NAB: Samsung Exec Optimistic About Cinema's Future, But It Won't Be "Easy or Inexpensive"

Samsung director of business development Christopher Buchanan says theatrical exhibition needs to “raise the game” amid increased competition from streaming services, but he's also optimistic about cinema's future.

During his Sunday keynote at NAB Show in Las Vegas, the exec added that getting there "isn't going to be easy or inexpensive, but we have to do it." He cited everything from upgrading technology to installing more comfy seats.

“Event cinema is about the experiences consumers can get in a theater setting that they can’t get at home,” said Buchanan. His examples included Imax screens, 4DX 4D experiences and virtual reality. “And I’m looking forward to Douglas Trumbull’s Magipod," he added of the filmmaker's immersive cinema model that includes high-resolution and dynamic range, as well as variable frame rates.

For its part, Samsung is in the process of launching a video wall made up of modular LED panels as a replacement to cinema projectors. But Buchanan didn't use the keynote to outline the company’s plans, though it already has five installations outside the U.S. and more are on the way, including one in Los Angeles.

Looking further out, the exec projected that in three to five years, cinemas will offer more augmented and mixed reality experiences, or, as he put it, “Magic Leap in the movies."

Buchanan also expects that in five to 10 years, theaters will offer holograms, light-field technology and volumetric haptics — what he described as the ability to touch and feel a 3D image.

“But the main reason for my optimism about the future of cinema are the storytellers,” said Buchanan. “We have a growing audience with money that is willing to pay for premium experiences." He also noted that storytellers have a growing choice of tools in their toolbox.

“High dynamic range and high frame rates are here to stay,” he asserted, in addition to citing advancement in more realistic digital actors and virtual sets. “I think we are rapidly getting across the uncanny valley,” he said of creating lifelike digital humans, which is still widely considered one of the toughest VFX challenges by digital artists.

And in a nod to artificial intelligence, another big topic this week at NAB Show, Buchanan said, “I don't expect that AI will replace writers, editors. … It will just make them more efficient.”