IBE Expo: Conversion to digital projection inevitable

MUMBAI: Conversion to digital projection systems is the way ahead and the film exhibition industry is unanimous on this.This was the prime inference drawn in a panel discussion on ‘Digital Cinema‘ at the IBE Expo 2007.

Electronovision Consulting principal partner Patrick von Sychowski kickstarted the discussion with a presentation outlining an introduction to digital cinema worldwide.

Sychowski, who is currently consultant to Adlabs for its planned chain of digital cinemas, said that the US currently leads in total number of digital screens (3642), followed by Europe (703) and Asia (294). "99 per cent of all these installations use the 2K image projectors," he said, while asserting that digitalisation which started in 1999, has seen a rapid growth worldwide post 2004.

The discussion then veered towards the scenario in India in which the panel consisting of chief players in the digital exhibition scenario expressed their views on the current and future projections for growth.

Cinemeta Entertainment CEO Raj Grover said, "We intend to get into metros and tier-I, tier-II cities across the country. A chain of about 50 cinemas is in the pipeline across Gujarat, wherein we are acquiring single theatres, thus taking up their complete management rights. Currently, we are in the process of choosing the right format and standard for projection."

Real Image which started off as audio and post-production has also become a significant player in South India, thanks to their Qube technology. Director Senthil Kumar said, "Although digital cinema is in the transition phase, it is driving local and national advertisers to this medium. It‘s helping them target audiences better. This meanwhile, is also helping us evolve a territory specific business models like we have done in Tamil Nadu."

UFO Moviez CTO Makarand Karanjkar however adopted a different stance. He said that UFO is an infrastructure provider and a facilitator between the distributor and exhibitor to make their business viable, cutting down costs significantly for them. "We figured out the business model first and then made the technology work for us," he said.

IBE Expo convenor Anil Chopra said that digitalisation has brought in a certain uniformity in the fragmented film exhibition business. "The viability of the market is such that it is resulting in savings, thus driving growth in India. B and C class theatres, with shoddy projection systems are embracing digitalisation with open arms. Not only does this allow them to release films on the same day across the country, but it‘s also saving on costs."

When asked about the digital standard to be adopted, Kumar asserted, "India cannot afford the Hollywood approved DCI. There is certainly room for a second standard." The exhibition business has already seen much debate over Dolby, DTS and SDDS, he pointed out.

UFO‘s Karanjkar, however, cautioned, "We must consider whether there is an agenda to the deployment of a new standard or whether it is merely a gatekeeping exercise."

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