Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The grain of celluloid or the icy look of digital?

Empty and dead.

"Movie Theaters Fight Back–With Satellite Dishes of Their Own"


Gary Susman

March 20th, 2013


Instead of shipping expensive, bulky reels of film to your multiplex, they can now send movies encoded on hard drives—at less than one-tenth the cost. Satellite, which will allow theaters to download movies from a private network onto dedicated servers, should reduce distribution costs to a minimum.

The results may not please everyone. Small theater chains, independently owned movie houses, and indie-film distributors aren’t included in the coalition (at least, not yet). And a lot of theater owners may balk at buying one more piece of costly hardware after having barely weathered the conversion to digital projection. Over the past few years, that transition cost $70,000 to $100,000 per screen, and though the studios absorbed some of those expenses, many theaters either couldn’t afford to convert, or went bankrupt trying. The National Organization of Theater Owners estimated that the cost of digital conversion could ultimately darken as many as 10,000 screens, shuttering one in every four venues in North America. Of course, some cinemas (art and repertory houses, for instance) are keeping 35mm projectors, but celluloid exhibition – the way we saw movies for a century – will likely become a specialty business catering to a niche audience.

Still, film purists who prefer the grain of celluloid to the icy look of digital or the murk of 3D may find consolation in the prospect that satellite transmission will also allow theaters to show more diverse fare, beyond just movies. A popular series like AMC’s The Met Live, which simulcasts performances from New York’s Metropolitan Opera to a few dozen cinemas nationwide, might expand to hundreds of screens. Or you could watch major sporting events on a screen as tall as your house. That beats the living room couch, doesn’t it?

Small theater operators feel the change

Film projection booths are nearly dead

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