Deadline New York reported yesterday that by 2013 the studios will indeed stop creating film prints, instead they are requesting cinemas ‘upgrade’ and update to digital projection. Why?, well a lot of it has to do with the new Hobbit film that has been shot at 48fps, Peter Jackson is really pushing this new concept and after a lot of criticism at the first sneak viewing a couple of months ago (that did not go down very well) I am starting to dislike the concept even more. Why change something that has been working so well and has been imprinted in our minds to look like film. 24fps is cinematic, 48fps is soap opera.
Time is running out for theaters that haven’t made the switch to digital projection. Studios’ use of conventional 35 mm prints “is projected to cease in the United States and other major markets by the end of next year, with global cutoff likely to happen by the end of 2015,” according to the latest IHS Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service report. There’s still a ways to go: The firm says that 51.5% of worldwide screens had digital projectors at the end of 2011, an increase of 82% from 2010. But IHS notes that soon it won’t be sufficient to have a digital projector. Director Peter Jackson is lobbying for theater owners pay for the software upgrade needed to show his upcoming The Hobbit films at 48 frames a second. That’s the speed at which he’s shooting the movies, up from the conventional 24 frames. At the end of 2011 about 50,000 of the world’s 63,825 digital screens, including 19,000 in the U.S., would be capable of being upgraded. Theaters with Series 2 DLP and Sony projectors will be able to accommodate Jackson. Pressure to upgrade won’t abate after The Hobbit. James Cameron plans to shoot his follow-ups to Avatar at 60 frames a second. (Incidently, IHS’ figure on the worldwide total of digital venues is slightly higher than the 2011 tally from the MPAA, which counted 62,684, of which 44% were in the U.S. and Canada.)
For the most part the IHS report covers the ground we explored at April’s CinemaCon. But it has some interesting factoids regarding the transition from celluloid to digital prints. The firm says that at one point distributors used 13B feet of film a year, equal to five trips to the moon and back. By 2010, though, film usage was down to about 5B feet. One big reason for the shift: The price of silver, heavily used in film processing, soared from $5 an ounce to about $25 this year. The heat is on for all theaters to switch to digital projection.
My thoughts, well it can quite easily be summed up by these comments posted on the article:
- “Depressing. So now there is TRULY no reason to go to the cinema”.
- “That’s right, Tradition! Soon you will no longer have anywhere available for you to pay and see dirty, scratched, worn film prints. The cinema experience is not complete without frame jumps and ghosted images from a fifty year old projector scratching the film further…”
- “Director Peter Jackson is lobbying for theater owners pay for the software upgrade” LOL….good luck with that. I gonna love it when Peter Jackson’s 60fps ego trip flops”.
- “The higher frame rate does indeed produce a noticeable soap-opera style effect. It is not a pleasant effect. It is annoying and distracting. Some people won’t notice (because they don’t go to the movies much, or they just don’t care) but a lot of people will, and I can’t imagine they will be happy. Peter Jackson is using this as a gimmick to promote his movie but it has the potential to become an annoying and expensive folly. Remember all those awful 3d post conversions? Imagine what a high frame rate will look like in the hands of directors who are less tech savvy and meticulous than Peter Jackson and James Cameron. It’s gonna be a disaster”.
- “Is that the same James Cameron that guaranteed 3D digital projection would bring a 75% increase in audience attendance? Ya, let’s listen to filmmakers. They know all about the cinema exhibition business. 2k projectors, 4k projectors, 3D projectors, 48 fps upgrades, 60 fps upgrades . . . and now they discover the huge cost of replacing digi projector bulbs. What’s the result? The exhibitors are bleeding red, and attendance is down. Time for the exhibitors to push back !!!”.
Shame Really ……
Thanks to Bryan Fieldhouse at The Reverb Factory for enlightening me on this report.