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Friday, December 23, 2005

`Bollywood set to embrace digital cinema'

Here's a good overview of what's happening in India, from UPI. The article makes the case that Bollywood is more eager to adopt digital cinema than Hollywood.

Two things I wish this piece had touched on: how many digital cinemas are there in India today? And what resolution are most of the projectors there?

The UPI article suggests that d cinema and "e-cinema" are synonymous. (Digital cinema and electronic cinema.) But lately, I've been hearing people using e-cinema to refer to installations whose resolution is lower than 2K. Most digital theaters in India are 1K or less, I'm told. So a big question going forward is, while Bollywood may supply these lower-res theaters with content, will the Hollywood studios? Their DIgital Cinema Initiative has specified 2K as the minimum resolution.

From the piece:

    ...[U]nlike the United States, entrepreneurs in Bollywood have adopted cheaper modes of digitization that involve "low-quality projection equipments" requiring investments between $22,000 and $45,000 each. "Both movie hall owners and movie goers in smaller India cities are willing to compromise on the quality of movies screened for getting to see the latest releases," [Manmohan Shetty of Adlabs Films] says, adding that "this is also why digital roll-out has not been very successful yet in larger Indian cities because film exhibitors can get away with lower quality projections in smaller cities."

    Moreover, Shetty says that theaters in larger cities do not need to spend on conversion to digital screening since "theatre owners there can charge five times higher ticket rates anyway and to screen a celluloid-like resolution, investment in digital projection would need to be similar to U.S., which doesn't pay here either."

    Nevertheless, "the biggest reason why Bollywood is opting for an aggressive digital roll-out," says [Pranav] Roach [of Hughes Network Systems India], "is that against traditional cinema delivery, digital cinema offers the most effective ability to curb piracy, a menace that has afflicted the industry for years."

    This is because digital cinema takes away any physical handling of the film or print. Roach says that Hughes Network Systems first transfers a film to a digital medium, which is then beamed via satellite or cable to all the theaters at once. "We feel that a movie is most likely to be pirated while its celluloid prints are in transit," says Roach.