revitalize the movie-going experience here [suntimes.com].
  • by Kawolski ( 939414 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:29AM (#14901738)
    Despite the expensive tickets and overpriced food, crying babies, restless children, chatty couples, cell phones going off, people lighting up the room checking their e-mail on their Blackberries, and every other clichéd movie theater problem on the tip of every stand-up comedian's tongue, I say to myself: "I could put up with all of this if only the film projector was digital."
  • Good lord (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:30AM (#14901740)
    Many in the movie industry hope digital cinema will help revive theater attendance, which fell 9 percent in 2005 in the United States.

    I stopped going to movies because I was sick of paying the price of a DVD, just to be forced to watch commercials for deodorant and lectures about how I'm an evil baby-killing sealsucker for downloading movies (which is something I don't do).

    Now I'm supposed to go back and start going to movies again just because they've tossed in some newfangled, flashy, questionable technology?

    Sometimes I wonder whether the people who work for MPAA style companies are stupid, or whether they simply are from some alternate universe where logic actually works that way.
    • Re:Good lord (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wheany ( 460585 ) <wheany+sd@iki.fi> on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:46AM (#14901772) Homepage Journal
      I agree. Why the hell you're telling me that I should not download movies, and that pirated movies are of worse quality than the theatre.

      I'm not downloading movies, I'm right here sitting in the theatre after paying for the ticket! I'm the guy who did the right thing!

      I've never bought a car, but I'm pretty sure the salesman (or salesmens union) won't give me a lecture about people who steal cars and tell me that stealing cars is wrong.

      Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure that I've not been given a lecture at the grocery store either. Oh yeah, and once I ate at Subway and I didn't get a lecture there either. What gives?
      • by Dorceon ( 928997 )
        It would be funny if the anti-piracy ads actually increased awareness of piracy in the negative way, and people who would otherwise have gone to the theatres and paid to see movies realize they can pay for a broadband connection and get all the movies they want.
        • Heh, I heard of some guy standing up in the middle of the theatre the first time one of those ads played in my city, and yelled excitedly "holy crap, you can download movies now?"
      • i'm sorry you got accused for stealing those movies. i was sitting behind you and they were talking about me.
    • "To be forced to watch commercials [...] about how I'm an evil baby-killing sealsucker for downloading movies"
      You're lucky you don't smoke. Every time I sit down I see pictures of lungs, hearts, and arteries torn open demonstrating the dangers of smoking. My AU$13 is going to my home theatre where I can smoke and I won't be educated about it.
  • cost (Score:5, Informative)

    by _Shorty-dammit ( 555739 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:31AM (#14901745)
    I'm not sure why the movie industry doesn't get that one of the reasons (besides movie/story quality) that attendance is going down is because tickets cost too much, and snacks cost way too much. Price everything reasonably, and you'll get more volume. I don't need 17.3 gallons of Coca-Cola for ONLY $25!!! I want a reasonable serving that you don't gouge me for. And the same goes for everything else you're selling. Why do you think so many people cruise right on by the snack bar and straight into the theater? And why so many more don't even bother showing up at all?
    • Re:cost (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Golias ( 176380 )
      Every okay-sized town has a couple cheapo theaters with inexpensive snacks. Those places generally do even worse than the overpriced joints.

      Why?

      Because people can now have a *very good* theater experience at home. I've got a relatively cheap ($1800) 720p projector, and when I go to any theater around town that isn't an IMAX, the first thing I notice is "this theater is not as nice as the one in my living room."

      There was a day when people would go to a movie just to sit in an air-conditioned room for an ho
      • Re:cost (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hakubi_Washu ( 594267 ) <[robert.kosten] [at] [gmail.com]> on Sunday March 12, 2006 @06:23AM (#14901849) Homepage
        I'd assume the same thing will happen to them that happend to the opera/theatre. Namely only bigger cities will have one and usually only one, that is fully overpriced, but regarded as a "special occasion". Normal people will use their home setups and TVs instead, which are probably shifting towards and Internet-based technology, just like phones are shifting towards VoIP (a single data exchange system is easier to install, maintain, connect to, etc. and thus preferrable as long as you can live with the fact that any reliability issue is going to effect all data streams at once. No calling the TV compay when there's only a blank screen).

