Popular Posts

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

CINEMA BUYING GROUP: A FAILURE FROM THE GET-GO!

The so-called Cinema Buying Group - the brain-child of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) and some misguided cinema owners/operators - was a misconceived and terrible notion from its inception.

The CBG does not offer best industry practices, does not offer best suppliers, does not offer best service, does not offer advice, does not offer training, does not offer expertise, and has no industry recognition.

I'm not sure how many exhibitors joined the original (for profit) CBG - but it is now going to be "reconstituted" as a not-for-profit entity under the NATO corporate umbrella, according to G. Kendrick Macdowell, NATO VP & General Counsel. Why? To save on costs (insurance, accounting, legal, etc.) and "thereby greatly simplify CBG's organizational and financial burdens" states NATO's Macdowell.

Why join? The original premise for the creation of the CBG was to form a buying cooperative so independent cinema operators could purchase D-Cinema Projection Equipment in quantity and thus pay less because they would be buying in volume. Since this has and will not happen, for a whole variety of reasons, the CBG has religated itself to purchasing projection booth supplies and spare parts, xenon lamps, and concession supplies/parts from a total of five so-called "prefered suppliers". These five suppliers do not offer the best products or services in the cinema industry, and using this ridiculous CBG endorsement is really just a means for them to end-run their competing - and superior - cinema equipment manufacturers and suppliers/dealers.

For, at least 75 years, there has been a symbiotic relationship that has served the cinema industry extremely well - that is the relationship between the theatre owners, the equipment suppliers/dealers/service providers, and the equipment manufacturers.

Exhibitors beware! Like cartels, cooperatives (especially those based solely on the motive of lower prices) don't work well for their members. Thinking you can go on the cheap and purchase a quality xenon lamp, popcorn, or splicing tape to save a few bucks is very short-sighted thinking. What exhibitors (like all other businesses) need are strong and trusting relationships with their suppliers/dealers. This is the only way to get the best products suited to your cinema, the best expertise and customer service and the best technical advice, service, maintenance and installation, not to mention training. Disregarding this type of relationship for one with a co-op makes no business sense.

The Cinema Buying Group is done. It was a bad concept from the get-go and offers no real benefit to the cinema industry let alone NATO members. Its creators demonstrated a total lack of appreciation and understanding of the cinema industry and its workings and the relationship between the exhibitors, the dealers/suppliers, and the equipment manufacturers. The CBG will fade away, as it should, without fanfare or recognition and retire to the annuls of cinema history.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

THE DIGITAL CINEMA STORY

THE DIGITAL CINEMA STORY
HOLLYWOOD DRAMA DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS
BY JAMES LAVORATO


It's a complex and provocative story rife with high stakes drama and a cast to rival any Hollywood blockbuster. Intricately woven into its plot are all of the major movie studios (and their global media parents), the world's largest electronics firms, leading edge digital imaging and microchip technology, the worldwide cinema exhibition business, billions of dollars, Hollywood's biggest movers and shakers, and, arguably, the very existence of the cinema as we know it.

Digital Cinema (the name given to digitally exhibited movies at theatres) has been in serious development since the mid 1990's and many believe it is now at the breakout point. But is the cinema ready for the systemic and seminal changes that the adaption of digital technology will instigate? It's time to unravel the complexities of this intriguing saga and see if we can determine how it will evolve -and (perhaps more importantly)the impact it will have on the entertainment industry.

THE TECHNOLOGY - NOW YOU SEE IT/NOW YOU DON'T

Until recently, there were two imaging technologies that supported Digital Cinema. Texas Instruments' DLP and JVC's D-ILA. Both systems currently offer what is referred to as 2K image resolution. Sony then introduced a 4K imaging system - SXRD -which, more or less, threw a spanner into the D-Cinema works. Termed 4K for the number of horizontal pixels per frame (4096 horizontal pixels x 2160 vertical pixels)the SXRD system offers 4 times the quality of 2K by more than doubling the per frame pixel density.

Without going into all the nuances of each technology, following is a brief overview of each.

JVC's D-ILA (Digital Image Light Amplification)

Developed by Hughes Electronic's in the 1980's for military displays, Hughes later partnered with JVC to refine the technology. D-ILA uses a derivative of a chip technology termed LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) and a holographic color filter. Capable of producing a 4K display to rival Sony, JVC is currently working with Aurora Semiconductor to produce an advanced LCoS chip for higher resolution projection.

TEXAS INSTRUMENT'S DLP (Digital Light Processing)

Sometimes referred to as a DMD (digital micro-mirror device) the DLP chip contains millions of tiny mirrors which switch on and off thousands of times per second either reflecting light or not. Capable of very high resolutions (some estimate as high as 10,000 lines) the DLP system currently uses three DMD chips (red, green, blue) to generate all the required colors for the 2K DLP D-Cinema projectors. A four chip system is likely in the future with one chip dedicated to the gray scale (i.e. black level) for improved contrast. In time, DLP may be capable of producing true 6K to 8K 35mm film resolution, but this will come at a high cost.

SONY'S SXRD (Silicon X-tal Reflective Display)

The Sony SXRD 4K projectors use GLV or grated light valve technology. GLV (a DMD derivative) uses red, green, and blue lasers reflected off ribbon patterns on a chip.

Below is a comparison of the current image resolutions:

35mm Film - 6-to-8K resolution
SXRD - 4K
DLP and D-ILA - 2K
HDTV - 1K

There are currently about 1000 D-Cinema installations worldwide - which represent less than 1% of total screen count - and the majority of these theatres have redundant 35mm film projectors as well. To my knowledge, there has been no long term use of a D-Cinema projection system operating as would a 35mm projector at a multiplex cinema or "grind house" (as they are referred to in the industry). That is, operating 12-14 hours per day, every day. So, whether or not the current generation of D-Cinema equipment could hold up under these conditions is unknown.

Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) was the creation of the Hollywood studios whose main function was to recommend universal standards for the Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) file, (the format by which every digital film is to be distributed) in what are called Digital Cinema Packages (DCP).

The DCI was to set the specifications for all "theatrical" films and other "alternative" content (such as, in-theatre sports, concerts, and other pre-feature entertainment) to be distributed and exhibited at cinemas via DCI compliant D-Cinema equipment. DCI was to fulfill this task and then disband - which it has. In a nutshell, DCI proposed three D-Cinema projection formats:

- 2K projection at 24 frames per second
- 4K projection at 24 frames per second
- 2K projection at 48 frames per second

For the full read on DCI D-Cinema System Specifications go to: www.dcimovies.com/DCI_Digital_Cinema_System_Spec_ul.pdf.

FOOTING THE BILL

D-Cinema is a potential cost saver (no need to process or distribute film prints throughout the world) not a revenue generator. Since the cost savings (estimates range from $1-$3 billion annually) accrue solely to the studios, financing the film-to-digital conversion has always been a sticky issue, as the expense of the required D-Cinema projection equipment (currently estimated at $90,000-$120,000 per movie auditorium) and its continued upkeep and maintenance falls on the exhibition (theatre owners) side of the industry.

Currently, film distributors (principally the studios) charge the cost of the production of film prints against each movie (each movie is accounted for as a separate product). This cost varies depending upon the movie's length and the number of release prints struck. Typically, each film print costs between $1,500-$2,500 to produce with exhibitors paying for shipping to and from their theatres. However, that formula doesn't work with D-Cinema for a variety of reasons, one being that it would take the studios far too long to write off the large investment D-Cinema is currently burdened with.

Several financial schemes - such as issuing bonds against the film production savings, charging virtual film fees, having the exhibitor carry a subsidized mortgage-type instrument - have surfaced. But none have been adopted.

To make matters worse, given the quick atrophy of the digital projection equipment, first (and probably second or even third generation) adopters may well require replacement equipment.

"Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (in the summer of 2002) was, the first commercially released digital movie using the current D-Cinema technology. At that time, I happened to be doing consulting work for a small theatre chain (UltraStar Cinemas) based in San Diego. Because of my and the theatre owners' interest in D-Cinema I negotiated, on behalf of UltraStar, a deal with the Boeing Company. The arrangement was for Boeing to install six D-Cinema platforms at four UltraStar theatre locations (which, at that time, represented the highest concentration of D-Cinema installations in the world).

Boeing's interest was in testing the transmission and encryption mechanisms of their communication satellite network. The test worked flawlessly; however, when completed, the inclusive cost of the six platforms had totaled $3 million and within six months the equipment was obsolete. For Boeing, the proof of concept of their transmission capability and encryption technology was worth every penny as that knowledge could be utilized by other industries (such as the medical industry) even if the cinema industry never availed itself of it.

Besides the technical issues a financial agreement between Boeing and UltraStar was structured and agreed to by both parties.

- UltraStar was charged a minimal cost per D-Cinema platform of $300/month
- UltraStar agreed to pay Boeing 10 cents per ticket on all digital prsentations
- Boeing reserved the right to exhibit advertising and alternative content with a
50/50 split
- Boeing paid for the equipment and the cost of installation

A similar arrangement, however, would not be feasible for the entire industry given the large upfront cost and lengthy time of payback.

3D "ADDS" ANOTHER DIMENSION

Although D-Cinema may not be a revenue generator, 3D films might, as the 3D effect cannot be replicated elsewhere (most notably in the home). Around for decades, 3D may get a free ride if the industry moves to digital. Remember the DCI proposed formats? Well the 2K at 48 frames per second could be used for 3D movie presentations.

All well and good, but 3D has problems of its own. The ideal would be autostereoscopic 3D which doesn't require glasses, but that technology is currently only available on small digital displays because of the limited sweet spot (where the viewer must sit in order to get the 3D effect). So, glasses will be required. There are several types of 3D glasses but all are cumbersome and the best are expensive to purchase and maintain.

Big proponents of 3D movies are filmmakers James Cameron, George Lucas, and Peter Jackson. They feel 3D may well "save the cinema". In fact, Lucas wants to re-release both "Star Wars" trilogies in digital 3D. And In-Three, Inc., a California based company, is here to help him. In-Three has perfected a process termed "dimensionalization". This process restores depth in films shot in 2D. A rival firm, Three Dimensional Media Group also has a 2D-to-3D conversion process. These 2D-to-3D conversions work but are extremely labor intensive. The human touch is required because too much or too little depth will give viewers a headache (literally). Currently, it takes six people to judge each converted frame. Cost? About $4.5 million for a feature film (although this can vary greatly depending upon such factors as the film's length and scenic complexities). However, this could be an option for re-releases of older movies or for those currently being shot in 2D.

PROS AND CONS

With approximately 10 million seats, and operating at a chilling 12-15% utilization rate, U.S. cinema exhibition needs to bolster attendance - however it can. In 2005, global box-office attendance was down 7% from 8.4 billion to 7.8 billion admissions. Total worldwide box-office was $22 billion, certainly not a small number, but highly skewed toward certain genre - namely, escape/fantasy and comedy/drama movies. For example, of the top 10 grossing films (which generated a whopping 25% of total box-office) 8 were fantasy, and 2 comedy/drama. In the U.S., the number was even more skewed, with the top 10 grossing 27% of total box-office.

Although D-Cinema won't help box-office revenues, it will drastically change the landscape for the industry players and clearly presents advantages and disadvantages to each. For example, it would allow the studios to tap into the estimated $600 - 800 million in pre-feature advertising revenue, which is now going to U.S. exhibitors, and is expected to continue to have rapid growth.

Listed in Exhibit I are some of the advantages and disadvantages to the various industry players.

DAZED & CONFUSED

Rumor has it that.....Christie Digital (parent Ushio Electronics, Japan) and its subsidiary Access Technologies say they will roll-out 4000 DLP based systems by 2008.....Warner Bros. (parent TimeWarner) announces plans to test JVC's upcoming 4K projector in Japan to test transmission of DCMD from L.A. to the Far East via fiber.....Sony announced a deal to install their SXRD 4K projectors in Landmark Theatres which wants to integrate independent films with Hollywood mainstream features.....Thomson announced a deal with DreamWorks, Sony Pictures, Universal, Warner Brothers and other studios to install 15,000 (principally SXRD units) throughout the U.S. and Canada over the next 10 years, with 5,000 in the 2006/7 period.

To add to the confusion, a business model using a watered-down version of D-Cinema already exists. Emerging Cinemas, a New York City based firm, specializes in digitally distributing and exhibiting a variety of content. Its play list consists of first-run foreign, independent, docus, and film fest movies. Internet based, Emerging's business model (like D-Cinema) works well from a technical standpoint; however, whether or not its content has the widespread appeal to generate a profitable box-office remains to be seen.

So, the big issues surrounding the movie industry's convergence to digital technology remain unanswered. Should industries always adopt advanced technology and does that adoption add value? In the future, more and more companies will be asking that question. It just so happens it's being asked in the movie industry right now.

EXHIBIT I - DIGITAL CINEMA GAME PLAYERS ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Studios (Distributors) - Advantages

- Saving on film prints & distribution
- Conduit for ad and pre-feature entertainment revenue
- Streaming "non-movie" content into cinemas, i.e. concerts
- Retains distribution control
- Potential use for 3D movies
- Fights content piracy
- Easier day & date releases - globally

Studios (Distributors) - Disadvantages

- Not a revenue generator
- Antitrust/Legal issues
- Possible loss of distribution control
- Loss of exhibition outlets
- Dual movie inventories (digital & film) for unknown period of time
- Atrophy of digital equipment
- Funding complexities & high cost
- Lengthy conversion time frame

Exhibitors - Advantages

- Ease of projection operation
- Potential use for 3D movies
- Ability to exhibit premium "alternative" content
- Expands possibilities for increasing theatre utilization
- Opportunity to become content providers

Exhibitors - Disadvantages

- Funding complexities & cost to convert
- Partial loss of current ad and pre-feature entertainment revenue to distributors
- Potential high cost of equipment maintenance, spare parts, electrical power
- Risk to early adopters
- No box-office revenue enhancement
- Requires very high-end components

D-Cinema Equipment Manufacturers - Advantages

- Spurs innovation
- High sales opportunity
- Technological cross-fertilization of product lines

D-Cinema Equipment Manufacturers - Disadvantages

- Too long a transition period
- High cost of equipment
- May need to finance or partially finance conversion
- Long conversion time

Cinema Equipment Suppliers - Advantages

- Expanded installation/service business
- Post-conversion maintenance business
- Expanded sales of ancillary A/V products
- Rejuvenated sales opportunity to static industry

Cinema Equipment Suppliers - Disadvantages

- Cost to train service staff
- Few opportunities to sell 35mm equipment due to D-Cinema overhang
- Exhibitors not inclined to expand or invest in unknown environment

The Moviegoer - Advantages

- No price increase for possibly improved movie presentation
- Potential to view currently unavailable "alternative" content
- Helps satisfy thirst for entertainment variety

The Moviegoer - Disadvantages

- More lengthy pre-feature ads and promotions
- Doesn't address other movie attendance issues, i.e. cell phones, etc.
- No perceived on-screen image enhancement












Thursday, November 16, 2006

CINEMA TRAINING CENTRAL 2007 TRAINING SCHEDULES

CTC 2007 WORKSHOPS AND SEMINARS ARE SCHEDULED FOR: MARCH 26 - 28,
MAY 7 - 11, SEPTEMBER 17 - 21 AND NOVEMBER 12 - 14.
TRAINING PROGRAMS WILL INCLUDE:
  • Managing A Cinema (2 Day Workshop)
  • Concessions: Where The Money Is (1 Day Workshop)
  • Digital Film Festivals - Why Have Them & How (1 Day Workshop)
  • Pre-Feature Entertainment & Alternative Content - Why Embrace It (1 Day Seminar)
  • Digital Cinema - Present & Future (1 Day Seminar)
  • Marketing Your Cinema (1 Day Workshop)
  • Modern Theatre Design & Planning (1 Day Seminar)
  • Primary Technical Training (2 Day Workshop)
  • Intermediate Technical Training (2 Day Workshop)
  • Advanced Audio Technical Training (3 Day Workshop)
  • Advanced Projection Technical Training (3 Day Workshop)
  • In-Home Cinema - Designing/Equipping/Installing (1 Day Workshop)

All workshops and seminars start at 9:00 am and end at 4:00 pm each day.

