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Digital Cinema is Finally Ready for Rollout

Screen Digest reports that the D-cinema rollout has begun, currently on a small scale but with a rapidly gathering momentum toward full-scale rollout. 2006 is likely to be a year for negotiations and signature of contracts with wide-scale rollout happening from 2007.

Hollywood will drive the market forward and the key factors in the switch to digital cinema are cost savings to distributors, the economic imperative of controlling piracy and the need to maintain the experience gap with regard to home cinema and HDTV. On the back of the Hollywood studios releasing their technical specification for d-cinema in June 2005, there was explosive growth in the number of d-cinema screens globally during the second half of last year, with numbers doubling in a six month period.

After 100 years of stability for the cinema industry, the prospect of reduced distribution costs, the threat of rampant piracy and competition to the cinema industry from new home entertainment technologies, is driving the theatrical exhibition and distribution sectors towards digital cinema. Currently, a major Hollywood release in the USA such as 'Mission: Impossible 3' will require more than 4,000 prints to be made at a cost of around $5 million.

This massive investment is essentially worthless after a few weeks � films recoup most of their box office in an increasingly short period of time (an average 44 percent in the first week). In this sense, film distributors have a lot to gain from the conversion to digital � films can be sent directly to cinemas without the need for physical prints.

The Hollywood studios are retaining control over the conversion of cinemas to digital, especially in the USA. As a result, they have maximised their chances of retaining market dominance, even though the introduction of digital cinema has the potential to help the independent sector and increase box office overall.

Digital technology will also enable cinema operators to create new revenue streams as theatres move towards becoming multi-purpose public venues, rooted in their communities � potentially showing sports events and concerts, as well as more educational and local community content.

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