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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In USA Today: "Digital film revolution poised to start rolling"

Key word here is "poised."

"This is the first year when all the elements are coming together," says Julian Levin at 20th Century Fox.

But as all techies know, "the year of digital cinema" will likely have a lot in common with "the year of the LAN," "the year of voice-over-Internet telephony," "the year of knowledge management," "the year speech recognition finally gets accepted," etc. Those years take a few years to truly arrive, and sometimes longer.

In the piece, John Fithian of the National Association of Theater Owners says the transition to digital will be "substantial" by late 2006.

But then later, Fithian is quoted saying that digital projectors can cost more than $100,000, and may not last as long as a standard 35-millimeter projector. "You're giving us something akin to the first generation of a cell phone or a laptop," he says.

Then, toward the end of the piece, Levin predicts that a full national roll-out of digital cinema will take seven to eight years.

Yikes. That's 2012 or 2013.

Three things could accelerate that pace. One is an agreement on the part of the studios to help finance digital projectors, and ease the cost of upgrading equipment every five or ten years. (Equipment leasing might be an answer here.) Second is for studios and directors who truly believe in digital to start producing pictures that can only been seen in digital theaters (or will only be shown digital for the first two or three weeks of the run). Third is better messaging to consumers about how and why digital projection is better. They need to see side-by-side comparisons of celluloid (especially well-worn celluloid) and digital, and make their own call. I suspect many would then seek out digital showings whenever possible.

Your ideas?

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