For a virtual tour of CTC go to our website (gotoeec.com).
Regular tuition rates: 1 Day Programs - $295, 2 Day - $395, and 3 Day - $495. Discount tuition rates are available, please contact us for more information.
To receive a copy of the Cinema Training Central 2007 Guide please provide a ship-to address or call 800-448-1656.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Since I've Been Away

Sorry for the pause in adding to Cinema Mucho Gusto. As it turns out there will be a number of new postings in the next several days. To update. There is be a 2007 Cinema Training Central Program Schedule, which is much expanded from prior years. An article entitled "The D-Cinema Story" which discusses the present state of Digital Cinema and its future, with a detailing of the advantages and disadvantages to all of the Cinema Industry players. And finally, an article on the role China will play in the entertainment industry over the next decade.
Look for these items and more. And it's good to be back.
Jim Lavorato

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

DIGITAL PROJECTOR LUMENS CALCULATION

Darryl Jones, of Eastman Kodak, informed us that a way to determine the required lumens for the selection of a digital projector is the following formula:

Image width x Image height x Foot Lamberts. For example: if the image is 20ft. wide by 12ft. high at 14 fl (normal light reflection on a matte white screen) then the calculation would be 20 x 12 x14 or 3360 lumens. So, a projector with a 3500 to 5000 lumen capacity would perform very well.

Thanks Darryl.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NOW AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD/CINEMA REFERENCE GUIDES

Now available Reference Guides on:

- Film & Digital Projection Supplies & Equipment, and

- Concession Equipment & Lobby Furnishings

Send your request for the Guides to: entequip@aol.com

Monday, August 28, 2006

PLUG AND 'PRAY'

CHOOSING THE RIGHT DIGITAL PROJECTOR

Selecting and purchasing the appropriate digital projector for your cinema's pre/post feature entertainment, advertising, alternate content, and other uses can be daunting.

With hundreds of models from numerous manufacturers on the market it's difficult to make a selection as to which is best suited for your requirements and which offer the best value with those features.

BRIGHTNESS (Lumens)

The first decision will be how large a projector. This means, how many lumens (a measure of brightness) will be required - given the screen size and picture throw (distance from projector to screen) - to provide a very good (i.e. HDTV quality) on-screen image.

There are no fixed rules for determining brightness; however, I have found that to get a good, bright image on a typical matte white, peforated cinema screen requires about 50 - 100 lumens per foot of picture throw. For example, an auditorium with a throw of 50 ft. will require a projector with 2500 - 5000 lumens (and it's preferable to error on the high side). This will provide a bright image whether running a PowerPoint presentation (with house lights up) or a DVD movie presentation.

There are small, desk-top projectors on the market that advertise 3, 4, or even 5,000 lumen capability, but don't make the mistake of purchasing a small (less expensive) projector as the internal components, standard features, and expandability options you desire, may be lacking. Also, make sure the projector you select has a lot of internal cooling capability. Heat, dirt, and erratic power levels are the worst enemies of all digital projectors.

As noted, it's always better to error on the side of more lumens so as not to be operating the projector "full out" all the time. This will put less stress on the internal components and the optical system as well. Rule: It's better to purchase a 3,500 lumen projector and run it at 2,500 than a 2,500 lumen projector and run it at maximum capacity.

DIGITAL PROJECTOR MANUFACTURERS

Acer - Christie - IBM - Panasonic
ASK - Dell - InFocus - Philips
Barco - Epson - LG - Sanyo
BenQ - HP - NEC - Sony
Canon - Hitachi - Optima - ViewSonic

OPTICS

Determining the appropriate lens can be tricky. In the world of digital projection, as a general rule, dividing the image throw by the screen width will determine the lens size. For example, if the image throw is 50 ft. and the screen is 30 ft. wide the lens required is 1.62. Most cinemas require long-throw lenses and most of these have variable (zoom) focal lengths.

Be prepared, as most cinemas cannot use the standard lens which normally comes with the projector and in most cases will have to be upgraded to the rquired lens. Also, a projector with a motorized lens shift (vertical & horizontal) is best, particularly if placing the projector off the screen's center line of view.

CONNECTIONS

What content sources will you be interfacing with your projector, DVDs, VHS, laptop, HD video, BETA, USB Flashcards, High Speed Internet? Rule: Make sure the projector you are purchasing can accept a wide variety of source components. Additionally, a projector with internal switching and scaling features is well worth the extra cost if you plan on using various source components.

Best Bet: Don't purchase any projector unless it has at a minimum the following inputs: DVI (digital input) HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) composite video, s-video, and USB ports.

LAMPS

A multi-lamp modes feature is very desirable. A lamp economy mode will prolong a lamp's burn life. If you envision the projector getting a lot of use or you are exhibiting content you are charging for then it's imperative to purchase a projector with dual lamp capability.

REMEMBER

Never purchase a projector based solely on price. Plan ahead and use the information in this article to give you a start, to calculate: image size, minimum lumens required, lens sizing, minimum connection interfaces, and content source components.

Also check out the projector's required servicing and maintenance. As with all digital projectors the biggest problems stem from dust and dirt accumulation, inadequate cooling and improper maintenance.

By James Lavorato, excerpted from Summer 2006 issue of The Marquee magazine, published by Entertainment Equipment Corporation.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

CINEMA TRAINING CENTRAL FLASH

TRAINING - MORE CRITICAL AT THIS TIME THAN EVER BEFORE

Relevant training for a cinema's management and staff is a critical necessity. Today, cinemas are at a fork in the road. They can proceed on the old path of simply exhibiting films or take a new road that will begin to transform their cinema into a multi-dimensional entertainment venue.

Training programs which focus on effectively marketing and branding your cinema, the introduction and management of new products and activities, the re-assessment and enhancement of concession and other revenue generators, and the profitable use and implementation of digital technology are vital.

To accomplish this requires learning new skills and techniques through expert training and counselling which is available only at Cinema Training Central.

CTC SEPTEMBER 2006 TRAINING PROGRAMS SCHEDULE

September 18 & 19 - Primary Technical Training (2 Days)
18 - 20 - Advanced Projection Training (3 Days)
18 & 19 - Operating A Cinema (2 Days)
19 - 21 - Advanced Audio Training (3 Days)
20 - Marketing Your Cinema (1 Day)
20 & 21 - Intermediate Technical Training (2 Days)
21 - Maximizing Concession Profits (1 Day)
22 - Alternative Content & Digital Cinema (1 Day)

22 - Modern Cinema Design & Planning (1 Day)

For information on registration, travel, lodging, and in-depth course descriptions, contact CTC at 800-448-1656 or email: entequip@aol.com.

CHANGES IN 2007
While enhancing and updating the core courses we will be adding new courses in 2007. Look for a number of surprises, including:

Tech Training Courses Specific To Women
Currently CTC's technical training courses are dominated by men - over 90% of all tech training participants are male. However, as more and more women are filling theatre management and operations positions it is critical that they obtain a working (if not thorough) knowledge of the technical and mechanical aspects of a cinema.

