Digital cinema helps box office grow


MUMBAI: The advent of digital cinema has helped technology companies as well as film producers a great deal in terms of having their films get a bigger reach.

Niche Indian films for instance can get to 600 to 700 screens which would not have been possible earlier. As a result, revenue has doubled in some cases in comparison to films released in the pre-digital era.
At the same time, digitalisation can be a boon and a bane. Systems like Cube and UFO Moviez can detect piracy. However other systems might not be as secure. This is something that the Indian film industry has to guard against.

Increasing revenue while trying to control costs is another issue that has to be grappled with.

These were some of the points that emerged in a session at Ficci Frames on ‘Digital Cinema: The Way Ahead for the Indian Box Office’.

UFO Moviez Joint MD Kapil Aggarwal said going digital was the way to move ahead. “We work with DLP and Texas Instruments and it has worked well for us. Today thanks to digital, there is no under reporting of the number of shows screened. Today a Bhojpuri film can go to 120 screens. Robot went to 2200 screens”. He noted that his company has rolled out 60 3D screens recently.
Imax Executive VP Theatre Development Larry O’Reilly said the upfront cost structures for a theatre owner wishing to deploy its system had gone down dramatically after Imax deployed its digital platform. Due to this, the company is looking to set up around 60 Imax zones across the country within five years. “Right now we are in three locations and we work on a licensing fee. Our new digital platform makes us economically compelling. For Avatar we delivered seven per cent of its box office in India. As we get comfortable in India, we might go in for a revenue sharing model. Globally, from 518 screens in 2009 we went to 655 screens last year.”
The Imax box office has been doubling year on year. 3D has been a big game changer for it and 82 per cent of clients globally who have taken its digital platform are existing clients. ”This shows that they see value.”

In China, the company is present in 30 locations. Aftershock was a local film that was converted to the Imax format and it has become the most successful Chinese film ever. That is also something he also wants to do in India once Imax gets comfortable with this market and has established a base.

O’Reilly said Imax works with filmmakers like James Cameron and Steven Spielberg during post production to see their vision get realised. This would include work like remixing sound and using the Imax geometry to bring images closer to viewers.

A total of 497 parts comprise the Imax digital system and so it is complex. This year, 20 films will be released in Imax including Mission Impossible 4and Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2. Earlier, ten films used to be released in a year. However as global demand grew, Imax increased its offerings. In fact, some films will be released only in Imax globally and not just in the US.

Texas Instruments senior VP DLP Products Kent Novak said there is large opportunity in the metros for digital screens using DLP. The content could be opera, sports, family weddings (which has been done in China), multi-location gaming etc. In the first quarter of this year, 35,000 DLP systems have been deployed globally. Globally, 150,000 screens need to be converted to digital. By the end of the year, he said 65,000 would have been converted through DLP. China, he said, is adding four digital screens a day. He noted that introducing a DCI compliant product in India is a challenge.

From 2000 to 2009, around 20,000 DLP Cinema projection technology were installed. In 2010 another 20,000 screens were added. The key for screens going digital is to pick the right technology upfront in terms of brightness and picture quality. Novak said the cost of a projector will be significant, which is why Texas Instruments has focused on reliable products.

He noted that 2k will be the industry standard for digital cinema, though some bigger chains may go in for 4k.While there has been talk of laser illumination, he said it will be four years before it becomes a reality as laser costs are high. But when it comes in, it could provide benefits of brightness and longevity.

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