The Digital Revolution is Coming: Half of All Screens Digital in 6 Years

November 16, 2007
Source: SlashFilm, Variety

DLP Digital Cinema

We're already seen it happening in a few places, where entire theaters have converted all 10 or 12 of their screens to digital (typically it's DLP) to try and get an upper hand. However, the real digital revolution still hasn't taken place, especially worldwide. Theater owners are reluctant to adopt the new technology and it's quite expensive to install, even for just one screen. A new article on Variety this week claims that half of all screens will be digital by 2013, six years from now. If that is true, I suppose we can say the digital revolution is coming, but the real question is how will it change and how will it reshape the movie industry.

This speculation comes from a cinema analyst company named Dodona Research reporting. The official numbers state that just this year alone, 4,627 screens, which amounts to only 5% of the global total, converted to digital. However, here's where mentioning the world gets a bit tricky. The US alone amounts for 78% of all digital screens, followed up by the UK and South Korea. It all sounds great and dandy to the analysts, because they're looking at where the future is heading and how much more money everyone can make on these technical advancements.

As originally stated, this isn't about how many theaters are upgrading, it's about how it will reshape the industry. If you look at the advantages of digital to start off, things start to sound a bit better for everyone.

» Clearer, brighter, sharper image, if calibrated correctly.
» No frame shaking, no scratches, no image problems typically connected to film.
» 3D via RealD or other digital 3D options.
» No excessive shipping or distribution costs, except for shipping the harddrive.

Those advantages benefit both the theater owners and the theater goers, but the problem is not enough people know about these advantages or even care about them. On top of all of that, I mention calibration, because I've been to some digital shows before that look terrible because the contrast wasn't set right or something else was wrong. On the other end of the spectrum, I've been to shows that looked better than I've ever seen a movie before and I end up feeling spoiled because it looked so damn good.

Digital cinema is inevitable. Eventually all the screens will be digital. You can't escape it and it will eventually happen, even if you hate this new technology. So the next question I present to you is just how exactly will it reshape the way we go to the movies. Will there be more screens in more places, meaning you'll have more options eventually? Will it mean the opposite because more films will be presented in pure high definition and it'll be harder to make movies that look that good?

Once we overcome the issue of getting the general public to recognize the advantages of digital, then I think movie theaters may actually be the better place to see movies again. For a while now the home theater market has been quickly catching up to movie theaters. The home audio systems and screens, combined with high definition DVDs, are becoming better than your local theater in the end. So when this digital revolution comes along, you'll be reminded of why the cinema is the better place. Why you need to go see movies there because the experience is vastly different from home.

It's the exact idea that I mentioned above, if you remember it. I said that after I watched a movie on a giant screen and a crisp 4K projector, I "end up feeling spoiled because it looked so damn good." And if you get that feeling down at your local theater, even it's not that perfect, but at least a giant step up from anything you see at home, and then you'll start remembering why movie theaters are so great. This may just be one of the results of the digital cinema revolution, and I hope there are other positive outcomes. For now, let's all just sit back, relax, and enjoy our movies as the digital cinema revolution happens all around us.

Find more posts: Editorial, General



Good read. What also comes to mind about this whole digital revolution is what does it mean for up-and-coming filmmakers? What changes will be made in film school? etc.

Nick O. on Nov 16, 2007


I suppose a big problem is how do you suddenly change a hundred years of traditional projection that works and replace it with a technology that could be superseded by superior digital (or whatever) in the six years they predict it will take to convert half of them. I mean, in six years it could (will) all be different and those theater operators will be up for more outlay to convert again. It'll certainly be interesting to see what happens.

avoidz on Nov 18, 2007

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