To address this, CTC will be offering technical training tailored for women. The courses will be designed by and taught by women and structured for women currently working in or wanting to enter the cinema exhibition industry.

Organizing & Managing A Digital Film Festival

Recently I was asked to be a judge at a new film festival - the Endless Mountains Digital Film Fest - managed by the Bradford County Regional Arts Council of Pennsylvania. The festival was sponsored by 5 cinemas in the region, as well as, businesses and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Based upon the entries submitted - by individuals aged 12 to adult - this festival is destined to be a great success.

Because of what's involved in the setup, planning, marketing, and logistics of even a small film fest, a one-day training course on organizing and managing a digital film festival will be offered next year.

SUMMER 2006 ISSUE OF THE MARQUEE

The Summer 2006 issue of The Marquee is attached to this email as a pdf file. If you are on our regular mailing list a hard copy will be sent to you. If for some reason you cannot open or print the pdf file or if you would like to receive an original hard copy of The Marquee, please provide your post address.

Hope all is well.

Jim Lavorato - Entertainment Equipment Corporation

CREDITOR'S NOTE: When quoting any or all of the data in this 'Cinema Training Central FLASH' please credit "Entertainment Equipment Corporation". Copyright 2006 Entertainment Equipment Corporation and Cinema Training Central.
















Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"BEHAVE" YOURSELF

Is social behavior in cinemas getting worse or are social norms changing? If you polled cinema patrons and asked: "What do you consider to be good or bad behavior at a cinema?" I think you are going to get responses that may surprise you. Unlike the past, when social norms were much more homogeneous, what is considered acceptable behavior today varies widely between demographic groups.

For example, 15 year olds think nothing of using a cell phone, text messaging, or video game playing while in a cinema. They are very adroit at double or triple tasking and truly believe that text messaging while watching a movie is perfectly "normal and good" behavior. Remember, this group has grown up with PCs, cell phones, and iPODS. However, this teen behavior would be annoying, distracting, and certainly considered bad behavior to the thirty-something couple who came to the theatre to "enjoy" the movie.

Accordingly, the 30's couple may find laughing aloud or whispering during the film presentation to be perfectly acceptable behavior, and considered part of the movie-going experience. However, whispering and laughing might be considered very distracting to the senior's group, which also insists the theatre's sound system is too low or too high for their taste anyway.

The worst thing about bad behavior is that those that feel they have been offended don't always take their complaints to management, but express their displeasure by not coming back to the theatre. You also witness this non-confrontational posture when something goes wrong with the movie presentation. People will just sit in their seats and not get up to complain about the out-of-focus or frame image, the lack of sound, or a scope movie being played in flat format.

What can be done? Well, it's up to the theatre's management to set the rules for acceptable in-theatre behavior. Having ushers in the auditoriums - as was the custom years ago - goes a long way toward establishing the kind of behavior that is acceptable in theatres. Additionally, signage and pre-feature notices, i.e. "no cell phones, please" are good, but these work best if backed up with staff presence. With pre/post features, ads, and entertainment becoming meaningful income generators it becomes all the more important that partons feel comfortable in the cinema's surroundings. Of course, this takes more staff, expense and management commitment. Helpful aides, like cell phone signal blockers can be utilized but patrons must be alerted of their use.

In behavior enforcement preemptive measures must be taken. For example, inform boxoffice staff that a patron with a very small child or infant should be discouraged admission (there is nothing worse than a crying baby in a cinema). You can alleviate confrontation within the auditorium by preempting the trouble at the boxoffice.

Setting your cinema's behavior rules takes thought and perseverance but in the long run will be supported by even the most egregious patrons as they know they'll be enjoying a movie free from annoyance and distraction.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

3D "ADDS" ANOTHER DIMENSION

Although D-Cinema may not be a revenue generator, 3D film might, as the 3D effect cannot be replicated elsewhere (most notably in the home). Around for decades, 3D may get a free ride from the industry's migration to digital. The recently developed D-Cinema Standards include a 48 frame per second format, which is suitable for 3D.

All well and good, but 3D has problems of its own. The ideal would be auto-stereoscopic 3D which doesn't require glasses - but that technology is currently only available on small sized digital displays because of the limited sweet spot (where the viewer must sit in order to get the 3D effect). So, glasses will be required.

There are two types of 3D glasses: LCD shutterglasses or polarized anaglyph glasses. LCD shutterglasses (as their name implies) are synced with the projector to open and close each glass based upon whether the left or right image is on screen. Their drawback - shutterglasses cost between $200 - $300/pair and must be cleaned between viewings so each cinema would require multiple sets per auditorium - commonly at a 3:1 ratio. For example, with a 300 seat auditorium, 900 pairs of glasses are required. On to the second option.

Polarized glasses (those most people are familiar with) put a red lens over one eye and a green over the other to separate the left and right images. Typically with plastic or cardboard frames they are inexpensive and new innovations - such as clear lens and circular polarization - allow viewers to move their head while watching a movie. But these too are cumbersome, inconvenient, and hard to wear, particularly for patrons who wear corrective glasses.

Big proponents of 3D movies are filmmakers James Cameron, George Lucas, and Peter Jackson. They feel 3D may well "save the cinema". In fact, Lucas wants to re-release both Star Wars trilogies in digital 3D. And In-Three, Inc., a California based company, is here to help them. In-Three has perfected a process termed dimensionalization. This process restores depth in films shot in 2D. This 2D-to-3D conversion process works but is extremely labor intense. The human touch is required because too much or too little depth will give viewers a headache (literally). So, currently, it takes six people to judge each converted frame. Cost - about $4.5 million for a feature film (although this can vary greatly depending upon such factors as the film's length and scenic complexities). However, this could be an option for re-releases of older movies or for those currently being shot in 2D.

Although somewhat optimistic 3D may increase boxoffice attendance if the right content is presented. Disney's recent 3D film release of Chicken Little was certainly not a boxoffice smash.

Friday, May 26, 2006

DEFINING THE DIGITAL DOMAIN / "THE BIG BLUR"

The Digital Domain is getting more and more complex and the products and functions available are turning into what I call "THE BIG BLUR". Listed below are some definitions and linkings that my help your focus.

Content: Creation-Software-Production Technology

Connection (Distribution) : Hardware-Delivery Mode (Web,Cable, Satellite,Podcast, etc.)

Conveyance: Phone-PC-Setbox-TV-Cinema-iPOD

Gaming: Boxes-Online-PC
D-TV-Interactive TV-HDTV
Music: CD-Web-Radio-Satellite Radio-Concert-PodCast
Film-Digital Cinema
VOD-DVRs-Interactive TV
Video-DVD-HD/DVD
Cable-Broadcast-Satellite TV
Wireless-WiFi-Bluetooth
Cell Phone-Streaming-VOIP

Monday, May 08, 2006

FILM PIRACY HAS TURNED INTO GUERILLA WARFARE

Piracy in the theatre industry takes all forms. Camcorder piracy is a major threat to U.S. film distributors and exhibitors both at home and abroad, typically involving organized criminals that illegally record theatrical films with camcorders in some instances, even prior to their U.S. release. Once made, these copies appear in a matter of hours on the Internet on peer-to-peer networks, file transfer protocol (FTP) sites, or Internet Relay Chat (IRC) rooms.

At the same time, the pirates sell these master recordings to illicit "source labs" where they are illegally duplicated, packaged and prepared for sale on the black market, then distributed to bootleg "dealers" across the country and overseas. Consequently, the film appears in street markets around the world just days after the U.S. theatrical release and well before its international debut.

WAIT...It Gets Worse

The above scenario plays out every day - but wait - it gets worse. Cinema piracy has become guerilla warfare. So if you think your cinema is immune - it's not. And it's not all overseas or just in large urban areas. Even drive-in theatres are under attack.

