‘Sith’ blazes trail to digital horizon

Panel expresses optimism toward D-cinema

The Euro release of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” sits as a benchmark in the slow march away from traditional analog projection.

A Saturday panel of European film execs discussing “Digitial Download: A Production Update,” part of the Variety Conference Series, expressed considerable optimism toward D-cinema and growing communication between Hollywood and the continent.

UNIC has embarked on a one-year test to see how audiences react to digital vs. analog presentation, starting with “Star Wars” and, later in the year, the kidpic “Madagascar.”

Company prexy Jan Van Dommelen says if the reaction is positive, it could hasten a full digital rollout across Europe, although he cautions that he expects complete conversion is at least 10 years away.

“If there is to be a rollout, it must be for everybody, all countries, big or small,” he said, confident Europe and America are coming together on the issue.

In the next 18 months, said John Graham, distrib and marketing head for the Danish Film Institute, Europe will have hundreds of digital screens.

Avanti Digital CEO Gwendal Auffret claimed France was the only country with real D-Cinema standards in place, saying in his country it may not be “politically correct” to just follow the American studios although he promised they would likely be compatible with US standards.

Anders Geertsen, general secretary of EDCF, warned that the transition should not be done just to follow the American lead.

“Digital shouldn’t be seen as a big wave from America that hits Europe all at the same time,” he said. “We should be thinking about our European films and filmmakers. We need to work on this as something more than technology the Americans invented.”

A lot of the discussion revolved around preference for 4K over the more widely agreed upon standard of 2K to more effectively fight piracy.

“Quality of 35mm vs. digital shouldn’t be a topic anymore,” said XDC general manager Bernard Collard. “There are different standards of 35mm around the world with varying degrees of quality but in digital there is only one. Period.”