NATO calls for equity for independent theaters

posted by danpetitpas on October 8, 2008 at 7:49 am

Following the agreement five movie studios signed with the three largest theater chains to pay virtual print fees to help defray the cost of buying digital cinema projectors, the National Association of Theater Owners called on the studios to sign a similar agreement with the hundreds of independent cinemas around the country.

The theater chains, AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark and Regal Entertainment Group negotiated the agreement with 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Studios.

The studios will pay a vitual print fee of $800 to $1,000 per film to help the chains convert to digital projection. The average film print costs the studios $1000-to-$1500 plus shipping while a digital print can be sent on a $200 to $300 hard drive which can be used again. Digital projectors cost $70,000-to-$100,000 twice as much as 35mm projectors. The studios are promising to refund the chains their savings over film prints for the next three-to-five years, or until the projectors are paid off.

Financing through JP Morgan and the Blackstone Group will allow the three chains to quickly convert up to 20,000 screens, or more than half the country’s 38,000 auditoriums.

For more information, read the NATO press release or articles at Contact Music and Digital Cinema.

Comments (14)

CinemarkFan on October 8, 2008 at 9:17 am

Meanwhile, keep the other half, if not all of the screens with backup 35/70MM equipment, because I and directors like Chris Nolan and Steven Spielberg believe that a film should be a ‘film’ experience.

But movies shot with a digital camera (Zodiac, Avatar) should be shown digitally.

markp on October 8, 2008 at 9:43 am

You know CinemarkFan, this is really going to be one giant cluster-you-know-what. As I have been saying, and I’m sure you agree, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

I’m off to work now, to run my 6 century 35MM projectors, which do a great job projecting the films we are showing.

cahammoaz on October 8, 2008 at 10:33 am

Also i have the Blue prints done for my Drive-in Here in Arizona. i am looking for investors or partnerships for this project.

i may have to rethink my plans to go Digi

Chris Hammontree


CinemarkFan on October 8, 2008 at 10:33 am

You’re right, and when it evenually happens, I’ll be quoting Will Smith from I, Robot.

“Somehow, I told you so just doesn’t quite say it.”

CinemarkFan on October 8, 2008 at 11:14 am

Movie534, you should try contacting one of the editors of the 65/70MM workshop. They would like to get ideas on how to contact filmmakers on shooting in 65MM. I myself was thinking of some sort of myspace page or fansite to get my fellow young generation interested in the WIDESCREEN.

The 65/70MM workshop

Now folks, I like digital, but it should not take over everything.

markp on October 8, 2008 at 7:32 pm

Points well taken CinemarkFan, and I know someone who might know how to go about it. Also like the idea of a fansite, something similar to this here at CT, except devoted to film and the alike.

John Fink
John Fink on October 9, 2008 at 2:49 pm

But Digital still hasn’t been perfected yet? This is a loss for audiences. Smarter chains (like the unmentioned National Amusements) hasn’t opened “all digital” new theaters – their new builds are half digital and half film projection. While there are benefits to digital such as the picture is rock steady, so much quality is lost. I had the displeasure of sitting in the front row to a digital show at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival at AMC Younge-Dundas, and the picture quality compared to a front row showing of a film was lost. While digital film could be good for smaller films, making distribution more affordable (some small films already were sending theaters DVDs and DigiBatas), I think for the big hollywood studio film it’s a major loss, unless the film is computer animated. I understand this is a business but as advocates for the preservation of cinema, the experience of cinema (although on this site filtered through the lens of the actually experience of the buildings), projecting film in its intended form is important. I have given digital a try, and I will search out these independent theaters, with good projection, and support them when I can when the Digital Implementation Partnership starts converting the multiplexes and commercially owned art theaters I attend now.

Thankfully, I live in an area (NYC-metro area) with thriving NFP art theaters like Film Forum, and the Walter Reed Theater that will project a motion picture in the format the filmmaker had intended. So I don’t think 35 and 16MM will be gone altogether.

markp on October 9, 2008 at 6:17 pm

Lets hope not John J. Fink

CinemarkFan on October 15, 2008 at 9:40 am

Here’s something that the higherups need to read
View link

CinemarkFan on October 15, 2008 at 9:45 am

Here’s an excerpt I found from

“The final concern to address is that of the director’s vision. When a 35mm print of a film is made, the director and cinematographer work with the film processing lab to adjust the contrast, tint, and color of each scene or shot. This process is called “timing.” A digital projector could “time” the movie any way he/she desires. All the controls are there to be manipulated.