Parking lot cinemas (more commonly referred to as Guerilla Drive-Ins) are popping up from Los Angeles to Ann Arbor. Cinema Guerillas commandeer parking lots to project films onto the outside walls of large building. Lawrence Bridges, the pioneer of parking lot cinemas, calls his illegal activity "a gift and tribute" to LA. When police arrive Mike Lesousky, the film's projectionist says, "we BS them." I say, "I've talked to the owner and he gave me permission." These Guerillas post their show times and locations on the internet. Kate McCabe, of Ann Arbor, says her group ("rad-art") likes to project movies onto the back walls of movie theatres. McCabe states, "That's real irony and gives us an emotional boost." In Chicago, Pilot (which terms itself a "movie collective") lights up interior warehouse walls with movie videos and Wes Modes of Santa Cruz says, "Just enjoying a movie for free is motivational."

Motivated to do what we're not sure. Guerilla Drive-Ins are currently only a fringe activity but should not be taken lightly by the cinema industry. Lawrence Bridges on his website www.12org. states you can bring a makeshift drive-in to your town. In fact, if he likes your project he'll fly you to LA for training and send you home with a video projector.

Characteristics Of Pirated DVD Product
  • Disc Burned not Replicated
  • Poor Quality Artwork
  • No Studio Logos on Disc
  • Multiple DVD Discs per Movie
  • Movie in Theatrical Release
  • No Overwrap Packaging
  • No Hologram Label or Security Sticker
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its members are dedicated to ensuring that the sources of piracy are eradicated and to educating people about the gravity of the issue. Among the current measures to mitigate the level of illegal camcording activity are:
  • Investing in security
  • Changing legislation
  • Nationwide hot-line (800) 371-9884
  • Public education and training
  • Camcording jamming
  • Forensic watermarking
  • Advanced in-theatre camcorder detection
Another battle in the war is Optical Disc Piracy. This form of piracy refers to the illegal replication and subsequent sale, distribution, or trading of copies of motion pictures in digital video disc (DVD) or video compact disc (VCD) format. These illegal hard goods are then sold on web-sites, online auction sites like eBay, via e-mail solicitations and by street vendors at flea markets and swap meets. The most common format seen in the U.S. is the DVD.

The bottom line on piracy is that it's not some college kids in their dorms downloading a movie onto their PC's. This war is large, organized, and intent on seeing the industry disappear. To be replaced by what? What do these Guerillas think will replace a form of entertainment that has enlightened, motivated, thrilled, and charmed millions and millions for over 100 years.

Everyone involved in the cinema industry(0r for that matter any of the arts) should be proactive in the vigilance against entertainment content piracy. Be involved in your community and let people know and understand the signifigance of the problem and what they can do to help prevent it.

Reprinted from Entertainment Equipment's "The Marquee" magazine. For a copy or for more information on this topic, contact: Entertainment Equipment at www.gotoeec.com



Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Just The STATS/ Videogaming

The facts on videogaming and the cinema:
  • 60% of Americans (over 145 million) play videogames
  • Average age of videogamer is: 28
  • Over $6.4 billion of computer & videogame software was sold in '05
  • Online gaming, the fastest growing segment, is expected to reach $1.7 billion by '07
  • Nearly 50% of online gamers are women (attracted by the social nature of the games)
  • For '05: there were $3 billion of videogame consoles sold vs. $2 billion of DVD players
GAMING IS HUGE! So much so that we have advised clients on having video gaming tournaments in their cinemas to take advantage of this cultural iconoclast.

For information and advice on how to develop and manage video gaming at your cinema contact us for a VGT Kit.

FYI:Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) Rating Symbols

EC
- Early Childhood - Titles rated EC (Early Childhood) have content that may be
suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.

E - Everyone - Titles rated E (Everyone) have content that may be suitable for ages 6
and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy, or mild violence
and/or infrequent use of mild language.

E10+ - Everyone 10+ - Titles rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) have content that may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more
cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.

T - Teen - Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older.
Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal
blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

M - Mature - Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages
17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual
content and/or strong language.

A - Adults Only - Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played
by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of
intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

RP - Rating Pending - Titles listed as RP (Rating Pending) have been submitted to the
ESRB and are awaiting final rating. (This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a
game's release.)






Tuesday, April 25, 2006

VINDICATION : GAMING @ CINEMAS / Who Would Have Thunk It.

If you read this Blog, you are probably aware that I have been a proponent of offering alternative (non-movie) content at cinemas for about 10 years. In the late '90s, in an effort to get cinemas to increase their utilization rates, we began touting the idea that cinemas should present alternative content via video projection. We now see this as commonplace in everything from pre-feature ads and entertainment to mini-film fests at cinemas.

In '02 I began pushing the notion of using cinemas for video gaming and gaming tournaments as a viable and easy source for additional revenue. The idea was to put gaming stations in cinemas consisting of tables and 27" TVs (cost about $300/station). Participants would bring their own game boxes, games, and controllers and be charged a nominal tournament fee. The quarter finalists on up in the tournament would get to game-battle on a cinema screen- winners receiving either monetary rewards or gaming gear. This is a guaranteed house packer.

Although some of my clients did not warm to the idea - "I already have Arcade games in the lobby" - to my surprise and delight I may have been fully vindicated: A new commercial for Microsoft's 360 X-Box depicts several people watching a movie, at a cinema, when suddenly a video game begins to play on the screen. They rush up and burst into the cinema's projection booth to discover a gamer playing on an X-Box hooked up to a video projector. This, larger then life game, blows them away and they query the gamer as to when it will be their turn to play.
Great commercial and spot on!

Today, cinemas must constantly be creating new ways to use their venue. 90% of video gamers range in age from 8 to 38 (a huge demographic) which is split almost evenly between male and female, and across all cultural, ethnic, and income levels. The movie industry provides great entertainment for millions of people on a worldwide basis, but it is not a growth industry. Therefore, to be successful, a cinema must be seen as "the place" to go for a variety of entertainment choices and not just a place to see a movie.

Note: Parts of this blog were extracted from the April 25th Cinema Training Central email Flash. If you would like to receive the CTC Flash in the future please provide you email address.

Friday, April 21, 2006

PRODUCT INTEGRATION IN MOVIES & TELEVISION

Product or brand placement in movies or in television shows is not new but has taken on more significance in the last few years. Normally, story lines involving a specific product (say a car) are pitched to a company that will then pay for having their product appear in a scene. The auto manufacturer may be willing to pay several hundred thousand to show a quick look of their product or millions if its brand is an integral part of the scene.

Although no studies have proven that product integration works as a marketing tactic it has become more and more prevalent, as advertisers feel viewers, particularly younger viewers, mostly ignore traditional commercial messages. The danger is that there will be too many placements in too many shows and movies which would, in effect, then mimic the low impact straight commercial. This is important, as over 50% of the 8-to-28 age group, in a recent poll stated they would be more likely to buy a video iPod and watch a 30 second ad in return for a free download of a favorite TV show. Meaning: that the alternative would be to PAY for downloads which were commercial free.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

JUST THE STATS / Video Chain Stores

Video Chain Stores:
  • Struggling with lack-luster movies in 2005 and a move by customers to purchase rather than rent DVDs, rentals were down by 1.8% to $8.8 billion in '05.
  • Blockbuster and Movie Gallery are the largest video rental chains while Netflix, their largest online rival, expects to grow from 4.2 million customers to 5.9 million by year end.
  • Blockbuster still has over 4,100 U.S. outlets, so don't count them out as they expect rental income to increase due to '06 movies like Mission Impossible and The DaVinci Code.
  • Additionally, as the new Hi-Definition DVD players and their more expensive discs come to market, there may be a resurgence in the rental side of the business.

