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Outlook for digital projection (1)


French exhibitors are incensed following yesterday’s publication of the Goudineau Report, Farewell Film? The Challenges of Digital Cinema, by the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC).

Commissioned by Véronique Cayla, Director General of the CNC, in an attempt to avoid a future digital divide between mainstream and arthouse cinemas, the very comprehensive study carried out by Daniel Goudineau analyses the stakes – as well as the potential technical, strategic and economic decisions given the current changes – that are currently in an experimentation phase but seem to be accelerating.

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While highlighting that, in the long term, the hoped for savings on prints through the use of digital projection will, in principle, be massive (especially for films with large print volumes), the report’s preamble also points out the lack of visibility regarding the real cost of equipment, with an excess of digital technology over 35mm at present.

And despite the enormous stakes for old and new technology industries (post-production laboratories, manufacturers of projectors and servers, secure television transmission specialists), prudence is the order of the day, with film producers and distributors both eager to maintain control of films and exhibitors over their programming.

Digital projection – which has begun in the US with 800 out of 66,000 theatres now equipped (although it will take at least 12 years to equip the entire network of cinemas) – concerns less than 1% of international theatres (1,500 out of 165,000). Moreover, with production capacity limited to a maximum 5,000 digital projectors per year, this market with limited professional equipment should prove attractive to constructors in the long run.

The results of the report imply that the next ten years will be a mixed world of 35mm and digital; a key period during which to preserve the diversity of companies and cinema. Indeed, the restructuring of the industry brought about by this change could have serious consequences with the arrival of IT and network players and the repositioning of traditional industries in the sector: Everyone wants to encroach on the other’s profession.

Furthermore, the phenomenon will question the identity of a movie theatre, with possibilities for the development of cultural diversity, but also the risk of a "Big Brotherisation" of film distribution. The theatre may even become a showcase for other means of film exhibition.

The report (which can be downloaded in full on the CNC website) contains numerous detailed thoughts, from which Daniel Goudineau has established a series of recommendations for France (see part 2 of article).

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(Translated from French)

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