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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Russ Wintner on Cinemas of the Future

Here at Silverdocs, I had a chat yesterday with distribution consultant Peter Broderick about why the theatrical experience has been so slow to evolve... why more theaters don't let their communities choose the movies that play there, create more comfortable environments, offer better food, etc.

Back at the hotel, Russell Wintner e-mailed me to point me to an article he has written on just that topic -- mapping out the future of the theater. The piece is worth a read, as Wintner is one of the pioneers who kick-started the digital cinema revolution (and he grew up in a family that owned movie theaters.)

A snippet:

    Other technology under development will make the movie going experience even more immersive and dynamic. Two approaching technologies appear to come right from the pages of "Stranger than Science." Designs for laser light projectors were presented at the annual electronics conference NAB this past April. Laser-driven projectors offer more light, a wider range of color, and a switching capability that will allow for even better fidelity on the screen with frame rates higher than both traditional and home theaters. Quite possibly, laser projection will allow for 3D without glasses because the easily focused and directed light beams can be alternatively aimed at different parts of a screen designed to reflect into either the right or left eye but not both. Active display technologies, which enable images to emanate from a cloth-like material hung on walls or from ceilings, are a new technology that will remove the need for a projection booth. They should do for theater architects what digital has done for media. Buildings will be able to take on all sorts of shapes and configurations to better accommodate content and audiences. Theaters in the round, concert theaters with a mosh pit, and gaming salons where players share a common third-person point of view battling each other, or even better, a shared first-person point of view fighting aliens controlled by a computer, will all be possible.

The thing Wintner doesn't address -- but which is key -- is why most theater owners have been so passive about evolving their business and experimenting. Attend a ShoWest conference, and you will find that exhibitors are about the most unimaginative, status-quo-oriented businesspeople in America, simply waiting for the studios to give them hit movies that will draw big crowds.

Even Mark Cuban, who owns Landmark Theatres, has been *talking* a good game about radical theatrical innovations over the last three years but not really doing much.

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  • Scott: Your upcoming book, which I have had the pleasure of reading, explains the incredible resistance to innovation in the film making side of the industry. That resistance has affected (perhaps infected?) the retail side of the business – exhibition. This is a complete over-simplification of a very complicated evolution, but there has been acceleration over the years in the consolidation of power in Hollywood to the point where just a handful of people now control the bulk of the box office gross. Likewise, there has been a slow acquiescence of power by exhibitors to their suppliers exacerbated by the over building of theatres. Forces to maintain the status quo are just too strong so exhibitors have turned to making costly improvements to facilities that necessarily take time to implement. Like a dying star that consolidates into a tiny ball and then disintegrates into millions of pieces, the outdated Hollywood system is about to implode in part because of the convergence brought on by digital technologies.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 11:00 AM  

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