        Young people will do what they always did, find something new. There'll still be music clubs, discos, etc. and it's quite likely that another public media-consumation-in-a-dark-room venture will develop, if there's a need for that (Which I doubt, today teens don't have to hide the fact that they want to be alone (In a cinema you aren't alone, but noone can see, thats close enough) with their date anymore, like they had to during the 50's).

        *shrug* The world will continue turning :-)
      • Re:cost (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Sporkinum ( 655143 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @08:12AM (#14902025)
        Strangely enough, our town's cheapo theater has turned out to be the most successfull theater by screen in Iowa. The guy that owns it charges $3-$4 a ticket for 2nd run and art house flicks. His concession prices are the best, and he uses real butter on the popcorn. And for the digital aspect, he has a high end DLP for each screen that he uses for powerpoints to show limited ads and informitive bits before the show. A cool thing he did this year was show the superbowl in HD on one of the screens. People that went to it said it was fantastic. He also uses it to show amature movies for the annual film festival.
        http://www.collinsroadtheaters.com/ [collinsroadtheaters.com]
        http://crifilms.com/ [crifilms.com]
        • I forgot to add that he doesn't show comercials either. You might get 1 or 2 previews of coming attractions, and then the movie starts. Also, if there is a decent turnout for the show, he comes into the theater and personally thanks the crowd for coming, and then gives away 4 or 5 free large popcorns by drawing ticket stub numbers.
    • Re:cost (Score:5, Informative)

      by thparker ( 717240 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @06:29AM (#14901860) Homepage
      Price everything reasonably, and you'll get more volume.

      Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. You have to understand the economics of film distribution to understand the terrible position movie theaters are in.

      In a major studio release, the split for the first week of release is normally 90/10. The studio gets 90% of the receipts taken in by the theater. The split slowly moves in favor of the theater in subsequent weeks. So you go to a first run movie, pay $10 and sit in a room with 40 other people -- the theater is going to make a whopping $40 for that entire showing from ticket sales.

      The allocation process doesn't encourage theaters to try for a bigger cut, either. The studios decide how many theaters they'll release a film in for a given market, then the films are allocated to the theaters by bidding. The theaters bid on the split and the number of weeks they promise to run the movie.

      The only way digital distribution is going to have any impact on overall prices at the theater will be if the distribution agreements themselves also change. How likely do you think that is? Personally, I expect the studios to take the money and run.

      • Huh. It would seem to me that there's an allocation process only because the studios have to decide in advance how well the movie will do, and correspondingly, how many prints to make.

        Further, satellite downloads give the theaters more flexibility because they can more easily "stage" several films through the same theater at different times. More kid stuff during the day, switching to adult stuff at night. And by not having to ship the film back, they can keep niche material longer.

        Of course, they may,

        • Of course, they may, as you suggest, stay the same and keep the savings. Then again, if they're fronting the costs of the upgrades...

          No, you're absolutely right, there is enormous potential for change. As you point out, having a digital file on a theater server allows instant re-shuffling of the movie schedule. Unexpected hit selling out? Push a button and it's now showing on 4 screens instead of 2. That's good.

          But specifically addressing the complaints of the OP: I think it's unlikely that ticket and c

      • Re:cost (Score:2, Interesting)

        by coofercat ( 719737 )
        Ah yes, enter the MPAA and UK equivalent that seem to have more greed than common sense.

        Stelios came up with Easy Cinema (http://www.easycinema.com/ [easycinema.com] where you could watch a film for 50 pence (off peak, not likely a recent release either). Not sure it quite worked out as it maybe was planned, but his basic take was that he could strip out all of the snacks and drinks, replace them with vending machines, and have a skeleton staff running the place. If you want that kindly old dear showing you to your seat wit
    • Re:cost (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Vir ( 51066 )
      One of the reasons snacks cost so much is that a large portion of the cost of a ticket goes straight to the studio the film came from, so the theater has to put huge mark-ups on its snacks just to survive.

