Digital cinema finally a reality

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The pace of digital cinema installations has increased significantly, with the number of domestic screens more than doubling during the past year.

At the beginning of 2007, research suggested that there were 1,894 digital cinema screens installed at 332 sites. As of February, that number of screens had reached 4,754 screens at 830 sites, a sizable change.

Meanwhile, the number of 3-D-ready digital cinema theaters in North America recently crossed the 1,000 mark. That number has grown considerably this past year, as at this time in 2007 there were just under 200

3-D-ready screens in the market. Releases such as last year's "Meet the Robinsons," "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Beowulf," as well as this year's "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour" and "U2 3D," contributed to the growing infrastructure. A goal is to reach 4,000 screens by May 2009 to accommodate the growing number of 3-D features in production and slated for '09 releases.

Reflecting the digital cinema movement, the studio consortium Digital Cinema Initiatives twice updated its digital cinema specification this past year. The spec now additionally includes recommendations for 3-D digital cinema. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers also set many digital cinema standards and, similarly, is working on those for 3-D.

Last week, the National Association of Theatre Owners issued a revised Digital Cinema System Requirements. This first revision to the now 2-year-old NATO document is targeted to standards committees, product manufacturers and service providers in the digital cinema supply chain. Among the highlights, an exhibitor-driven universal theater identification scheme was introduced as well as new requirements for closed-caption support and exhibitor network security.

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