India's digital cinema growth sans big players

MUMBAI: India is in the midst of a digital cinema wave. Though there has been a rush to invest in digital infrastructure, big players have shied away as they find clear profit making business models yet to emerge.

UFO Moviez and Digital Image Media Technologies have made rapid strides in digital distribution of movies, helping the digital cinema population to grow to 5000. Though, out of this number only 300 screens are Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) compliant.

The two players have themselves installed digital systems in 3500-odd cinemas. UFO has also partnered with promoters of DCI-compliant 2k systems, Scrabble.

Real Image and Qube Laboratories co-founder Senthil Kumar says that the different standards in use creates problems – particularly in India where producers may not have materials ready until two days before a Friday release – but that standardisation is needed and that the number is reducing.

“Piracy is such a problem that releasing on a wide number of screens makes all the difference in the world,” Kumar stated.

Recently, Anees Bazmee‘s Ready was disseminated on 2,200 screens, whereas just five years ago 500 screens would have been considered a big number.

Though, digital cinemas have helped accelerate the speed of film releases, greatly changed the number of screens playing a new film and also helped limit piracy, there is still an enormous number of single screen cinemas and a further 3,000-4,000 yet to be converted.

UFO‘s Vishnu Patel asserted that digital cinema has speeded up ROIs for all parties involved. “The theatrical release window has collapsed from 12 or 13 weeks to just two or three,” he claimed.

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