Recently, I've read quite a bit about the coming death of cinema projection technology.
I think I may have heard this before. Wasn't HDTV supposed to kill off movies, too? Then it was 3D television that would sound the death knell. Right now some are saying VR will bring an end to our popcorn-fueled visits to the local movie theater.
And now, there's LEDs.
Yep, LEDs are going to kill cinema projection. A few companies have developed a technology billed as LED Direct View that some are saying will replace the 190,000 movie screens in the world within a decade. That's a lot of LEDs.
Don't get me wrong, the LED technology is amazing. It creates a beautiful picture with amazing HDR capabilities. I have nothing but praise for the talented engineers that developed the technology.
It's the conclusion they come to from a business point-of-view for screen replacement that I take issue with.
Do they realize that 95% of screens have just finished the 10-year upgrade cycle to digital projection? Do they realize that the latest developments in projector technology (namely laser projection, of course) are showing amazing total cost of ownership returns to exhibitors already? Especially those that are retrofitting their current digital projectors?
Do they realize that an eye-popping $700,000 price tag is ridiculous to even the most forward-thinking exhibitors?
You read that right. $700,000 for an LED screen the size of an average movie screen. We may be a bit newer to the projection industry compared to our friends at Sony, Barco, Christie, NEC, and Digital Projection, but we've spoken with hundreds of exhibitors about the importance finances play in running a movie theater. I can't think of a single one that could take that number seriously.
Yes, technology always comes down in price. At $700,000 though, LED screens appear to have a very long way to go before they make any kind of financial sense for most exhibitors.
So, don't sign the death certificate just yet for projection cinema.
Yes, ticket sales are down a bit (although revenues are holding pretty steady) but exhibitors across the world are stepping up to the challenge. They are offering better experiences than ever and people are starting to catch on to how truly amazing a trip to the movies can be. From high-end food to craft beer, this ain't your grandmother's theater.
Even just the seats are a great reason to go to the movies now! Have you reclined in those cushy, form-fitting clouds of relaxation your local movie theater just put in? You should.
Laser projection (both new projectors and the retrofit of current/older digital projectors) has increased the color gamut available to filmmakers so that movie goers have a better experience with brighter more vivid images without the dimming associated with xenon bubs.
So, between reasonably priced technological advances (laser projection) and the commitment by exhibitors to give movie goers an exceptional experience surrounding the movie, the reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.
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