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What is Digital Cinema?

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Digital cinema refers to the use of digital technology to distribute and project motion pictures. A movie can be distributed via hard drives, optical disks (such as DVDs) or satellite and projected using a digital projector instead of a conventional film projector.

Digital Cinema is an emerging technology, which is less than 5 years old. It is certainly going to change the face of theater projection, and the future holds good prospects for theater owners, distributors and producers as digital cinema is increasingly embraced by the film industry.

Indian Cinema, in the last 20 years, has evolved & revolutionized the way we perceived movies. A lot has changed since then thanks to the changing taste of viewers, young & unlimited pool of talent. But the most important aspect to this change was Technology.
Traditionally, films in India were released with around 60-400 celluloid prints. These prints were mainly released in metro and major cities. Even tier 2 and tier 3 cities, leave aside rural centers, used to get these prints after few weeks of release, depending upon the Box-office success of a film. Now a days, the life of a film on Box-office is limited to just a few days. One can easily get a pirated CD/DVD of any new release within a few days in a road side shop. By the time, a theatre in tier 2 or tier 3 cities gets celluloid print; the viewers are not interested in going to cinema halls as they have already seen the film either on a CD/DVD or through local cable. This had affected the health of such theatres very adversely. Most of them were suffering huge losses and were on the brink of closure. The major stumbling block in releasing a film with higher number of celluloid prints was the cost of making a print which on an average is around Rs 60,000 per print. If a film flops, this entire additional cost is a direct loss as there are no takers for a flop film.

In India there are 3 technology players in digital cinema, Real Image, Kalasa (representing GDC’s DSR digital cinema) and UFO Moviez. Worldwide, there are more than 5 digital cinema players besides the above mentioned 3 technology providers.

UFO movies visualized & implemented Digital Cinema across the country to provide a solution to these problems. With its pioneering technology, any film can be converted to a digital print at literally no cost. UFO today has a network of more than 2000 screens in India spread around 1000 locations including metros, cities, and townships and in rural areas. With its unique satellite based delivery, films are downloaded in theatres across India with a move of a mouse. The cost of a digital print is just a fraction of what it is for a celluloid print. The theatres which used to get a new film after months, now gets the same on “First Day First Show” basis.

This has changed the entire economics for such theatre owners. As they get films simultaneously with the release, they get good number of viewers and hence hugely enhanced box office collections. Narendra Talkies in Aurangabad, Bihar is one such example that can be added to the success story of UFO’s Digital System. “We now receive films as & when they release. With the ‘first day – first show’ regime, our theater is enjoying the benefits of increased revenues” says Varun Kumar, owner of Narendra Talkies.
With such theaters earning good money, the look & feel of theaters has been revamped to provide a more elite ambiance. Theater owners even in tier 3 cities have started investing in AC systems and to provide for better amenities for viewers as they are sure of getting first day release and are earning money.
UFO’s digital technologies had thus broken new paths to ensure the reach of cinema all over India. UFO believes in valuing their customers by providing them with integrated solutions & networks which enhance the whole experience of watching movies in theaters.

Digital Cinema In India

India too has been a part of Digital Cinema revolution for some time now. The first and foremost requirement for digital cinema is to have theatres which can play back the movies in digital format. Replacing those old Analogue projectors with a digital projector is a herculean task. However, theatres are shifting fast to digital screening and majority of movies made in India are now released both in Digital as well as celluloid form.

The Growth of Digital Cinema In India

Do you know, today in India, for every 100 celluloid prints released for a Bollywood Film, 180 digital prints are released? It would be wrong to say that this digital movement will slowly take over celluloid prints because this change is happening fast and before you know it, I will be calling celluloid cinema “primitive”.

Let’s look at digital cinema and its benefits from the distributor’s perspective.

Distributors’ perspective

1. Saving on Print & Distribution Costs: Celluloid prints are expensive as each print costs around Rs 60,000. With the new digital cinema technology, this print cost is reduced to a fraction of the original cost. Also, digital movies are basically big computer files which can be written on a Hard disk or transmitted via satellite which leads to virtually no shipping costs.

2.Wide Spread Release: Releasing a movie in the urban theatres as well as making sure it reaches the most remote areas at the same time was a complicated task. With limited number of prints in hand, distributors had to be selective about which theatres would attain them first. It however resulted in reaching the urban or metropolitan theatres first for obvious reason. Digital cinema made transferring movies is an easier task as compared to earlier days where movie reels were made to be circulated across several theatres. This distribution system can easily showcase movies in theaters all over the country on the same day.

3. Long Print Life: Celluloid print is subject to wear and tear. As time elapses, the quality of shows using the same print deteriorates. Subsequently, if the same print is sent to rural areas for the premier show of the same movie, customers in rural areas were deprived of watching movies in high quality. On the other hand, digital cinema ensures high quality regardless of the number of shows using the same print.

4. Curb on Piracy: One of the major drawbacks with celluloid print has been piracy. Due to delayed releases in most of the regions, camera prints of the movie would be available in such areas before the official release. Digital technology has enabled global releases and thereby decreased piracy. Also, digital cinemas stored and distributed are highly encrypted which again minimizes piracy concerns.

Given the above points, it is quite evident that digital cinema not only makes the life of a distributor easy but also adds to the profitability factor for the business of cinema from his perspective. Digital Cinema has helped to overcome a distributor’s major woe of timely reach & has thus enabled them to take advantage of newer opportunities.


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