Other than a few cinemas in India, and pockets of specialist 35mm projection, the world’s cinemas are now totally digital. A report from IHS Technology says that more than 155,000 screens around the world are now available to distributors.
The shift to digital projection started in 2005 with the establishing of the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) standards and is now complete. Moreover, and despite constant rumours of its demise, some 87,000 remain capable of showing 3D programming at the end of last year and the technology remains “active” says IHS.
The shift to digital has gathered space this past year or two with the emergence of China as a major consumer and theatrical distributor of 3D digital movies and now with more than 40,000 screens in the country.
Premium Large Format screens (at 2500+) are still a major driver despite the proliferation of small-screen multiplexes. But IHS says that this has also led to a proliferation of formats and variations, and a major film can have “well over 500 versions going out of the lab”, because of the range of video image, audio, premium and language versions making up the permutations.
IHS explains that cinema technology is not standing still. High Dynamic Range is beginning to emerge (although not helped by the commercial failure of Ang Lee’s ‘Billy Lynn’s Half-Time Walk’) and immersive audio is proving popular with audiences. There’s also 4D (mostly from Korea) and Immersive motion seating and installed at some 615 screens, as well as Virtual Reality.