There is now a concern as to what NATO will do with the films if and when digital projection gets approved. Rule 8 of their standards states, “Exhibitors request the ability to select language, rating version, etc.” This simple sentence is a frightening one. Foreign films could possibly no longer be subtitled. They would be dubbed in English and the audience wouldn’t be able to hear how the actors really act. Theatre owners could also potentially show a censored, PG-13 cut of a film that the director intended to be shown in R form. Putting control over these factors into the
owners’ hands instead of the filmmakers’ is the wrong move to make. If two theaters in two cities show different versions of the film, which city is seeing the better version? Film critics will have to either try to see all versions (if possible) or make specific note of which version they saw. In any case, it could create problems."

Humm, thoughts anyone?

jimpiscitelli on October 27, 2008 at 9:35 pm

Even if a theatre goes all-digital they still need a 35MM backup. When I saw Woody Allen’s “Vicky Christina Barcelona” at the Muvico Rosemont, it was shown in 35MM rather than 4K Digital Projection.

John Fink
John Fink on October 28, 2008 at 4:29 am

CinemarkFan – I never realized that digital had these capabilities. I know of incidents where 35MM prints were censored locally by operators (an explicit shot in Wayne Wang’s Center of the World was removed by a theater operator who felt it violated “community standards”). I’ve often wondered about that, especially with the types of films I can see in New York City – could a film with this content be shown at a theater in say, the Palin-belt of America?

I know certain theaters do have restrictions on their leases, perhaps forbidding them from showing an NC-17 rated film. Perhaps the greatest indication is if people show up: if there is no audience then why bother showing a film like this. But the control factor is scary as hell, especially when we have such groups as Cleanflicks that will censor films for you. My opinion has always been this: if your offended by the artists original work – the sex, the violence, the language – then you shouldn’t watch it, at all. This is why WalMart’s policy of only carrying “clean” CDs always baffled me.

I’m a firm believer in the filmmakers rights to show a film the way it should be shown. Often theaters fail at this by not framing the picture correctly, ect. Digital has its benefits because there is a certain consistency to it, but with that constancy comes artificiality, the image lacks the life of properly projected 35MM. Digital could make things more accessible or at least flexible in regards to the language point: digital films I assume could be more easily “open captioned” to allow for more special screenings for the hearing impaired. But I fully agree there is a slippery slope here, and control needs to reside with the filmmakers, when exhibitors stop trusting the studios and filmmakers that supply their pipeline and take decisions into their own hands, they ought to move into another line of business. With regards to Vicky Christina Barcelona, it should be known that the Rave chain didn’t carry this film at any of their sites, they are all digital. What if instead this had been the new Indiana Jones film? I bet they’d be scrambling to re-install a few 35MM projectors.

CinemarkFan on November 13, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I agree with you John. I don’t want to see digital vanish, but I don’t want it to replace film either. Like the people at the 65/70MM workshop say, why can’t we have both? And in order for that to happen, there needs to be a new 65MM production. Bill Bennett, ASC, shot a short test film called “As Good as it Gets”, which takes a look at widescreen photography. Here’s three links about that movie in the links below
View link

In today’s digital based editing systems, you don’t need to shoot an entire movie in 65MM (though that would be sweet!), just shoot the wide shoots/major sequences in 65MM, and closeups in anamorphic 35MM. The combined film stocks would be scaned through a DI at 4k. Why studios don’t consider this is beyond me. With DTV coming on 2/17, and prices for blu-ray dropping, why would most moviegoers spend $11 for a presentation they will be getting at home…for free? This needs to be addressed.

Movie534, I mentioned on a thread called “NATO calls for equity for independent theaters” that there should be a 65/70MM myspace page or a fansite like it to get the young generation interested in 70MM DTS. You mentioned that you might know someone who knows how to go about it. If so, then I hope to see proposed page up soon. Of course, the site would have a link to the studies conducted by the 65/70MM workshop.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get my first theater open soon. Then I can hold a 70MM film festival.

CinemarkFan on November 13, 2008 at 3:46 pm

Oh my, I mentioned that thread, yet had no idea I was posting on said thread.

It’s been a long day, so maybe that’s why.

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