      This is one of the reasons that I've always felt theater chains are just shafted in the movie industry. The quantity of business they get is almost completely out of their control, since it's determined by the quality/popularity of movies that other people. If it's a bad year for films, it's a bad year for
    • Do what I do and buy munchies at the supermarket next to the theater before you go in. Of course, if the theater you go to is nowhere near shops with cheap munchies or is one of those ones that wont let you take outside munchies in (even though its the exact same packet of chips as is on the candybar only cheaper), my solution doesnt apply :)
    • I'm not sure why the movie industry doesn't get that one of the reasons (besides movie/story quality) that attendance is going down is because tickets cost too much, and snacks cost way too much. Price everything reasonably, and you'll get more volume. I don't need 17.3 gallons of Coca-Cola for ONLY $25!!! I want a reasonable serving that you don't gouge me for. And the same goes for everything else you're selling. Why do you think so many people cruise right on by the snack bar and straight into the theat

    • Re:cost (Score:3, Funny)

      by drwiii ( 434 )
      I don't need 17.3 gallons of Coca-Cola for ONLY $25!!!

      With a 2 liter costing about $1.50, that's still quite a bargain.

      (Sorry, but this is Slashdot.)

    • Have you heard what the SNL guys do?

      Yo! Stop at the Deli, the theatre's overpriced
      Ya got a backpack, gonna pack it up nice
      Don't want security to get suspicious
      Mr Pibb and red vines equals crazy delicious
  • Affordability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:32AM (#14901747)
    Maybe if movies became affordable for the middle class family again and weren't absolutely fucking horrible and didn't include 20 minutes of advertising at the start. Maybe, just maybe... people would start going again.
  • by CaptainDefragged ( 939505 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:35AM (#14901755)
    "current equipment does not meet all the technology standards set by the industry."
    I wonder if this means "The equipment doesn't have the DRM and copy protection we require."
    The one place where they could use DRM for a true user pays arrangement - i.e. Pay per screening etc - and no mention at all of this.
    I'm sure there are probably other "technical issues" holding them up, but DRM would be the most obvious. I'm sure that I read a while back that copy protection has already been addressed in the form of encrypted hard disks for distribution in the UK.
    • DRM is just one of the technical issues. The DCI specification includes transport, subtitling (via XML), compression, watermarking, multiple audio/language tracks and of course encryption. By the way, the encryption isn't just on the hard drive/fiber/satellite. It extends all the way to between the server and the projector so that a professional "hacker" can't decrypt the bit stream between the two. I understand it goes just about all the way to the imaging chip.
      • DRM is just one of the technical issues. The DCI specification includes transport, subtitling (via XML), compression, watermarking, multiple audio/language tracks and of course encryption. By the way, the encryption isn't just on the hard drive/fiber/satellite. It extends all the way to between the server and the projector so that a professional "hacker" can't decrypt the bit stream between the two. I understand it goes just about all the way to the imaging chip.

        And, despite all this, they still think tha

  • by David Hume ( 200499 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:39AM (#14901765) Homepage
    FTFA:
    The studios stand to save about $1 billion a year in print distribution costs because they will be shipping digital movies via computer hard drives, satellite and broadband cable, versus old celluloid canisters.

    But digital deployment is expensive at about $100,000 per screen, and while the studios agreed to foot most of the bill . . . .
    The $1 billion a year savings may, in the short run, be the problem. For a one time, albeit large, initial investment the studios will save $1 billion per year. My guess is that they will not want to share those savings with the theater owners. Yes, in a pefect market the savings would result in a drop in "price" to the theater owners and... wait, a drop in the price of movie tickets to the conumer. Who thinks the market will be anything close to perfect? Who predicts that the price of movie tickets will fall?

