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Thursday, March 16, 2006

ShoWest stream-of-consciousness

I have finally caught a cold, thanks to my nutty travel schedule (LA last week, Austin on Sunday and Monday, Las Vegas on Tuesday through Thursday.) So here's a stream-of-consciousness post about some stuff I've heard and seen at ShoWest...


- I wonder who is buying new film projectors in 2006. Do they imagine that they'll get 30 years out of them? Don't they realize the resale market could implode as theaters start shifting to digital-only auditoriums (which could happen later this year or in 2007, as studios release more movies digitally) and getting rid of old equipment?


- I'm glad that Rico's Nachos were here handing out free samples. Eating Rico's Nachos reminds me of going to the United Artist Movies at the Falls, my closest multiplex, when I was about 15.


- Seems like there is a really good chance that there will be a re-release of Peter Jackson's `King Kong' in digital 3-D.


- Everyone's buzzing about how the list of `digital cinema pioneers' was selected. Honestly, three people from NATO, and no one who helped pioneer digital cinema servers?


- Jeffrey Katzenberg sat in the row behind me at last night's screening of Pixar's `Cars.' I wonder what he thought about it. Couldn't see if he laughed or kept a poker face. John Lasseter was given a newly-created ShoWest award for being an `Animation Pioneer.' He accepted the award once at the 6:00 PM show, and then again at the 6:30 screening in another auditorium. The movie looked brilliant, projected on a Christie DLP 2K projector, on the 55-foot screen at the Theatre des Artes in the Paris Hotel. And it's quite good - another in the string of finely-honed Pixar releases. I do wonder how it'll appeal to girls, though. (Only one major character, the Porsche voiced by Bonnie Hunt, is a woman, and the theme is stock car racing.)


- Doug Darrow of Texas Instruments told me that the tipping point with stadium seating, when suddenly every theater decided it needed to have it to remain competitive, was about 250-300 screens in the U.S. That's exactly the point we're at today with digital screens.


- Avica chairman Nicholas Clay told me that since the company announced its intention to digitize every screen in Ireland, that number has climbed from 480 to about 600 (by the time they're done.) Clay says Avica is 25 percent done with the project, but the company hasn't started running digital shows yet. That should happen this month, he said.


- Also on the international front, DG2L of NYC and Bombay says they, in partnership with UFO Moviez, have done 200 theaters thus far. None of them are DCI compliant (about 1K resolution), and so they show only Bollywood movies. They plan to hit 500 by June.


- Real D, which sells equipment that allows digital projectors to show 3-D movies (such as Disney's `Chicken Little'), says they're in 105 theaters worldwide today, and that footprint will double by July, when Bob Zemeckis' `Monster House' is released.


- Had dinner with Harry Mathias of NEC, a cinematographer himself who predicted that by the time half the screens in the US are converted to digital, it'll be hard for producers of film (like Kodak) and processing labs (like Delux and Technicolor) to make money in that business. Film will disappear from commercail theaters really quick, even in less-developed countries, he says. He thinks we'll likely have 10,000 digital screens by 2007 or 2008, and hit the halfway mark (about 18,000) by 2010, for sure.


- The movie I was most looking forward to seeing at ShoWest was `A Prairie Home Companion.' I was underwhelmed. Heavy on singing, light on plot and character development. Found myself wishing it was a backstage documentary rather than a feature with Virginia Madsen playing an angel.

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