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Old 03-01-2005, 03:28 PM   #1
clive
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What the UK HD cinema network means to indies

As you'll have seen in a recent thread the UK Film Council has just invested 11.7 million in setting up 250 cinemas in the UK with HD decks and 2K HD projectors. Athough this hasn't been confirmed, you can almost guarantee that these will be the art house cinemas that currently depend on Film Council support.

I've spent the last couple of days talking to the Film Council and what seems obvious is that the distributors are using the UK as a test market for digital distribution and projection.

The implications for this is if the technology is sucessful and the standards are as good as 35mm then HD is looking to be the playout format of choice for the cinema industry. It's got lots of advantages for the distributors, cheaper, no scratches and loss of image quality etc. etc.

For the indie film-maker this has profound business applications. It means that a film maker with a HD master can get a 250 cinema run without the expense of film prints. As there are already nearly 300 HD cinemas in the rest of Europe, that means that you can have 500 cinema run in the European territory alone. Potentially that means the distributor is looking at a minumum 75,000 return on a HD European cinema run alone, which makes a lot more digital film projects fiancially viable.

This expanding network is going to create demand for a HD originated projects and in fact a small number of companies have now started who only distribute HD.

This combined with the growth of HDTV in the US and Japan means that HD is rapidly carving out an infrastructure in exaclty the market places that indie arthosue films normally do business.

There is more to come on these changes to the business and I'll try to keep you up to date as the story unfolds. There is, in fact, more going on behind the scenes. What I can say is that things are changing and at the moemnt it seems that it's changing in our favour.

Last edited by clive; 03-01-2005 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 03-02-2005, 12:51 AM   #2
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Here in the US there have been a couple of attempts at digital theatre distribution.

One is Emerging Pictures, lead by indie veteran Ira Deutchman.

Landmark theatres have implemented digital projection, although I don't think that has translated into better indie distribution opportunities.

Despite digital projection Landmark exclusively books the "major independents" (Searchlight, Focus, etc.) on the whole. These are definitely not $150k-250k productions. Btw they also run a commercial before the films, where a British supermodel states that "the home of independent cinema is landmark".. Hmm.

But I have no doubt it will be better in the UK, where independent filmmaking is judged worthy of nominal protection from naked market forces.
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Old 03-02-2005, 08:38 AM   #3
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Thanks for the additional info about the US market, I'll look into it.

However, all I can say is that there are other things going on here, some of which I just can't talk about right now.

However, one of the major differences between the US and the UK initiative is that here the projection systems are being funding by the Film Council whose remit is to increase distribution opportunities for UK film makers.

Whilst it's true that the main indie distributors will provide most of the content, it is also true that the existence of the network changes the maths for distributors in the favour of digital film makers like myself who work on HD.

Digital film distribution and projection isn't a pancea that will magically allow bad films to sell, but it does drive down distribution costs for the distributors and that means that the distributors can take take on and distribute films that currently they can't afford too. The issue about whether they will or not then becomes a marketing issue. The truth is that all this network does (at the moment) is alter the maths in our favour.

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Despite digital projection Landmark exclusively books the "major independents" (Searchlight, Focus, etc.) on the whole. These are definitely not $150k-250k productions. Btw they also run a commercial before the films, where a British supermodel states that "the home of independent cinema is landmark".. Hmm.
I don't think that these intiatives will really benefit the $150K-$250K filmmaker (unless they can complete a HD master on that kind of budget). It's really going to help the $500,000 to $2 million filmmakers.

Last edited by clive; 03-02-2005 at 08:43 AM.
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