September 1, 2009
By Nazir Keshvani
While audiences are finding alternatives for their entertainment through the internet, gaming and home cinema, filmmakers have woken up to the fact that there is more revenue to be had from stereoscopic 3D films. A more cynical view is that the studios are using stereoscopic as a tool to pressure the screen owners to upgrade to digital projection. With major openings occupying as many as 4,000 screens in the USA alone, there is a huge financial incentive for the studios to want to move to digital projection where virtual print costs are low and distribution can eventually be entirely digital. Asia contains some of the largest and fastest-growing cinema markets in the world and some of its film industries are also developing quickly, not only in their domestic markets but increasingly as exporters to neighbouring countries. Upgrading to digital can require substantial investment per screen for the digital projector and the stereoscopic system from the likes of Dolby or RealD. That’s a huge investment from the screen owners with most of the benefits going to the studios rather than them. This has resolved itself over the last few years with a variety of complex deals between major banks, studios, technology vendors and theatre owners to secure the necessary investment with costs being shared. By pushing the promise of additional revenues from stereoscopic releases, the studios have persuaded the screen owners to upgrade to digital. Regardless of whether those additional revenues materialise or not, the studios win by cutting out the costs of physical film print and distribution.