    I don't doubt there are technical issues. But even when those are resolved, there may be a long delay while the various actors decide how to split the savings. My guess is that the Consumers Union will not be invited to the negotiating table.
    • They'll up the prices because they'll say it's to compensate for their upgrades even though they're still making even more money with the new projectors.
  • Cinema is dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreatDrok ( 684119 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:49AM (#14901779) Journal
    Lets see, the last time I went to the flicks it cost us £20 (tickets and snacks), the seats were very uncomfortable, the picture quality wasn't all that great (poorly done 35mm is barely better than a projected DVD, let alone HDTV) and the sound was nothing to write home about. Also, the guy behind me had stinky feet that he insisted on putting on the back of my chair, some guy at the back of the theatre stood up proclaiming that someone had farted and that it stank like shit (duh!) and stormed down to the front to sit. Admittedly the fart was pretty nasty. Anyway, the fact is, the cinematic experience can be closely replicated at home without all the bad things by playing a DVD on even a budget DLP projector these days. Compared with the £100,000 front projection CRT systems with line doublers etc that were necessary only 10 years ago, a modern cheap DLP blows that away for the most part (black level is the only real problem but they are getting better and better). I can't wait for HD discs (blu-ray or HD-DVD, not bothered, both would be fine by me) so I can finally say that yes, my home projection system is better than all but the very best cinema. At that point the only way you will drag me into a cinema is if it is a *REALLY* good film, or IMAX. From what I understand the digital projection systems are only aiming to be as good as 35mm which means HDTV should be a very similar experience.
    • Re:Cinema is dead (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @06:09AM (#14901815) Journal
      actually while true HD is very good (1920 x 1080) it still does not have the color space and contrast that the black chip TI projectors have (as well as a slightly lower resolution)l. Also note that there are temporal artifacts introduced by the conversion between the 24 frames per second progressive the movie was presumably shot at and the 30 frames per second interlaced of the 1920x1080 HD standard. It lacks that subjective "film" feel that is, admittedly, actually a lower quality image. As for the 1280x720 60fps standard not only is that of significantly lower res. but it has that very different "showscan" (an old movie format) feel due to the high frame rate.

      All these points will need to be re-examined in one to two years when the new 4K projectors start coming out with much higher (even than film in true comparisons) resolutions.
    • Re:Cinema is dead (Score:2, Redundant)

      by wisebabo ( 638845 )
      Actually while the resolution of HD (1920x1080) is very good compared to the current DCI standard of 2048x1080 there are a number of other issues to consider. As you already mentioned the black levels of home systems can leave something to be desired, also the color gamut is significantly redeuced. The "black chip"s used in the TI cinema projectors give a standardized, calibrated broad color space. More importantly is the temporal artifacts caused from converting a 24fps progressive scan movie (presumabl
    • Re:Cinema is dead (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fruey ( 563914 )

      I for one cannot wait for full digital cinema based on the spec [caperet.com] released last summer.

      You are quite right about most prints for movie theaters these days too: they're pretty awful. Most films I've seen recently have been poorly projected (bad focus and not enough / too much cropped from the actual print via poor screen size ratio compared to the print) and the print quality was mediocre at best. Having to make sure you get to one of the first showings at any given cinema is probably the best bet, but who wa

    • The best way to see a movie is in the theatre. I don't know what theatre you frequent, but even the cheap second run theatre up the street from me offers quality projection, digital sound and sloped, comfortable seating. The newer theatres offer even larger screens and what essentially are food courts with a variety of food. Yes, the food is slightly more expensive (a Burger King Whopper is $3.69, but a bag of large popcorn is ridiculously priced at $4.00. Taco Bell is still the best deal with tacos at $1.2
      • You could watch Mozart's opera, "The Magic Flute" at home on DVD or you could go to the theatre and watch it live (and you score points with your girlfriend to boot).
        Feh. At home, you can actually FUCK the girlfriend during the movie.
    • Also, the guy behind me had stinky feet that he insisted on putting on the back of my chair, some guy at the back of the theatre stood up proclaiming that someone had farted and that it stank like shit (duh!) and stormed down to the front to sit. Admittedly the fart was pretty nasty. Anyway, the fact is, the cinematic experience can be closely replicated at home

      Indeed, my feet can smell quite nasty and my farts are rather peerless when it comes to smelliness. The only thing I don't replicate from the the

  • the commercials (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Celeron1point2ghz ( 600925 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @05:51AM (#14901785)
    It's the commercials that keep me away. It pisses me off to no end having to watch 20 minutes of commercials and previews for movies I have no interest in after I paid for a movie ticket. If I wanted to watch commercials, I could have stayed home and watched TV.

    And, if they are gonna show a preview, at least show a preview for a movie that the audience of the movie being screened might be interested in.

    Fæx!
    • I agree. They end up getting you to pay for the movie three times over: ticket, over-priced candy bar, and advertising.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Trondheim already has the world's first Sony 4K SXRD projector installed in a commercial cinema
    http://www.ntnu.no/midgard/Nordic.html [www.ntnu.no]
    • Gee, the whole of Norway? The vendors must be jumping for joy about selling 4 more projectors.
      • wrigleys doesn't care about selling another 4 packs of gum

        but you can be damn sure a company selling av equipment at 100k a pop is happy as anything to get 4 sales.. esp if they can tack on all kinds of shipping & installation charges that equate to a european vacation for their installation team...

  • Problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @06:00AM (#14901801) Journal
    Digital picture quality isn't as good as they like to think. The resolution to match 35mm film is something like 3000-4000 pixels. 70mm film is twice that (going higher isn't neccesary since the eye has a limited resolution). Upgrading will involve replacing the most expensive component.

    Cinemas like equipment that's built to last. Some cinemas are using projectors that are 30+ years old and still working perfectly. New equipment such as multi channel digital sound processors are just bolted on. You can't bolt a digital projector onto one of these. The technology is fundamentally different.

    People are not going to go to the movies just because they have digital projectors. They don't care! It doesn't make a difference how the popcorn was delivered, or whether the electricity comes from nuclear power or coal either. They want to see a movie. This is the problem. Hollywood is too obsessed with technology (not just cameras but digital sets as well). Give us a decent story. Use the technology to tell the story.
    • Re:Problems (Score:5, Informative)

      by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @06:18AM (#14901835) Journal
      the oft quoted 3000-4000 pixel count is done under perfect conditions using a pristine negative with a million dollar telecine. In the theater you are usually watching a fourth generation print that has accumulated dust and scratches. Audience testing showed that even the first generation of digital projectors (1280x1024 using an anamorphic projector lens) was preferable to the ordinary release print. In addition the digital projectors are designed to be as close to the "analog" ones as possible. They typically work with a digital "head" bolted onto a standard projector light housing. Power supplies and audio connections (from the server) remain the same.

      Now the current generation of projectors are 2048x1080. Soon they will go to 4K. It is telling that IMAX known for its ultra large format films (70mm 15perf) is actively considering digital, in no small part due to the extremely high print costs $20K-$40K. If they consider digital good enough, that's saying something.
      • Re:Problems (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NeMon'ess ( 160583 )
        I watched the first half of Star Wars Episode 3 on film, and then digital, back-to-back, on opening weekend. Half-way through the film projection, a fire alarm went off and everyone in the multiplex had to evacuate for 20 minutes. When I went back in I went to the digital projection theater and watched the film from start to finish.

        I found the resolution of digital was as clear or clearer than the film, by just a little bit. I loved the lack of jitter, which was a huge improvement. However, without the
        • Re:Problems (Score:3, Interesting)

          by xigxag ( 167441 )
          Don't have much to add to that informative post except to say that I too have noticed pixellating while watching a digital projection. It reminded me of the first generation of digital cameras, in which the prints obviously did not compare to 35mm film. Nowadays a good digicam print is equal or superior to the average 35mm P&S print. So I'd imagine the problem of digital artifacts will be licked in the next generation of theater projectors as well.

          The problem for large theaters is that flawless digit
      • I do agree completely about the low res film prints. I was going to post it myself before I saw your post. Not just dust and scratches, but the grain becomes quite noticeable in these prints and also many are just plain blurry, probably also due to the duplication process.

        But, I saw Star Wars Ep 2 with the 1280x1024 system and it was dismal. I have no idea who they tested it with, but they must have been blind. Yes, there was no jitter/jump. That was nice. But the contrast wasn't great and the pixelation wa
  • A 90-10 Split? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Swift2001 ( 874553 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @06:55AM (#14901905)
    Wow, no wonder you have to take out a mortgage on the popcorn. Back, er, in my day, it was 60/40 for the movie theater, or maybe 50/50 for a "sure hit." Of course, a spectacle or event movie didn't cost $200 million or more, and there wasn't a $50 million ad campaign to get you to see it. You looked in the paper, see, and read the reviews or talked to Cousin Artie, and he said it was good, so that was fine. It's way beyond inflation. In the '50s, I was seeing Saturday kids' matinees at the FOX in New Orleans -- which is now a tangled mess, I guess -- for 15 cents. During the week, it was 50 cents or so. Now, I think, if it were regular inflation here -- like a loaf of bread -- the price would now be about $4.00. Come to think of it, I think the movies would be better if they had to make them with that admission price in mind.
  • Forget the Cinema (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrSteveSD ( 801820 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @08:06AM (#14902012)
    My main problem with the Cinema is that I don't have control. Missing half the film if I need to use the toilet is a bit of a pain. Also, if I miss what someone said, I can't rewind a bit and listen again. Most of my viewing in done on a Archos AV500 portable PMP while I am commuting to work (about 1 hour). I mostly watch TV shows, e.g. Babylon 5, Alias etc. The only problem is getting the content. There don't seem to be any good (and legal) places I can get the content I want. Does anyone know where I can pay a reasonable fee to download popular TV shows?
    • do not bother. You need to make the decision that the laws are purely stupid and ignore them.

