Electronic projection systems could revolutionize films

Is digital cinema ready for its close-up?

Delegates to next year’s ShoWest will get a taste of the huge strides made in electronic projection equipment in recent months.

Two of the latest systems, which use digital video technology in place of traditional film prints, will be presented at a March 10 demonstration during the Las Vegas exhibitors convention.

2 units at board

National Assn. of Theater Owners officials would not disclose which systems would be presented. However, units from CineComm Digital Cinema (which uses a Hughes-JVC projector) and a TI-Digital Light Processing Cinema System prototype were warmly received at last month’s NATO board meeting in Denver (Daily Variety, Nov. 18).

The one-hour ShoWest presentation will offer a side-by-side comparison with a traditionally projected 35mm film image. The demo will be in one of the ballrooms at the Bally’s hotel and casino center where the convention takes place March 8-11.

Printless but costly?

Electronic cinema has long been a goal of both distribution and exhibition. By eliminating film prints, studios would see significant cost savings in both lab costs and shipping. Theater-owners would gain flexibility in programming multiplex auditoriums and have the ability to present live broadcasts, such as sports events.

Many Hollywood insiders agree that the technology has taken a huge leap in recent months, bringing the quality of electronic cinema much closer to that of traditional film projection.

But while technical obstacles have been overcome, the financial details of the transition to digital cinema remain unclear. Distributors and exhibitors are sharply divided over who will pay for the costly new equipment required to convert the nation’s roughly 30,000 screens.

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