Digital Age Ushers in Epic Cinema Changes

Written by Mattew Goodman on . Posted in Cross media


Play Games, Watch Football or Learn Eye Surgery

This Saturday some young film fans won't be going to the cinema simply to watch Cars, Disney's new animated film about motor racing; they'll be able to race them, too.

Cars - watch them race, or in some cinemas, drive them on the big screen

At Shepherds Bush in west London and six other Vue cinemas around Britain, youngsters will be able to play the computer game based on the new movie on the big screen.


Two players will be able to race each other at the same time, and there will be prizes for the fastest lap at the end of the day. Afterwards, they can, of course, buy a ticket to watch the movie itself.

"I don't care how good your home-entertainment system is," said Steve Knibbs, chief operating officer of Vue Entertainment. "Compare that with playing on a 40-foot screen with people watching you."

The ability to lay on an event such as this is the result of the installation of digital projectors in cinemas.

Traditional analogue equipment is able only to project reels of film on to the big screen. But digital projectors open up a range of new possibilities. For instance, they allow exhibitors to provide video games or broadcast live events, such as football matches or pop concerts. They could even be used by companies for sales demonstrations or lectures.

They also allow cinemas to become more flexible with the films they show. A piece of celluloid for an analogue projector is heavy, unwieldy and expensive to produce. Digital films are much easier, like changing a cartridge on a video-games console, and a fraction of the cost to produce. For a chain such as Cineworld, which prides itself on screening films tailored to its local customer base, such as showing Bollywood movies in areas with large Indian populations, it will make life much easier.

While the technology for digital cinema has been around for years, it is only now starting to take a foothold in the UK. Of approximately 3,500 cinema screens in Britain, about 260 have been converted to digital. Worldwide, there are 849 digital screens. By 2010, it is forecast there will be 17,000.

Full report published in The Sunday Times