Today, in Las Vegas, the movie theater industry annual convention is taking place. And the subject of digital cinema it’s on the agenda again. But instead of all the talks as in the past, this year could be the year when things will begin to move step by step.
In July 2005, Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) released the specifications for the digital cinema. In February 2006, National Association of Theater Owners released its own Digital Cinema System Requirements, based on the DCI specifications to address practical concerns about system reporting and shuffling digital prints among auditoriums in a multiplex.
Now that the technical specifications are available, the business models under development and theater making plans, it seems that 2006 it’s that year when digital cinema it’s starting to come alive.
The final months last year saw a flurry of activity as the forces in the digital universe began to strike alliances. Christie/AIX, the AccessIT subsidiary, announced agreements with Disney, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures and DreamWorks, while rival Thomson’s Technicolor Digital Cinema systems announced service deals with DreamWorks, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. Pictures, with agreements under way with 20th Century Fox, New Line Cinema and the Weinstein Co.
“After years of planning, developing technical specifications and considering business models, the digital-cinema revolution begins in 2006,” said John Fithian, president of the National Assn. of Theater Owners. “All of those three components have come together, and deals are being negotiated now between theater companies and equipment and financial entities. It will take several years for this transition to occur, but 2006 certainly marks the beginning of the transition.”
Joe Berthold, president of Technicolor Electronic Content Distribution, added that “2006 is the year it starts, and it’s a year of testing,” as suppliers bring their equipment up to DCI specifications. “We are still where we were when the specifications were released in the middle of last year,” he said. “There are a whole series of things that have to be done in terms of redesigning equipment. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be doing interoperability testing and DCI-functionality testing on all the servers and projectors. We won’t start beta testing until the equipment is ready and compliant.”
AccessIT’s Christie/AIX, on the other hand, already has deployed almost 200 systems. “We’re certainly delighted with the progress of our rollout to date, including our first digital installations for Carmike,” said Chuck Goldwater, Christie/AIX president and chief operating officer. “We’re encouraged by the studio support with their increasing distribution of digital content in the (new) JPEG format called for in the DCI specs.”