Advanced Television

Celluloid cinema dying fast

November 16, 2011

By Chris Forrester

The world’s cinemas are abandoning celluloid film as an exhibition medium at a rapid rate. Research company IHS-Screen Digest has reported that early 2012 will see the number of ‘digital’ screens exceeding the number of celluloid projection screens for the first time.

Having reached this tipping point the downward spiral of celluloid use will see digital delivery quickly dominate distribution of movies. By the end of 2012 some 63 per cent of theatres will be all-digital, rising to 71 percent during 2013 and 77 per cent by 2014.

“January 2012 will mark the crossover point when digital technology overtakes 35mm,” says IHS-Screen Digest. “By the end of 2012, the share of 35mm will decline to 37 per cent of global cinema screens, with digital accounting for the remaining 63 per cent. This represents a dramatic decline for 35mm, which was used in 68 percent of global cinema screens in 2010. In 2015, 35mm will be used in just 17 per cent of global movie screens, relegating it to a niche projection format.

“Since 1889, 35mm has been the principal film projection technology, taking movie audiences from the slapstick of the silent age, through the great musicals of the sound era, to the epoch of the summer blockbuster,” said David Hancock, head of film and cinema research at IHS. “However, after 10 years of market priming, movie theaters now are undergoing a rapid transition to digital technology, spurred initially by the rising popularity of 3D films. This is resulting in the rapid decline of 35mm, first losing its status as the dominant cinema technology in early 2012—and then causing it to dwindle to insignificance in four years.”

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