News

Digital projectors making grand entrance at movies

Andrew D. Smith
The Dallas Morning News (MCT)

Digital projectors should soon replace film on more than 20,000 of North America's 42,000 movie screens.

The change will save studios millions, let theaters show three-dimensional films and boost sales for digital cinema champions such as Texas Instruments Inc.

"This is the biggest technological change in the theater business since the introduction of sound," said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners.

Viewers won't notice much difference when they see regular movies, but early signs suggest they'll love the 3-D.

The handful of recent movies shown in 2-D and 3-D did anywhere from two to four times as much business per screen in 3-D - even though limited 3-D seating meant some moviegoers were turned away.

Viewers will score tickets more easily as digital projectors proliferate, and they'll find plenty of shows to watch.

Studios plan to release two more 3-D films this year - the cartoons "Bolt" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas" - and 14 more in 2009.

Even viewers who dislike 3-D may benefit from digital projection, for it will bring increased variety to theaters.

The only way to get film to a projector is to print it, package it, ship it and then thread it into the machine.

Special one-time showings - and even limited runs - cannot justify the time and cost.

Digital movies, on the other hand, move almost as quickly and as cheaply as the videos on YouTube. The digital format practically demands special showings.

It also invites live event coverage.

Theaters have already drawn crowds with musical events that range from rock concerts to operas. The NBA's Dallas Mavericks even beamed one of their games, shot in 3-D, to a local movie theater.

As more theaters get digital projectors, expect far more experiments.

"While it's not unusual for movies to be produced in 3-D, there is a market for other types of 3-D entertainment that is ready to take off," said Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

The Mavs broadcast "was a huge success," he said. "Fans loved it, 3-D glasses and all, and have asked for more. We have seen the same demand for other types of content as well."

Texas Instruments, which makes the digital light processing chips that power 99 percent of the digital projectors in theaters, has been promoting its technology for a decade, but a variety of obstacles delayed the transition.

Even with volume discounts, a complete digital projection system costs $70,000 per screen. At that rate, total transition will exceed $7 billion worldwide.

Theater owners have long claimed that those costs dwarf the financial benefits to them.

Studios, on the other hand, stand to profit from the digital transition.

They pay about $1,000 to print and handle a single copy of a movie. Worldwide industry film costs probably top $1 billion per year.

The studios have thus agreed to help finance digital projectors by paying a "digital print fee" equal to the cost of a film print whenever it sends a digital, rather than film, copy of a movie to a theater.

Theaters that borrow money to go digital get heavy subsidies to pay off their loans. Other theaters continue with business as usual.

"This model makes sense for everyone. Studios, theaters and viewers all win," said Travis Reid, chief executive of Digital Cinema Implementation Partners, a consortium formed to negotiate with studios for the three largest U.S. chains, AMC, Regal and Cinemark.

For Texas Instruments, the digital transition vindicates an ambitious dream and a lot of work.

The relatively small number of movie screens will limit the direct financial benefit to TI, even if the company's DLP chips end up in every auditorium in the world.

But the indirect impact will be far larger.

"The work we've done for theaters has improved the quality of the products we can offer to consumers and businesses," said Doug Darrow, TI's brand and marketing manager of DLP products. "This is a boost for our entire DLP division."


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.