      The only way to get content "legal" is for you to drop your archos player in the trash and go buy a video ipod and downgrade your video playback experience to a tiny screen with less control.

      I personally have proudly went to going 100% illegal so I can enjoy Video entertainment technology from this century instead ow waiting for something tiny or low end that is sanctified by the content publishers.

      Screw em. the f
  • by LS ( 57954 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @08:10AM (#14902021) Homepage
    While important, the quality of the projection should not be the focus when trying to draw people to a theatre. The commodification/McDonaldization of movie theatres is the problem. Most theatres in the US are mega-plexes, with the front lobby and each theatre looking exactly the same no matter what city you go to in the US. The theatre needs more character and intrigue.

    For example, if you go to Westwood in Los Angeles, the theatres look like opera houses, and are ornate and spacious. There is palpable excitement in the crowd on opening night for a new film. I saw a movie at a pizza restaurant/theatre in DC a while back. The tables were set on tiers. Sitting in a comfy chair eating pizza while watching a movie in a theatre is an awesome experience. Lastly, I saw Saving Private Ryan in Amsterdam. The theatre was also very ornate. Some people dressed up for the occasion. A choir dressed in WW2 uniforms sang before the movie and during intermission. During intermission, you could go to the lobby or a number of lounges to have a cocktail or some champagne.

    If some maverick theatre owner was willing to turn movie-watching into an EXPERIENCE again, then I might think about attending, but right now I have no interest in being pumped in and out of a suburban money making machine.

    LS
    • I saw a movie at a pizza restaurant/theatre in DC a while back.

      That was probably the Arlington Cinema & Draft House. I've only seen a few movies there, but yes, it's very nice to have a hostess come to your table to offer you a pitcher of beer while you're sitting there watching a movie. Not to mention that since the tables are spaced fairly far apart, when people at one table decide to start chatting, it usually doesn't disturb the people at the next table.
      • My normal theatre experience:

        1) $30+ for tickets for family
        2) 15 minutes of commercials prior to film
        3) Sticky, crunchy stuff on theatre floor
        4) Sound system TOO LOUD
        5) Film sometimes out of focus
        6) People talking, cell phones ringing during film
        7) 50% chance that film will suck

        Don't go to the theatre much anymore, though I do buy / rent DVD's.
  • Not quite there yet?

    How about "not even fucking close to being there"? How about "deficient in almost every way possible"? Or maybe "how stupid I am to even think it is close"?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 12, 2006 @08:46AM (#14902099)
    There are a number of reasons that D-Cinema has not taken off.

    1. The format has just been ratified and in some ways is still incomplete. It is a SMPTE spec (DC-28).

    2. The equipment needed to playback DC-28 doesn't exist in cheap enough quantities yet. This is essentially the chips to decode (encode would be nice as well but it can be done in software). The decoding of J2K is quite cpu intensive and the algorithms don't optimize well in todays CPUs so the decoder chips are a requirement.

    3. Its an expense for everyone involved. The projectors are around $75K today, the encoding systems represent multi-million dollar changes to the workflow of the studios (depending on commitment).

    4. The only person that is going to make money is the distributor. The distributors all have financing secured, the ones we have talked to for the past 5 years have 3-4 hundred million secured so that they can essentially subsidize a large portion of the rollout but at 10,000 primary screens this only goes so far when you consider projector costs.

    5. The theater owners are unconvinced that switching to DCinema is going to gain them anything, in fact the only advantage it gives them is the ability to dynamically change the number of screens that they are using for a given movie at any point in time. The ability to instantly add another showing without ordering another print is a bonus but its not a big enough one.

    6. The traditional equipment providers have been fighting this tooth and nail. Somewhat out of ignorance and protectionism but mostly because their technology involves gears and reels not bits and bites. They simply don't understand the technology or to be more fair they didn't in the beginning.

