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Sat Jun 9, 2012, 10:24 PM

35mm movie film print production / projection to cease worldwide by 2015

In other words theatrical movies will be all digital in the US, France, the UK, Japan, and Australia by the end of 2013. The rest of the world will follow in 2015. I've been expecting this to happen, but not so soon.

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.


One major reason for the shift: the price of silver (which is heavily used in film processing) shot up from $5 an ounce in 2010 to about $25 an ounce this year; and thanks in large part to that fact, the number of feet of film screened by distributors in 2012 dropped by 8 billion over the same 2-year period - from 13 billion feet of film a year in 2010 (equal to five trips to the moon and back) to less than half of that, down to about 5 billion feet of film in 2012.



The death of traditional film—outside of arthouse films and the occasional film student project—has been a long time coming. Film reels are more expensive than digital storage, degrade faster, and are physically much heavier to ship and carry around. Ars noted in 2006 that Canon and Nikon were taking losses on film cameras. We reported a few months later that some filmakers felt that digital film produced better movies, as it allowed them to keep the camera running while actors performed, rather than spending money on long rehearsals, only shooting when necessary.

James Cameron will give theater owners even more to worry about, because he plans to shoot his Avatar sequels at 60 frames a second.

Not that's power, isn't it? Essentially, if you want to show our films in your theaters (films that will likely be top ticket sellers) you had better pay for those upgrades, theater owners.


Note: A 60fps "standard" is part of the old "Showscan" cinematic process developed by Douglas Trumbull in the 1970s / 1980s.

Studios are making fewer film prints, opting instead to send out much cheaper data files. The problem for small theater owners like Wagner is that the equipment to play those files costs between $70,000 and $100,000.

“Basically, a lot of small towns in America I think are going to be without a movie theater," Wagner says. "I’m having a harder time getting prints as we speak.”

Some estimates predict as many as 10 percent of the nation’s theaters could shut down over this.

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Reply 35mm movie film print production / projection to cease worldwide by 2015 (Original post)
MicaelS Jun 2012 OP
corkhead Jun 2012 #1
Confusious Jun 2012 #2
MicaelS Jun 2012 #4
Confusious Jun 2012 #5
MicaelS Jun 2012 #6
Confusious Jun 2012 #8
derby378 Jun 2012 #16
Bolo Boffin Jun 2012 #7
SoutherDem Jun 2012 #3
TheManInTheMac Jun 2012 #13
SoutherDem Jun 2012 #15
Logical Jun 2012 #19
TheManInTheMac Jun 2012 #25
Logical Jun 2012 #26
Archae Jun 2012 #9
TheManInTheMac Jun 2012 #14
derby378 Jun 2012 #17
PCIntern Jun 2012 #10
Buns_of_Fire Jun 2012 #11
Frank Cannon Jun 2012 #12
Logical Jun 2012 #18
Logical Jun 2012 #20
cynatnite Jun 2012 #21
Logical Jun 2012 #23
HopeHoops Jun 2012 #22
nadinbrzezinski Jun 2012 #24

Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 10:35 PM

1. thank you for an interesting article. I wasn't aware of any of this.

it sent me off on a Wikipedia fueled stream of consciousness via hyperlink.

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 10:48 PM

2. Interesting

I was a projectionist during my first time at college. It was a nice little job for a student.

I'm not really sure why they would want to shoot so many frames though. Off the top of my head, 24 is close to a minimum for realism, and it tops out somewhere in the 30-40 frame per second range. After that, there really isn't much purpose I can think of.

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Response to Confusious (Reply #2)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 10:53 PM

4. The Wikipedia link to the Showscan process explains it

Trumbull also did research into frame rate, running a series of tests with 35 mm stock filmed and projected at various speeds, shown to audiences who were instrumented to biometrically test their responses. He found that as the frame rate increased, so did the viewer's emotional reaction.

Trumbull discovered that although viewers see smooth motion from film displayed at 24 frames per second (fps), the standard in motion pictures for decades, they are subconsciously still aware of the flicker. This awareness reduces the emotional impact of the film. As the speed of projection ramped up, so did the emotional response, peaking at 72 fps. After that speed, no further improvements were noted.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #4)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 12:21 AM

5. Ah, thanks for that

That many frames on film would have been rediculous to have. As it was a standard hour and half film weighed 20-30 pounds in 35 mm, and a 70mm film weighed 200-300 pounds.

You would have had to have mr universe run films that ran an hour and a half with a 60 frames per second rate.

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Response to Confusious (Reply #5)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 12:27 AM

6. So that means a Showscan 65mm film at 60fps..

Would have been 500-700 pounds. Ouch, just think of the cost of making and shipping all those prints. No wonder Showscan never took off.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #6)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 12:30 AM

8. My weights could be off

Now that I think a little more, it could have been 50-60 pounds per print, so a 70mm 500 pounds.

Yea, shipping really hurts, going digital means more profits for the studios.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #6)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 11:27 AM

16. I thought Showscan was shot in 70mm?

That's what Christopher Lee stated in one of the first films of the series.

