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Gender: Male
Hometown: Fort Worth, Texas
Home country: USA
Member since: Mon Jun 16, 2008, 10:59 AM
Number of posts: 8,621

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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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