Cinema is Getting Exciting Again – Review of 2015

Introduction

cinema-314354_1280In 2015, either myself or my deputy editor Vicky Mansfield, posted nearly 2000 news stories to this website, covering a variety of different topics, bringing the total stories available to over 13,000 and means that an average of 5 new stories are added everyday. So as we start 2016 I thought that it was worth having a review of 2015 and link it to an article which are started to write in June 2015 about how exciting cinema was becoming again.

And just before the end of 2015 cinema celebrated it’s 120th anniversary. So by way of an introduction here is a video which was made as a celebration of that achievement showing 120 years in 120 seconds:

For the first time in a quiet a while I am getting quite excited about cinema going again. Most of the last ten years cinema exhibition has been concentrating on the move from 35mm to digital. There have been a few new developments and improvements alongside this major change, but not huge amounts ‘front of house’. Now that the majority of the world has now completed and companies are becoming both comfortable and familiar with the new technology we are beginning to see a whole range of new developments starting to come through. This article therefore is not going to look at some of the innovations which are happening in terms of the distribution of the content via systems such as LANSat and DCinex or the further development of Theatre Management Systems, which are becoming Circuit Management Systems – I think that can be the subject of another future one.

It is fair to say that much of the ‘new’ technology is not new at all, with any amount of the techniques being tried out in the past, but this time technology has made it both cheaper and easier to both install and to reproduce.

When I first started writing this article I thought that I would be able to easily divide it up into specific sections to talk about, but as I started working on it I realised that many of the elements overlap or feature in more than one section. The other thing which became apparent is that all of the new technologies are all about ‘Experience Cinema’. For the purposes of this article I have left it as its own separate heading.


Immersive Sound

Sound in cinema has been developing constantly, but nothing quite as dramatically as the move to immersive sound. I am also going to include the development of object based sound reproduction, because this is also a major change and improvement. There are several players in this area at the moment namely, Dolby Atmos, Barco Auro and DTS. In many ways this is now becoming quite old as it has been in cinemas for a number of years.

I have had the opportunity to hear films in Dolby Atmos and it does add something to them.

Dolby Atmos

First launched in June 2012  Dolby Atmos is now in over 2000 screens as of February 2015, according to Wikipedia. Apart from putting sound into the ceilings it also introduces the idea of object based rather channel based sound. This has the advantage of being able to more accurately reproduce sound in each auditorium in the same way as the sound processor is able to calculate where the sound is meant to be.

Is Dolby Atmos the future of cinema sound?
http://www.techradar.com/news/audio/is-dolby-atmos-the-future-of-cinema-sound-1088428

Barco Auro

“The Auro 11.1 cinema sound format adds two additional layers of sound to the existing 5.1 surround sound layer. The Auro 11.1 format incorporates a height and overhead channel which allow for sound with sound waves coming from every direction. In this way, Auro 11.1 aims to create a realistic and natural immersive audio experience.” (Wikipedia). In 2015 an object based version of Auro was released Auro Max, and promotional film explaining more can be seen below:

And more information can be found here: http://www.barco.com/en/Auro11-1

Christie Vive Audio

Although not an immersive sound system in the purest sense as talked about above, it is being included here because it is a system which is designed to provide the best possible sound reproduction to everyone in the auditorium no matter where they are sitting and works in conjunction with Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro systems.

You can learn more about what Christie Vive Audio is aiming to do with their ribbon drivers here:

and also this video here:

More information on Christie Vive Audio can be found here: https://www.christiedigital.com/en-us/cinema-sound-systems/pages/vive-audio.html


Dolby Cinema

Dolby Cinema is probably going to be one of the biggest connectable revolutions which the cinema going public will see this decade, if all the press reports and reviews are anything to go on. More so than perhaps some of the other developments which are being discussed here in this article. What better way to explain what Dolby Cinema is all about than to use the description from their website:

Dolby Cinema is designed to transform your visit into an event. As you enter the cinema, a signature entrance and dynamic audio/video pathway launch your journey into the movie. Inside, you find atmospheric lighting, premium seats with ideal sight lines, a room that is carefully designed to minimize distractions, and a curved wall-to-wall-to-ceiling screen. Every aspect of the design comes together to make the experience uniquely immersive, powerful, and memorable.” (Source: http://www.dolby.com/in/en/platforms/dolby-cinema.html)

This video explains more about Dolby Cinema:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/82830430

And here are some choice articles on the subject:

Why Dolby Vision and HDR is the future of TV and cinema
Read more at http://www.trustedreviews.com/opinions/should-you-next-tv-have-dolby-vision#4TZBdDZktj2deddT.99

How Dolby Vision Works, and How It Could Revolutionize TVs Forever
http://gizmodo.com/how-dolby-vision-works-and-how-it-could-revolutionize-1594894563

I think for me it is that Dolby are thinking about the whole experience of cinema going here, not just one specific area, including what happens on the way into the auditorium. There is then a technical difference with the sound and picture aspects of the movie experience as well. It is fair to say that elements of Dolby Cinema are being experience through other technologies too, such as sound, large screen, things which in general are making up the Premium Format Experience.