CINEMA UTILIZATION RATE

One of the most important concepts in determining the profitability of a cinema is the utilization rate. This is the rate which measures the use of the cinema. In 2001, Entertainment Equipment developed a formula which could be used to measure a cinema's utilization rate and which is now used by many in the industry. That formula is as follows:


U = ____________A_________________
nSc x nSe x nSh x nD

Where: A = Admissions
nSc = # of Screens
nSe = # of Seats
nSh = # of Showings/Day
nD = # of Days
Calculated to derive a percentage figure, the result will show the use of the cinema. For example, if the figure derived is 18% then 82% of the time no one was occupying a seat in the cinema while a film was being played. This calculation can be used by a single screen cinema or for a circuit with 10,000 screens. Try it at your cinema, use a month's worth of data. Remember, an increase in your cinema's utilization rate, even by just a few percentage points, will greatly increase your cinema's profitability. So, do everything you can to get people into the cinema and remember: all cinemas are local community-centric.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

CINEMA TRAINING CENTRAL COURSE DESCRIPTIONS

CINEMA TRAINING CENTRAL COURSE DESCRIPTIONS


Operating A Cinema (2 Day Training Program)
The goal of this program is to review the aspects of cinema management from an operational viewpoint. It is designed for theatre management and owner/operators, as well as, for those who are open to exploring new concepts on how to operate and manage a cinema as a unique business venture requiring a unique management approach.

The operational/management issues to be covered include: concession and boxoffice, advertising and promotions, safety and security, facility maintenance and upkeep, increasing off-hour theatre utilization, purchasing and vendor negotiations. Technical topics will include: projection room equipment overview and maintenance, projection room management and the important relationship in coordinating the content (pre feature - feature - post feature) with management functions, particularly concession operations. Other technical issues will include: acoustics and picture formats (film, as well as, video projection). Also discussed will be staff hiring, firing, retention and the roles and responsibilities of boxoffice and concession personnel, as well as, ushers and ticket-takers.

The course is taught by several instructors with diverse backgrounds in cinema management, operations, concessions and projection. Many aspects of this program are hands-on and class participation and questions are highly encouraged.


Maximizing Concession Operating Profits (1 Day Training Program)
This course provides a detailed look at concession operations from an analytical point of view. Normally set in a roundtable discussion format the goal is to provide each trainee the tools necessary to maximize concession profits.

A complete discussion of a cinema's concession sales profit analysis will be covered, including: the calculation of the major indicators which drive the three key concession sales tactics: Speed, Communication, and Value. Determining your patron's buying resistance and why it's best to push "middle pricing" will be discussed along with the good and bad of combo sales and how to use combos to target markets. What sells and what are the hot trends in concession and how these trends relate to buying behavior. Also covered will be the selling of non-food items and services at the cinema. The use of staff incentives, rebate programs, volume discounts, coupons, customer reward programs and other concepts to increase returns will also be considered. Attendees will have the opportunity to role-play in an actual concession stand and review and discuss several successful new employee incentive techniques that are proven income generators.

Taken separatly or in conjunction with the Operating A Cinema Program this is a must one-of-a-kind training program for anyone managing, or responsible for, cinema concession operations.


Marketing Your Cinema (1 Day Training Program)
Although only of a one day duration the purpose of this course is to open the trainee's mind and curiosity to operating a cinema as a "local" business. Topics covered are branding & business identity, the techniques of connecting your cinema to the local community, content selection as a marketing tool, defining your patrons and how to increase your cinema's market reach. This course piques the trainees's curiosity and defines the competition, and the benefits of going your own way. Further discussion will include how to use your staff as a marketing/promotion tool and how to train them for this purpose. The issue of why customers "leave" and how to prevent losing customers will be discussed. The benefit of exhibiting non-film content will be introduced and the how and why this is a win/win situation for your cinema and your patrons.

This is relevant training for those responsible for the long-term profitability of a cinema. No prior courses are requisite. The trainee simply brings an open mind and inquisitive attitude. Class participation is highly encouraged!


Cinema Owners/Investors Program (5 Day Training Program)
This 5 day training program is the most comprehensive offered at CTC. With one-on-one private instruction this training is for the serious current or potential cinema owner/operator or cinema project investor. It is a program for those looking to obtain a comprehensive study of the workings of the movie exhibition industry and how a cinema fits into this business landscape.

The subject matter covers all aspects of a cinema and can function as a test bed for participants wanting to validate their cinema project's potential, or as a means of obtaining a large amount of knowledge regarding a build-out, expansion, or turnkey operation. This is a jam-packed, intensive program with day, as well as, evening instruction. You are literally immersed in the subject matter with the goal of leaving the program with a complete understanding of the hows, whys, and whats of a cinema with emphasis on present and future technology impacts.

All aspects of a cinema business are covered, including: technical, operational, marketing, staffing, concessions, MIS, product mix and pricing, and the business's profit drivers. Many past participants have brought their business plans with them for review and analysis while attending this Program.

This Program is scheduled by appointment only.


Alternative Content & Digital Cinema (1 Day Training Program)
This Program is intended to answer all the questions surrounding digital cinema and the use of standard video projectors in cinemas with a detailed discussion about how D-Cinema works and what are its benefits and downsides to the disstributor and exhibitor.

The application of video projection for alternative non-film content and in-theatre promotions will be explored with emphasis on digital image optimization, and the opportunities and pitfalls this presents to the exhibitor. Various projector models, pricing, and the good and bad points of the LCD, DLP, and LCoS technologies will be explained. The application of flat panel and plasma screens at cinemas will also be covered.

A hands-on workshop emphasizing the selection of the right video projection equipment for various in cinema applications including projectors and source components will be fully reviewed.

This Program addresses the issue of two technologies (film and digital) co-existing at a cinema and each contributing to its profitability. This training is for anyone with an interest in knowing what the cinema of the future will look like and how it will operate. It presents the choices confronting the exhibitor and proposes a variety of ways to address the future.


Modern Cinema Design & Planning (1 Day Training Program)
Cinema design and planning essentially revolves around how to optimize the whole presentation environment - entrance/lobby/foyer, auditoriums, interior space, concession/service areas, projection room, and egress & exits - so as to make going to the movies a special 'experience' unavailable anywhere else.

Seating, sightlines, and screens, acoustical wall design, lighting, architectural plans and general construction, will all be covered in this course. The concept of the 468 viewing rule will be discussed and the ideal presentation environment will be explored. The pros and cons of various seating configurations, and the sizing of auditoriums will be discussed. Floor plans, interior elevations, HVAC, room reverberations, and many other topics in regard to the design of a modern cinema are considered. This is a very compressed but comprehensive study taught by individuals who have designed and been involved in the build-out of numerous cinema projects. This course should be attended by anyone with an interest in the overall environment of a venue used for public presentations, or for those seeking more general knowledge of the important physical attributes of a cinema space.


Primary Technical Training (2 Day Training Program)
For those starting a career in the cinema industry or those with a basic knowledge of cinema operation this course provides a solid foundation upon which to build your skill set. Participants learn the proper techniques and procedures of projection room operations: answering the questions of What & How It Works In The Projection Booth. All the components of a cinema's projection and sound equipment are covered and their function and interfacing explained.

Proper film handling and makeup, including: film inspection, splicing and film cues, presentation setup (features, trailers, promos), proper threading and use of leaders, moving film prints, handling film wraps and their prevention, basic projection room equipment troubleshooting and day-to-day equipment maintenance are all covered in this course. The concepts of picture formats and lens are also discussed. Additionally, participants are introduced to the PROP System, EEC's proprietary Projection Room Operating Procedures.

This two day training program is truly hands-on with participants performing film inspection and makeup, threading, and routine maintenance procedures and parts replacement on actual projectors and film platter systems. They perform proper xenon lamp replacement and alignment and how to troubleshoot a sound problem. Booth safety is stressed throughout.

This is a must course for those beginning or having a basic knowledge of film projection and it sets the foundation for all other CTC technical training programs.


