Final reel plays amid digital conversion

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 27, 2012 - 1:36 PM

At U.S. moviehouses, a multibillion-dollar switch to digital is on. Say goodbye to film -- and to some old theaters, too.

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juststricterAug. 25, 1210:23 PM

Also on death’s door is the “retro movie,” with almost all theaters daring to show cult movies, foreign oddities, and perennial blockbusters switching to DVD projection, which looks absolutely terrible. Riverview does this full-time now, Parkway too. The Mall of America theater just ran a “Class of ‘92” film festival with terrific titles to celebrate the MOA’s birthday, and 95% of them were DVD projection. Theaters don’t even advertise their “print” source either, with the exception of The Trylon (a gem of an idea in need of their own multiplex to run) and the Heights. Digital conversion is going to kill off the dying revival movie business. DVD just isn’t acceptable.

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reidAug. 26, 12 8:31 AM

Local economics makes it tough. I wonder where the income from the incessant and long advertisements we're forced to sit through, not only at the 'beginning' of the movie, but also for the time we're sitting there and the low rate stuff plays constantly. Since apparently the local owners, especially the independent chains, are in such a money crunch, I doubt we'll ever see just a few previews and then the movie again. Curious thought....at home with 'free' TV, we get up and leave the room when an ad comes on. In the movie theater, spelled correctly, we sit down after coughing up a ten spot or more, and endure loud ads. Maybe someone should organize a talk-during or sing along when those are on. Just a thought.

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phmontagAug. 26, 1210:22 AM

The change in theaters from 35 MM film to digital is a cold, calculated move, which gives the finger - no, which massacres - the movies. It has been to me pretty apparent for some time, based on the crude fare being ladled to us moviegoers by the modern Hollywood system (everything from The Watch to Black Swann, from the annoying shaky camera techniques, to the casting of youth in adult roles, and increasing ticket prices), that the product of Movies is being run for the most part by people who don't care about movies, but just care about making as much as they can milk from an audience. I used to think that if you went into business - no matter which business it was - that you cared about your product. But it seems these days all that business people care about - i.e., the Pohlads ownership of the Twins - is not just making money, but it's making as much, given the context, as they possibly can, while ignoring far too much the product side of their offering. And the quality of the product of a movie is far more interesting a one as film than digital device. Digital movies look too much like the everyday; whereas film with all of its imperfect glory, takes you to another place. Can you imagine Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon in digital?

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fromupnortAug. 26, 1210:58 AM

I really don't care about film versus digital. We're already there at home with the Blueray (I have a couple of VHS players somewhere in the house). I do care about spending my time watching bad movies. I think I am the only American who found Dark Knight Rises as incredibly boring! No more comic book movies please, or space sci-fi's, or apocolyptic movies, or stupid friends kinds of movies (I walked out of Ted because of the gutter language and juvenile theme. I was told it was a very funny movie. Ya, sure.) Yes, I am a hard sell on the movies, not the way they are projected on the screen and for $10, I should expect a movie of intelligence, good humor and about real people.

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cinemaguyAug. 27, 1210:08 PM

I am the owner of some small-town out-state theatres. I thought this was one the most complete articles on this subject I've read to date. Most people are afraid to say what is really behind this whole conversion to digital. Years ago, when the theatre boom was going on, and areas were getting over saturated with screens, Hollywood said they needed to lose 10,000 screens. Of course the screens that were to be lost were in small grossing theatres, the idea, was to make patrons see movies in the bigger, more expensive theatres. Movie companies get a percent of the ticket price. The 3D up-charge adds about 30% to what the companies take in. Six or seven years ago John Fitheran, president of NATO, told us at our local convention that the digital roll out would be in 10 years, and the big chains would be converted first, then when it was time for an update, used equipment would be available for smaller theatres. Of course we were also told how with digital everyone would be able to open a film on the same day. Already we are seeing movies being withheld from small theatres even with digital for 2 weeks or more. If the movie companies weren't using this change over as some sort of genocide, they could delay the end of film until the economy improved, and banks were more willing to make loans, and people were able to spend money on entertainment.

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blahserblahAug. 28, 1212:33 AM

So here's my question - $80,000 for a DLP projector? Are you kidding? Granted, it's a long throw, etc., but my guess is that the 'projection system' is maybe $10,000 technology and $70,000 licensing for the software that decodes the studio's copy protection. This reeks of monopoly and and attempt by the studios to further control distribution of all content by putting the nails in the coffin of any public performance venue that dares to not be beholden to their stream of drivel. But back to the technology - if the small theaters already have the investment in optics and lumens of their traditional projectors, how hard is it to make an adaptor that can play the digital movie on a small transparent screen, using the existing projector as a magic lantern? Isn't that basically how the 'new' projector works anyway? Why replace the light source and optics if all you are really doing is replacing the film and shutter with a translucent video screen?

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cinemaguyAug. 28, 12 4:07 PM

blahserblah is correct. When the whole digital thing was first presented, the plan was to just replace the film projector and soundhead with digital units. The cost was going to be about $10,000. / screen. The movies would be delivered on something similar to a laser disc. A movie for theatre presentation is about 400gb. From what I understand, the DLP projector is more complex than a small transparent screen. Does it need to be that complex, or are all the projectors controlled by about 4 companies to keep the inflated costs up? Also to help the studios create legal monopolies by having more control in the theatre? For the $80,000. price tag you get a server, that stores the movie($10,000.)a bulb ($1,500.)a lens ($6,500.)to add a 3D setup is an extra $20,000. The expected life is about 10 years. After probably 5 years the "trade in" value will be $0.00.

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thehoffersSep. 6, 12 1:11 PM

I'm not afraid of what's stuck to the cusion in my living room, or who may step out from behind the screen. The simple act of patience will reward me with the same movie, after it's 1st run, in the comfort of my own home.

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