CineEurope: 3 Hot Topics to Be Addressed in Barcelona

The death of film, the call for immersive sound standards and 3D's brightness problem will all be eagerly debated at this year's theater owners confab.

BARCELONA -- Theater owners confab CineEurope opens June 24 in Barcelona, and the stage is set for discussion and debate surrounding a number of technical issues that could have significant impact on the business. Here's what you need to know about three of them:


Is film dead?

The uncertain future of film will be a big topic at CineEurope. By the end of 2012, 90,000, or 75 percent, of the world's cinema screens had already been converted to digital projection, according to Michael Karagosian, president of MKPE Consulting.

Issues will include what this means for smaller exhibitors that have not yet converted, as well as to regions that are not far along in the digital switch.

But the big worry is that the timetable for the remainder of the transition might be out of the hands of studios and exhibitors. The reason: Kodak filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early 2012.

This week is an important one for the film manufacturer. During a June 25 hearing, Kodak will ask the court to approve a $406 million rights offering to key creditors as part of a plan to help it to emerge from chapter 11. Kodak expects to use the proceeds to fund distributions under a revised plan of reorganization, including the repayment of its second lien creditors, which would no longer receive equity as part of the proposed reorganization plan. The proposed rights offering would permit Kodak to offer its creditors up to 34 million shares of common stock for the per share purchase price of $11.94, equivalent to approximately 85 percent of the equity of Kodak upon emergence.


Immersive sound: The call for standards

There might be some contentious discussion surrounding immersive sound -- which at this time is effectively a two technology race between Dolby’s Atmos and Barco’s Auro 11.1. Currently a separate mix is needed for each sound system, and members of the industry say they want standards.

Earlier this year, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) and the Union Internationale des Cinemas (UNIC) released cinema exhibitor requirements for immersive sound technologies to ensure that any audio rendering system that an individual cinema may choose is capable of playing back immersive sound when a studio releases it. They are continuing work in this area.

Additionally, the digital sound systems committee that sets global standards, Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), is working to lay the groundwork for a new audio standard aimed at creating a consistent sound experience in theaters, and a parallel project involves incorporating immersive audio content into the new standard.

A key issue is that Dolby and Barco have differing views on how to address this issue.

Meanwhile, the potential to create a more immersive sound experience will be demoed by stakeholders. For instance, DreamWorks Animation's Turbo will be screened in Auro 11.1 this week at CineEurope, and the animated feature will additionally be released in Atmos.


“The picture is  too dark”

The ongoing issue of how to make screens brighter -- particularly for 3D -- will also be a hot topic.

RealD will address the issue with its new “Precision White Screen” that it unveiled at CinemaCon. The technology effectively combines traits of a white screen and silver screen, and will be demoed to convention attendees this week.

Other companies have been exploring the potential of laser projection as a way to get more light onto screens. Proponents say these developing projectors could deliver a brighter picture while reducing power consumption. Others believe the cost could be prohibitive. Also, regulatory issues remain a challenge.

Earlier this year, as a test, projector maker Christie’s laser technology was used to screen Paramount’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation at AMC Theatre’s Burbank 16 ETX theater. According to Christie, the movie played in 3D at brightness levels of 14 foot lamberts (ft-L) -- along the lines of what is used for 2D -- on a 65-foot-wide screen. It is estimated that typical 3D brightness levels currently only reach 3-4 ft-L.

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