Intermediate Cinema Technical Training (2 Day Training Program)
This course is geared toward the individual who already has a foundation in film handling and basic projection room procedures and wants to further enhance their technical skills. Areas covered include: film platter timing and adjustment, film shutter timing, proper procedure for checking Dolby sound levels and the running of test tone and buzz track. Film formats and the concept of image sizes and apertures in conjunction with RP40 picture alignment test film is demonstrated with each participant threading and running test film loops. Troubleshooting a xenon power supply (rectifier) and the replacement and tapping of diodes is covered.

Additionally, the basics of cinema video projection and D-Cinema is discussed and all the various digital technologies. Throughout the course emphasis is placed upon the proper equipment parts terminology and definitions with a review of the A & B Sound Chain components.


Advanced Cinema Technical Training - Audio (3 Day Training Program)
For the experienced cinema projectionist or technician or for audio specialists, this high impact 3 day Program covers advanced audio topics culminating with each participant performing an auditorium sound equalization.

Topics include: A & B chain alignment, installation of LED readers (analog and digital). The proper installation of sound racks detailing audio cabling, audio component wiring, tuning, and training staff on the proper use and maintenance of all components. Popular models of audio equipment will be demonstrated and highlighted, including: Dolby, DTS, Ultra Stereo, Smart, Panastereo, QSC, Yamaha, etc.

Participants are encouraged to bring technical issues or problems they are experiencing for discussion and resolution. This is a Program for those seeking to hone their skills or individuals with a desire to advance their already solid technical capabilities. Emphasis is placed upon improving each participants' technical diagnostic skills.

Test equipment, including oscilloscopes, real time analyzers, sound level meters, test films and discs, and PC generated test setups are provided or participants are welcomed to bring their own test gear. Those with a goal of working as a cinema technician or engineer or those who desire to enhance their technical skills should strongly consider this training. Dolby and THX testing procedures and guidelines are incorporated in the training.


Advanced Cinema Technical Training - Projection (3 Day Training Program)
For the experienced cinema projectionist or technician seeking to enhance the skills and knowledge regarding the on-screen image and exacting the best performance from modern projection equipment this is a must course.

Topics include: lens turrets and lens sizing, cutting and sizing of apertures, servicing film gates and intermittents. The proper hook-up of an audio system to the projection system wiring, cabling, testing and alignment. Xenon lamp sizing and light failure troubleshooting. Proper installation and checking of rectifier diodes and lamp igniters. The proper use of image test films and equipment will also be covered. The trend toward pre-feature promotions and alternative content will be explored as participants will operate and learn the good and bad of digital projectors as well (both LCD and DLP types).

A companion course to the Advanced Audio Program this jam-packed 3 day Progam focuses on techniques for troubleshooting projection problems and as with all CTC Technical Programs is hands-on and class size is limited.


CTC Technical Master Class (3 Day Training Program)
This is a very special training program for individuals who are currently working in a technical capacity within the cinema industry. This Master Class will revolve around the technical issues and problems which are currently facing the cinema industry and explore issues through a general interchange of ideas, concepts, and viewpoints coupled with the experimental use of either new or upgraded cinema projection and sound equipment.

Typical topics for discussion would for example be: film image perception vs. 35mm film presentations. Film & D-Cinema vs. HDTV. Best alternatives for a cinema's film and digital projection . The setting of industry standards regarding a more formal certification for cinema technicians and engineers.

Additionally, the purpose of the Technical Master Class is to provide the participant an opportunity to discuss these issues with experts in the industry. It is a forum for the interchange of knowledge, which has the effect of adancing the technology of the cinema. This training will be given at specific times throughout the year convenient to the participants and be by invitation only. Class size is limited to 5 or less individuals with instruction and interchange with at least 5 of our faculty and guest instructors making this 3 day Program truly immersive.












Monday, April 03, 2006

Pic n' Play Promotions - Marketing That Increases Cinema Concession Profits

Pic n' Play is a unique, high impact, Cinema concession marketing program which links concession sales to mass media products, such as music CDs, DVDs, and other consumer friendly entertainment themed products. This marketing strategy, which had a very successful launch in 2005, has proven to increase concession sales while improving patron goodwill.

Pic n' Play combines customer appreciation with a high margin concession revenue generator, by offering a special concession promotion coupled with a free and exciting appreciation "give away" of a well known consumer product. Pic n' Play is Simple, Effective, and Direct. Here's how it works:

Each Cinema Patron is given a coupon by the Boxoffice Attendant upon admission (the coupons are included in the Pic n' Play package).

Next, the Cinema Patron presents the Coupon at the concession stand which entitles the Patron to a FREE gift with the purchase of the Pic n' Play Concession Special (as decided upon by each Cinema). Examples of what Specials could be offered are:

  • Combo: Large Popcorn and Two Medium Drinks
  • Combo: Large Popcorn, Medium Drink, & Candy Bar
  • Value Special: i.e. Spend $10 or more & receive free gift
  • High-margin non-sellers: i.e. Free gift with purchase of Large Popcorn or Nachos
  • High Volume Generator: Free gift with any Drink or Popcorn purchase

Pic n' Play is self-managing. There is no extra work or effort required on the part of theatre management or staff. Also, Pic n' Play is RISK FREE. Unused gifts are fully refundable and reordering is simple via 800# or e-mail. Additionally, Pic n' Play is designed for automatic expansion and a variety of media promotions, in 2006 music CDs, DVDs, and MP3 (iPOD) accessories will be offered.

Discover Pic n' Play - There is nothing like it in the Cinema Industry!

For full details or to enroll as a participating Pic n' Play Cinema contact: Entertainment Equipment Corp. at 800-448-1656 or entequip@aol.com.

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Cinema - In Search of An Audience

Is the cinema industry losing its mojo? Or is it sabotaging itself with its latest trends. Those trends, that are intended to push the cinema to higher levels, include: d-cinema convergence, day-and-date theatrical/DVD/pay-per-view release, and the current deluge of cinema content.

Let's take them in that order, but first, a quick analysis of the industry.

Worldwide boxoffice for 2005 was $22 billion give-or-take. The top 100 film generated $14.4 billion or 65% of the total. The top 25 - $8.3 billion or 38%. The top 10 (alone) a whopping $5.2 billion or 24% (the U.S. boxoffice was even more skewed with the top ten accounting for 27% of total boxoffice). Of the top 10 - 8 were escape/fantasy films and 2 were comedy/drama. Of the top 25 - 11 were escape/fantasy, 8 comedy/drama, 4 adventure/drama, 1 horror, and 1 documentary.

There were 527 major releases in 2005. Worldwide there were 7.8 billion admissions, down from 8.4 billion in 2004. North America accounted for 45%, Europe - 30%, Asia/Pacific - 18%, all others - 7%.

Clearly, something is amiss with the cinema industry's feng shui.

With theatre utilization rates well below 20% the emphasis should be on increasing attendance. Therefore, more marketing should be placed on a slimmer roster of films, ones specific to genre proven to attract the largest audiences.

D-CINEMA CONVERGENCE
Digital-cinema won't help the boxoffice. In fact, it may decrease boxoffice revenues. Moviegoers may expect and demand a lower admission price on digitally-presented features. And why not? All things digital decrease in price.

And, like all things digital, the underpinning technology keeps evolving, forcing the latest d-cinema connection and conveyance mechanisms to atrophy through ever advancing innovation which is the inherent trait of the digital domain. This poses one immediate problem: the substantial investment in the required d-cinema gear - projectors, processors, servers, etc. - quickly reaches zero.

Another side effect of d-cinema, is the dampening effect it has had on overall exhibitor investment. The trumpeting of d-cinema has instigated a very cautious atmosphere with regard to investments in cinema exhibition. Exhibitors (particularly independents) have taken on a siege mentality which has stymied investment not only in expansions and renovations but also in new projection, sound, security, seating and concession upgrades. This is significant because although the larger theatre chains get the attention over 50% of U.S. movie screens are still owned and operated by smaller circuits and independents. D-Cinema is the perfect solution to a problem which doesn't exist.