You can get more information about Dolby Cinema and Dolby Vision, via their website: http://www.dolby.com/in/en/platforms/dolby-cinema.html


Experience Cinema

As I explained earlier in the article I think that ‘Experience Cinema’ is both a topic in its own right, but also that all the other innovations that are mentioned here go towards making an important cinema going experience. In fact people are beginning to get tired or hearing about ‘experience’ cinema or other ‘experience’ events, although it is definitely still a really important part of cinema going and getting people to watch movies at the cinema, whatever the type of cinema is.

Although it is not a technology in it’s own right, it is an important part of the ‘experience’ cinema element which we are seeing happening and provides an interesting combination of cinema and theatre which leaves the audience remembering their time for years to come. It is of course Secret Cinema. I have included below the latest highlights film from Secret Cinema of their summer 2015 production of Star wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Secret Cinema starts to represent a slightly different aspect of cinema going compared to other technologies discussed here. Firstly it is not strictly a technology and secondly it is not something which can easily be reproduced in every town and village across the country in the way that any of the other technology discussed here. However, I include it because digital technology has helped to make it possible to show films in different locations and in different and imaginative ways and because it offers the audience an ‘experience’. More information on Secret Cinema can be found here:  http://www.secretcinema.org/


reelXperience

RXP+-+WhiteAt a time when US box-office attendances are in decline, moviegoers need something thrilling and novel to get them off the couch and out of the house. Chris Ratner explains how reelXperience Entertainment plans a completely new concept in feature film exhibition that truly brings movies to life in a spectacular interactive movie experience. With more than a year of development already completed, and additional investment and partnership opportunities available for a planned launch in 2017, reelXperience Entertainment integrates aspects of feature films into live interactive performances and sets inspired by the motion pictures. The result is claimed to be the ultimate immersion experience, bringing the magic of movies traditional and new to life with an authentic experience to bring people back to the movies.

You can read more about reelXperience Entertainment and the interview I did with the CEO Chris Ratnor in summer 2015 here: Coming Soon to Save the Movies.


Immersive Cinema

I have included this heading here because I wanted to briefly talk about the below panel session at a conference in America last year and to acknowledge that everything which is being talked about in this article goes in part to making cinema more immersive to our senses, just as Cinerama did in the 1950s and 60s. There is a whole article in it’s own right to be written on this topic and is slightly outside of the scope of this one specifically, however, all of the above technologies are really about the ‘Immersive Cinema’ experience. In October 2015 there was a panel session as part of the Digital Hollywood conference (http://www.digitalhollywood.com/) which included a topic of: Immersive Cinema in Out of Home: From the Theme Parks to Movie Theatres and Amusement Parks. This is the start of a new topic, although linked to this article. You can watch the session here:


Lazer

There have been a few different light sources over the history of the cinema projector. The main work horse was the carbon arc followed by the Xenon Lamp, and in more recent years Mercury lamps have been added for use in digital projection equipment. However, Laser light sources are about to have a major impact on the whole industry, and that includes the cinema going public. At this stage of course it is possible that if you are talking about lighting levels then you should also be talking about cinema screen developments, but for the purposes of this article they will be left for another day.

Below is one of Mark Kermode’s Uncut videos he makes where gives his thoughts on the technology, and some basic explanation of what it is all about:

And now for the slightly more technical video of one of the versions of laser:

How does it work:

Manufacture Links
Each of the key cinema projection manufacturers have their own dedicated websites on the subject, so rather than talk about them here, I will just provide their links below:

Sony: Looking forward to laser projection
http://www.sony.co.uk/pro/article/digital-cinema-lighting-cinema-screens

Christie: Laser illumination technology
https://www.christiedigital.com/en-us/display-technology/laser-projection

Barco:
http://www.barco.com/en/News/Tag/laser%20projection

NEC:
https://www.nec-display-solutions.com/p/ssl/en/home.xhtml

IMAX Laser
IMAX have invested a large amount of money into developing their laser solution for their projection system. The Empire Leicester Square was the first IMAX in Europe to receive the new laser technology in 2015 in time for the release of James Bond film Spectre, below is a featurette made to celebrate the laser technology:


Premium Large Format Venues

There have been a number of PLM’s over the years since the concept of cinema as we know it today. I would argue one of the first was Cinerama, followed in more recent times by IMAX. It was a fairly rare form of cinema because it was more expensive. However with the advent of digital technology it has become a lot easier to create bigger viewing environments. All of the four major projector manufacturers have built projectors and solutions to allow the image to be projected on the biggest possible screens with the loudest possible sound systems. All of the cinema chains have their own versions of their large formats.

The website Movietickets.com came up with this definition, which is a good summary:

Premium Large Format is transforming the movie-going experience with extra-large screens that stretch from floor to ceiling, providing audiences a bigger and more immersive presentation than ever before. The viewing experience goes beyond the giant screen: combined with the enhanced sound systems, plush, upgraded seats and other special amenities, moviegoers can now see Hollywood blockbusters in the ultimate viewing environment.

