D-cinema on faster track

Singapore building 22 digital theaters

SINGAPORE — Ambitious Singapore, ever-intent on being first, wants to lead the digital revolution in Asia Pacific. So say government agencies Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA).

Construction of 22 new digital movie theaters, the recent digital relay of a new release from Hong Kong to Singapore and winning the contract to digitize Bollywood and its pics are all steps toward the IDA/MDA’s goal of “staking Singapore’s position as an early mover in the digital space.”

Cathay Cineplexes opened Singapore’s first digital cinema with a screening of “Finding Nemo” in October.

Late November saw the IDA/MDA collaboration with Eng Wah Organization to turn 20 of its cinema screens digital and to install another outdoor screen at the Legends Fort Canning Park within the year.

IDA CEO Tan Ching Yee says, “Singapore is now a step closer in our quest to be a leading global Digital Exchange where not just capital, people and ideas but also digital assets come together.

“Through this, IDA targets to increase the value of digital transactions through Singapore from the current $100 million to $333 million by 2006,” the CEO says.

Meanwhile in December, Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) became the first carrier in the Asia Pacific region to facilitate the cross-border digital distribution of a newly released film: Hong Kong blockbuster movie “Infernal Affairs 3” was distributed to Shaw Lido Cineplex in Singapore directly from Hong Kong, using SingTel’s Asynchronous Transfer Mode service.

And also last year Singapore-based tech firm GDC Technology won a multimillion-dollar deal to digitally retrofit 400 of India’s movie theaters by April 2004. Many Indian-made movies will be converted to digital format through GDC’s joint venture with Adlabs Films, India’s largest motion picture processing lab.

“The digital format is still developing and changing very quickly as new technologies become available,” says Brett D. Hogg, G.M. of Buena Vista Columbia TriStar Films (Singapore).

“At this stage we all need to be able to move with those changes until such time that a standard digital format takes the lead,” he continues. “There may be opportunities in the future that will allow Singapore to be a distribution hub for Asia Pacific by sending content via satellite to digital cinemas all over the region.”