    7. There was a lot of division in the format wars, the MPEG 2 guys wanted their version, there were some stand alone wavelet formats, there were some oddball variants of jpeg. All of which had some success which has ultimately delayed the rollout *somewhat* just do to the FUD it has caused.

    8. the content owners are worried about digital copies of their films flying around the great cloud of the internet of course and about them being stored on hard disks but most of those issues have been somewhat addressed and we are now just waiting for them to sort of catch up with the reality of technology today.

    9. There are a bunch of little things like the single longest lead time item for a D-Cinema system is the lens for the projector. The wait time can be as long as two years.

    10. The accepted cost for the DCinema system is around $7K per unit (not counting the projector) which is rediculous as it does not leave much room for cost for storage, the decoder board, the network, backup systems, etc, etc, etc.. just an enterprise class server alone is going to suck up $4K of that cost, its a bit rediculous.

    In response to some of the other topics mentioned.

    DRM/Security: The DRM is simply normal encryption systems, since the playback system is entirely hardware the playback board has the keys. It will be quite hard to hack. This is not a case of DVD CSS encryption, the system will be much harder to get into. Also the move now is to put real-time watermarking into the film at playback.

    Quality: The typical film you see in a theater is around 4th to 6th generation prints. This means you could be down as low as 1000 lines of resolution. DCinema kicks ass in quality. Even when you butterfly the content side by side with a 6K telecine from a pristing master print of the film the dcinema quality stands up quite well (90% of the test audience cannot tell the difference). I would also say that the main reason that some people can tell the difference is that the dcinema version is much more stable (not gate weave) so it is not moving all over on the screen. Even the golden eyes in hollywood agree that it is a better image. Keep in mind that all of the dcinema systems out there today are based on older technology and cannot compare with a DCI spec system.

    • 2. The equipment needed to playback DC-28 doesn't exist in cheap enough quantities yet. This is essentially the chips to decode (encode would be nice as well but it can be done in software). The decoding of J2K is quite cpu intensive and the algorithms don't optimize well in todays CPUs so the decoder chips are a requirement.

      I agree for now, but with the cost of hardware always going down and the fact CPU technology is rapidly racing ahead now with dual-core x86-type CPU's and IBM/Toshiba/Sony's Cell CPU de
    • In the previous round of digital cinema, the theater owners hated it. One proposal was that the equipment would be leased, not sold, which basically put the exhibitors under the control of the equipment lessee. The systems are designed to provide the "content owner" with total information about what the exhibitor is doing. The effect is to change the exhibitor from a retailer to a peripheral.

      And this is a business where showing movies doesn't really make any money for exhibitors. Exhibitors are really

  • by nblender ( 741424 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @08:59AM (#14902135)
    What is this "going to the movies" thing? Is that where you go to someone's house and watch a movie?
  • The quality of analog will always be better then digital. But there will be a point when the common man cant tell the difference..

    But aside from that personal preference, perhaps the movies being put out suck and noone wants to go see them? Its a thought...
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <deviladv&gmail,com> on Sunday March 12, 2006 @09:14AM (#14902194) Homepage
    I saw this in another thread, but the fall of 9 percent can be explained by the "passion of the christ," which came out in 2004. It brought out movie goers who don't normally go to the movies, sometimes more than once. It was explained by Roger Ebert that basically the 2004 figures were inflated by this figure, and they simply droped off to a normal trend in 2005.

    So Cinema isn't dead, the movie companies aren't hurting, it's just that all this is a myopic response to an abberation in the figures the year before.
  • by DigiMan ( 854062 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @11:53AM (#14902689) Homepage
    Okay, I have a question...
    Why is retrofitting these theatres going to cost the $100,000/screen as they allege? I have a friend who I helped acquire a theatre and we were able to use a $2500 projector (and later 2 $3,000 unites with "lens shift" where they can be used in tandem), and threw the image onto a full size screen (30x50 ft?) with a super bright, and clear image... WE ran a DVD from a Sony DVD player that was up-converting everything to 1080 lines of resolution, and it looked as good, if not better than 35mm...

    We found that the DLP projectors gave much truer color, whereas the LCD units put everyone in a candy colored world.

    So anyway, we now show independent filmmaker's films, and DVD trailers - and an occasional a public domain film - and NO ONE had every questioned the quality.