The Celluloid Junkie website has a very informative web post on Premium Large Format, so rather than write my own version, I will just point over to that: http://celluloidjunkie.com/2015/09/29/plf-investment-next-generation-cinema-exhibition/ and to further posts on Celluloid Junkie’s site here: http://celluloidjunkie.com/category/large-format/

And some useful and interesting articles on the topic:

Digital solutions for premium large format theatres
https://www.christiedigital.com/en-us/cinema/applications/giant-screens

Battle for the Bigger Screen
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/business/media/battle-for-the-bigger-screen.html?_r=0

A bigger picture: Tracking the growth of Premium Large Format
http://www.filmjournal.com/content/bigger-picture-tracking-growth-premium-large-format

IF Examiner
http://www.lfexaminer.com/formats.htm


Philips LightVibes

See What Light Can Do - vs.7b-page-001Philips LightVibes® transforms the cinema experience by bringing new excitement and impact to musical performances, live broadcasts, feature films, advertising, and other on-screen content. This revolutionary innovation delivers compelling, subtle ambient lighting to every viewer’s peripheral vision, intensifying the experience of watching onscreen content. No matter what an audience sees, LightVibes makes it feel more real.

Below is a promotional video for the product:

You can read more about Philips Lightvibes and what I think of it in this article I wrote in 2015.


ScreenX

There is not a huge amount of information relating to ScreenX, partly because it is one of the smaller of the technology companies at the moment and partly because it is mainly based in Korea, although that will inevitably change over time. ScreenX uses three screens and three projectors to expand the image. You can see the ScreenX promotional video here:

 

At the moment ScreenX is still relatively small with 70 screens in Korea and one overseas screen in Thailand.

Cinerama-Like ScreenX Targeting U.S. Film Market

More information on ScreenX can be found on their website here: http://screenx.co.kr/en/


4DX

4DX is a motion picture technology owned and developed by South Korean company CJ 4DPLEX, a part of the CJ Group. 4DX allows a motion picture presentation to be augmented with environmental effects such as seat motion, wind, rain, fog, lights, and scents along with the standard video and audio.

Fashion tends to go around in circles as does technology and certainly technology in cinema – 3D to name just one such technology. A few years ago D-Box was introduced to a number of cinemas which was the start of the immersive experience, and of course for many years there has been 4D at theme parks and funfairs (sometimes known as called 5D).

Unlike the 4D or 5D which we have become familiar with seeing in theme parks the 4DX product is designed to work with major Hollywood titles. Each 4DX auditorium incorporates motion-based seating synchronised with over 20 different effects and allowing everyone in the theatre to experience special effects through motion, wind, bubbles, fog, lighting and scents which are designed to enhance the visuals on the screen.

It is my understanding that there is a separate control system which is linked to the cinema server which receives a data file for the 4DX and it is this which makes the effects work which means that the system just requires an ‘ordinary’ DCP rather than have a whole new version created.

However 4DX has been around for nearly half a decade having launched in 2009 with screens in Korea and then spreading around the world with partnerships in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Russia, Hungary, Poland, Czech, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and later this year Live Regal Cinemas in L.A.

The first film to experience the 4DX technology was Avatar there are now more than 140 movie titles with 4DX including: Frozen, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Gravity, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Transformers: Dark of the Moon. 600,000 members of the audience experienced Frozen and the Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 4DX.

But it is not just Hollywood titles which are having the 4DX experience added to them with a number of Event Cinema concerts in China, Taiwan and Indonesia seeing 80-90% occupancy.

The first 4DX screen opened in the UK at the Cineworld, Milton Keynes in early 2015 (30 years after the first multiplex in the also opened in Milton Keynes). Below is a report from Sky News on its opening:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Gtcjn4uvjE?t=35

In the last few weeks of 2015 the company celebrated reaching their 200th screen worldwide:

More information can be found on their website: http://www.cj4dx.com.


Barco Escape

Barco Escape reminds me and many others of a modern version of Cinerama in the auditorium, with its use of three screens and three projectors.

Back in October 2014 I was lucky enough to see a presentation of MazeRunner in Barco Escape in Antwerp. You can read my article I wrote on it for Cinema Technology Magazine here: Barco Escape® … it’s everywhere around you!

But this video will give you an idea of what it is all about:

During 2015 however there have been a number of improvements, developments and announcements from Barco about Escape that can be read via my website here.

More information on Barco Escape can be found via their dedicated website here: http://www.ready2escape.com/


Conclusion

The above demonstrates just how exciting cinema going is becoming again. There are now so many reasons to go out to the cinema to ‘experience’ a movie. There is more choice than ever before. It does raise a hugh number of questions in terms of investment and returns for the cinema owners and also for the content creators. Nearly everyone of the different innovations above require something different in terms of how the content is played back and distributed. This is something which was highlighted by UNIC in a statement published at the end of November 2015.

But the result is that for the first time in a long time I have lots of reasons to go back to watching films at the cinema, quite aside from all the wonderful independent cinemas with their beautiful auditoriums. And it is hopefully a reason to encourage the public to also return to the cinema.

So as I said at the very beginning of this article, Cinema is Getting Exciting Again, and that’s good.

curtain-812222_1280