DAY-AND-DATE RELEASES - A STRATEGY?
The theatrical release of major motion pictures represents the upfront marketing of the after sales, higher margin products - DVDs, music CDs, merchandising, pay-per-view, etc. The day-and-date release notion negates this critical quotient from the revenue stream formula. It turns a synergistic business model into a non-generative one. Simply put - it makes the pie smaller.

THE BIG BANG THEORY OF CONTENT
With over 500 major releases the industry needs to reassess. In addition to the major releases there is an uncontrolled flood of indies, film fest entries, shorts, docus, foreign films, etc. Anyone, with the urge to make a movie, and the requisite $5,000 admission fee (for a digital camera and a video software package) is producing a "movie". There are even awards for the 30 second cell phone camera flix. It's more and more swag cluttering an already saturated art form with no evident value.

GETTING BACK THE MOJO
The movie industry is all about content and not conveyance. It's not about simultaneous release modes or digital presentation but presenting content people are motivated to spend their time and money on against the myriad of other recreational activities available to them. With the possible exception of community-centric, non-movie alternative content, like it or not, based upon industry numbers current preferences (on a worldwide basis) bend toward escapism and humor.

In searching for an audience the cinema industry needs to focus on what works at the boxoffice and backburner schemes, projects, or programs which detract from this. That is how the cinema will get its mojo back.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Digital Cinema - The Perfect Solution For A Problem That Doesn't Exist!

The reason for digital cinema has, and is still, the film print and distribution cost savings that would accure to the studios if movies where distributed and presented digitally vs. being film based ( I have heard estimates as high as $1 billion/year). But, is this reason as compelling as some would have us believe. Based upon screen count, as reported by The National Assoc. of Theatre Owners' 2005/06 Encyclopedia of Exhibition, total screens in the U.S. were 31,474 as detailed below:
National Mega Chains (over 1,000 screens) - 16,895
Large Chains (500-1,000) - 2,097
Regional Large Chains (225-500) - 4,455
Medium Circuits (75-225) - 3,557
Small Circuits (15-75) - 2,528
Independents (15 & under) - 1,942
This 6 tiered breakdown (which I arbitrarily decided upon) depicts accurate figures for the large chains and circuits, but ( I believe) are off by 10-15% at the medium circuits and below. As, for example, many of our independent exhibitor clients are not in the NATO listing. However, what the data shows is that screens are devided about equally between the mega chains (which are only 5 in number) and everyone else.

With approximately 33,000 screens in the U.S. even if all these screens were converted to digital presentation, as there are about 160,000 screens worldwide, that would leave about 125,000 to 130,000 screens still film based. The question then becomes, why the push to convert the U.S. at a current cost of $70,00 to $100,000 per auditorium.

Jim Lavorato, April 2006

Cinema Management and Technical "School" Emerges as the Go-To-Place to Cope With The Cinema Industry

Cooking school without a kitchen? Flight school without an airplane? Driving school without a car? Theatre training without a theatre? It doesn't make much sense. That's what occurred to Jim Lavorato, CEO of Entertainment Equipment Corporation (EEC) in 2000. He is responsible for the creation and operation of Cinema Training Central (CTC) - the first and only permanent, professional management and technical training facility devoted to the cinema exhibition industry. Operated as a not for profit entity, CTC has earned the support and respect of many companies in the cinema industry: LucasFilm/THX, Dolby Laboratories, Eastman Kodak, JBL Audio, Yamaha Corporation, and Sony Corporation, just to name several.

Part of what sets Cinema Training Central apart is that its primary "campus" is located in a specially equipped and tricked-out 8plex cinema that had previously been a Geneal Cinema Theatre in an urban location in downtown Buffalo, New York. Now cinema training is truly hands-on. Conducted in small groups of no more than 7 individuals, instructors address real-life problems, so the knowledge gained is directly transferable to each participant's everyday job responsibilites. "Since its inception, CTC has trained over 600 alumni and provided them the luxury of training at an operating cinema on a wide variety of equipment. We have over 75 different cinema equipment manufacturers represented at CTC - offering most participants instruction on the very same equipment resident in their cinemas", states Lavorato.

CTC is unique not only by its on-site training philosophy but also by its distinguished 13-member faculty, with collectively hundreds of years of experience in all areas of the cinema business, such as cinema operations and management, concession operations, promotion and marketing, architecture and design, project planning, and film and digital technology application.

Programs at CTC are offered at "training weeks" normally held in May and September (which are traditionally slow periods at the cinema boxoffice). In addition, programs are available by appointment, and special, customer-specific group programs are scheduled throughout the year. The training programs currently include: Operating A Cinema, Maximizing Concession Profits, Marketing Your Cinema, Cinema Owners/Investors Program, Alternative Content & Digital Cinema, and Modern Cinema Design & Planning. Also offered are 5 technical programs, from Beginners to Masters Programs.

For more information on Cinema Training Central contact Entertainment Equipment Corporation: 800-448-1656 or entequip@aol.com

Monday, March 27, 2006

D-Cinema Like It or Not

I'm not for or against Digital Cinema, but it is my duty to explain all of the good, bad, and ugly
aspects of D-Cinema to our clients. Because I'm critical doesn't mean I'm anti. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, Entertainment Equipment has been at the forefront of
introducing digitally-based content to cinemas long before it was given any attention by the
industry. Please refer to the following articles I wrote on the subject:

"Theatres Become 'Viewing Venues'" September 1999 Issue Film Journal International

"Broadcasting Sporting Events @ Theatres, A Digital Beta Test" April 2000 Issue Film Journal International

"The Case For Pure Digital Cinema" November 2002 Issue Film Journal International

"Regaining The Cinema's Pirated Property" December 2002 Issue Theatre World

What I am against, is the adoption of technology where it's not required and where that adoption may in fact be detrimental to the cinema industry from which there will be no return.

What makes the cinema industry unique is that it is still film based. It has retained its content in analog form using a medium that's 100 years old. Yes, it's cumbersome, quirky, and totally out of sync with the way most information is transmitted today. But it's also standardized on a worldwide basis, is more difficult to copy, still produces an unequalled visual presentation, and(most importantly) prevents competition from entering the industry.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Day & Date Scenario

My ears perked up the other day as I was watching CNBC and an analyst from some investment company was discussing movies being released day and date with their DVD counterpart. His scenario was that people will go to the cinema and view the movie and then if they like what they saw, run out and purchase the DVD (at full price).

Hmmm, I thought. That is one possible scenario but probably not likely, the likely scenarios would go something like this:

People will either go to the cinema or purchase the DVD, not both. The person that goes to the
cinema and likes the movie will not go out and purchase the DVD straight away, but will wait
until the DVD goes into the bargain bin at the video store or Wal-Mart.

The person that buys the DVD will not view it alone, but will invite friends, family, and acquaintances over to view and enjoy the "premiere" together and at night's end ask if anyone would like a copy of the movie "burned" for a take home gift.

Now, those are the likely scenarios.

Film's flaws preserve movie distribution

Question: Name an industry that fully controls its products from concept/research-to-
development-to-fabrication/production-to-distribution-to-enduser on a worldwide basis?
Stuck! There is only one-the cinema industry. The key to this phenomena, which no other
industry on the planet enjoys, is the control of the products' distribution. The introduction of
digital cinema may provide the tipping point which destroys that control and consequently
the movie industry.
By being film based, the cinema controls the distribution of its precious products ( yes, there is
piracy but nothing like it will be once movies are distributed digitally and add to that the problem
of viruses on hard drives and servers). It's film's inherent drawbacks and flaws which preserve
the movie industry's distribution control and nothing more.