    I just don't understand why everyone wants a $100k "digital Projection" projector just because it's the unit they've used at events like the Oscars. Is this because to brand name? Ignorance? ...or perhaps, because they have a very detailed encryption scheme where you have to call in and get an expiring key that will only work for 7 days - they the films wont play anymore and you need to call up and buy a new key...

    From what I've heard, the bigger issue isn't getting the image on the screen, but the lack of willingness of the exhibitors to LET you play a DVD - they just wont allow it - even if you already get regular movie prints from the company (Disney, MGM, etc.), and are paying them market rate, and have the DVD at the same time the vinyl 35mm is available.
    • WE ran a DVD from a Sony DVD player that was up-converting everything to 1080 lines of resolution, and it looked as good, if not better than 35mm...

      You must have had unbelievably crappy projectors and film, for 480p material to look anywhere near as good. Or, perhaps you're talking about a theatre with very tiny screens...

      So anyway, we now show independent filmmaker's films, and DVD trailers - and an occasional a public domain film - and NO ONE had every questioned the quality.

      Well, either they expect low

  • DCI is only 24 FPS, like film. That's so lame. There's an option to go to 48FPS, but at half the resolution. From the specification: [dcimovies.com]

    3.1.4.2. Frame Rates The DCDM image structure is required to support a frame rate of 24.000 Hz. The DCDM image structure can also support a frame rate of 48.000 Hz for 2K image content only. The frame rate of any individual DCDM master is required to remain constant. Metadata is carried in the image data file format to indicate the frame rate.

    The defined image sizes are

  • In the unlikely event that any theatre owners are watching this, I would like to state the obvious -- digital cinema will destroy theatres. They would have to be fscking stupid to use it.

    Theatres have always thrived on providing better viewing experience than home television. Thats why when television became popular, theatres adopted the wide screen format.

    The problem with Digital is that it is not really better than a good TV set. And technologicaly TV sets have actually better potential for improvement th
  • 1. Quality
    2. Commercials
    3. Cost

    Those in order of priority are why I very seldom go to the movies anymore. The writing is really horrible in a lot of films, and too damn many of them are aimed straight at teenagers and little kids. (I've got nothing against teenagers and little kids but...)

    It's actually a very close call for me which makes me less likely to go to movies anymore, 'quality' or 'commercials'. The quality issue makes me apathetic about going - "I could go to a movie... but I'd probably

  • I Worked for a local theator chain (Star Cinema) on an off for a year or so to pick up some extra cash (and catch free movies and swag). Anyways, the Star company guys are really bleeding edge, two IMax theators, high end gear, nothing but stadium seating even in the smallest theators. Anyways, they were set to go digital back in 2002 with one problem. The Projectionist Union. Basicly, if they converted even 1 theator to digital, the projectionists would strike.

    -Rick
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday March 12, 2006 @10:51PM (#14905060) Homepage
    The National Association of Theater Owners [natoonline.org] has a position paper on acceptable technology for digital cinema. This is worth reading. The theater owners accept the need for DRM, but have very specific requirements on how restrictive, intrusive, and unreliable it can be. Those requirements are worth a look. IT managers should be insisting on similar requirements when they buy software with DRM.

    Some highlights:

    • The System shall not compromise the security of the theatre's in-house network, including the security of digital cinema systems, point-of-sale systems, and other data systems owned and/or operated by the exhibitor.

      The system shall be designed to push data to outside business entities per the needs of the exhibitor, and shall not allow outside business entities to pull data from the exhibitor's equipment or from the premises without the express written permission of the exhibitor on a case-by-case basis. All such communications shall be recorded and shall be auditable by the Exhibitor.

      That's a nice contractual definition of a "no spyware" requirement. IT managers, put that in your purchase orders.

    • Equipment changes and possibly repairs will require the immediate delivery of new Security Keys for all encrypted content in the complex within its engagement window. New Security Keys shall be delivered within 15 minutes of the time of request.

      Good performance requirement. If you have to do hardware replacement, this puts an upper limit on how fast the vendor has to authorize the new hardware.

    If we have to have DRM, it needs contractual safeguards like that.

"Regardless of the legal speed limit, your Buick must be operated at speeds faster than 85 MPH (140kph)." -- 1987 Buick Grand National owners manual.

Working...