Cinema Expo upbeat on digital’s progress

Confab seminars less critical of costs, quality

AMSTERDAM — It wasn’t exactly a love-in, but the mood at Cinema Expo’s annual report card on the state of digital cinema was upbeat — a far cry from previous years when studios, distributors and Euro exhibs were touchy, if not downright contentious, with one another over the d-cinema rollout.

Lifting the mood at the “Global Update on Digital Cinema” seminar Monday was the appearance of progress being made on several d-cinema fronts, including the search for a technical standard and assurance of quality. In the past, those two issues along with cost concerns have spurred bitter criticism from Euro exhib delegates at the yearly confab.

A number of international orgs such as the Union of Intl. Cinemas (UNIC), which represents cinema owners of some 26,000 screens, mainly in Europe, and the National Assn. of Theater Owners, which reps cinema owners of some 28,000 screens, mainly in the U.S., have said they don’t want to jump into d-cinema without a global standard and assurances that quality will be better than what cinemagoers get today.

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John Fithian, president of NATO, told delegates the formation of the Digital Cinema Initiatives, a joint venture of the major studios, represented “the first time that we have had significant involvement in bilateral discussions about technical specifications.”

Chuck Goldwater, CEO of the Digital Cinema Initiatives, promised DCI specifications for a technical standard would be finalized by January and added DCI was committed to focusing its testing efforts on “a forward-looking overall 4K delivery system,” the latter expected to give some assurance of better quality than the current 35mm.

Jan van Dommelen, president of UNIC and a past critic of the major studios for ignoring international exhib concerns, told Daily Variety that he saw “clear progress” in the efforts of DCI and some indication that another sore point, the cost of digital, was being addressed. During the seminar, van Dommelen told delegates he had no doubt d-cinema would be implemented “in due course, and when the most important problem — who will pay for it — is solved.”