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Response to MicaelS (Reply #4)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 12:30 AM

7. I wonder if you could digitally create 60 fps rate movies of older films.

Well, I'm sure you could. I'm thinking take the 24 fps most are at, and digitally build the other 36 frames. Well, better to build 48 new frames and make it two between each original frame, putting it at 72 fps. It could be as easy as just repeating each frame twice. With computers you could make transitional frames between the two originals as if you were fading one in and one out. Or try wipes, anything.

Anyway, it's possible. I wonder what the effect would look like.

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 10:50 PM

3. The price of technology?

I am not surprised, I honestly thought film was all but gone already, except for low budget films.
I usually wait for movies to go to DVD before I watch them, I seldom go to a movie, and when I do it is at a digital theatre but there are some older ones in my area which haven't converted to digital. I guess they are screwed.

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Response to SoutherDem (Reply #3)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 08:17 AM

13. Film is WAY more expensive than digital.

For around 10 grand you can get pretty respectable equipment. Digital has been a real boon to independent movie makers.

This is a little sad, I guess, like the switch from vinyl to CD's, but inevitable.

I do recall hearing that Quentin Tarantino will stop making movies when he has to give up film, so there's one good thing to it.

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Response to TheManInTheMac (Reply #13)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 11:22 AM

15. My only worries are the theaters which aren't digital and

can't afford to convert.

For my area where there 6 big multiplex theaters, all Rave with no less than 16 screens, which are digital. There are also some of the old theaters which are still film, these are the ones which existed before Rave took over the area, they play a lot of independent movies which otherwise wouldn't make it to my area, they also will play a movie after it leaves the big theaters and you can take the family and not pay a mint to do so.

In my sister's area there is only one theatre, it they can't convert I guess it will have to close.

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Response to TheManInTheMac (Reply #13)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 11:42 AM

19. Tarantino is bad for Hollywood? LOL, I would take 100 of him for every no plot action blockbuster.

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Response to Logical (Reply #19)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 09:29 PM

25. Lighten up, Francis.

I like Tarantino. I agree with you 100%

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Response to TheManInTheMac (Reply #25)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 09:37 PM

26. LOL, I love that scene from stripes. I use that line monthly on someone!

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 12:33 AM

9. Not surprising, and nothing new.

In the late 1920's, something called "sound" came along.

In the 1930's, color.

And so on...

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Response to Archae (Reply #9)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 08:19 AM

14. Yes, and it wasn't until ten years after the introduction to sound

that Fritz Lang made his first talkie because he felt that sound detracted from the visual impact. Maybe he was right; a silent movie just won best picture.

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Response to TheManInTheMac (Reply #14)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 11:30 AM

17. And how many of us are still captivated by METROPOLIS?

I have a version on Blu-Ray that's 95% complete thanks to that 16mm print found in the film archives of Buenos Aires.

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 04:22 AM

10. Fascinating. Thanks! Nt

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 05:29 AM

11. It's a communist plot, I tells ya.

Imagine how many of those extra frames can be used to flash "SEX" on the screen during movies! Why, people will be going at it like rabid weasels right there in the theater WELL before the final credits, causing popcorn sales to drop and increasing cleanup costs after the feature!

On the other hand, those extra frames could also be used to flash "REPUBLICANS WANT TO KILL YOU" and "DEMOCRATS ARE YOUR ONLY FRIENDS", so it might turn out to be a wash, afterall.

Wilson Bryan Key would have a field day with the possibilities.

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Response to Buns_of_Fire (Reply #11)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 07:13 AM

12. Wilson Bryan Key

Now, that's a name I have not heard in a long time. A long time.

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 11:45 AM

20. Each print sent to a theatre is about $1500-$2000 dollars. If you release it to 3000 theatres .....

that is 4.5 million dollars.

Digital is the future!

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 11:51 AM

21. Peter Jackson shot the Hobbit at 48 fps and I read it looks like a 70's soap opera...

Folks aren't happy with that quality.

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Response to cynatnite (Reply #21)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 01:06 PM

23. Well, people hated sound, color, etc. New stuff always worries people.

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 12:09 PM

22. Damn. We've got a 2nd run theater where tickets are $2.50 (up from $2 recently).

 

The "mega" popcorn tub is $4 and has unlimited refills. It's enough for all five of us as it is. The theater is never even close to filled, but five people getting tickets and popcorn for under $20 is unheard of in the chain cinemas. I suppose that will be the final nail in the coffin for that theater. It also sounds like a death sentence for the few drive-ins that are still operating.

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Response to MicaelS (Original post)

Sun Jun 10, 2012, 01:12 PM

24. If anybody is surprised by this, they have not been paying attention

some advantages of digital...

Yesterday I shot over 1000 shots, some in Black and White, most in color.

I could not afford to do that with film, no way, no how, nor switch from color to black and white and back on the fly

I even shot one short movie. Again, all in one camera.

There is no way I could have done that with my old rig. It was just a matter of time. Also processors are to the point that movies do not have to worry about large format film... they just need to have glass and processors and software that can do the heavy lifting, which they already pretty much do.

If you are getting into film... invest in a good digital camera and plenty of FAST sim cards.

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