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Using technology to bring spectacle back to cinema

Declining cinema attendance in Europe means that a greater focus on higher-resolution images and immersive technologies is inevitable, writes David Davies.

The last decade has arguably been the most erratic period in the history of modern cinema. Whilst there has been spectacular growth in some developing markets, long-established cinema regions such as the US and Europe have reported fluctuating visitor numbers.

In 2017, movie attendance in the US hit a 25-year low, whilst in the EU box office revenues fell by 3.3% in 2018. 2019 is hardly likely to be a milestone year either, with global ticket sales down by 6% in the first half of 2019, according to Box Office Mojo.

‘Franchise fatigue’ and a prevalence of sequels have surely played their part, but so has increased competition from on-demand and streaming media.

In this context, it’s not surprising that we have lately witnessed a wave of upgrades in which operators have sought to enrich and distinguish the cinema experience through the use of improved images and sound, as well as other technologies aimed at making cinema attendance more immersive.

From laser light projectors to 4K HDR to object-based audio, there is no shortage of devices by which to secure and retain customer interest.

However, most operators realise that technology is only one part of the mix. As such, there is now a greater focus on delivering a pleasurable experience from ticket purchasing to exiting the venue at the end of the screening. As Alain Chamaillard, head of cinema EMEA and CIS at NEC Display Solutions Europe, remarks: “The key to kickstarting a renaissance in cinema is to concentrate on making moviegoing a special experience again. Auditorium technologies like 4K and 3D are obviously important, but so is creating a unique experience throughout venues.”

‘Pin-sharp’ laser imagery

Acknowledging this period of change in the cinema industry, NEC showcased a raft of new products at CineEurope in June, including the new NC2402ML projector – described as the first cinema projector to integrate a modular laser light system with a projector head.

According to the company, the result is ‘pin-sharp laser imagery’, with the modular approach allowing cinema venues to plug-in the appropriate light modules based on the required brightness.

The product arrives during a period “when a lot of the [original projectors for digital cinema] purchased about ten years ago are nearing end-of-life, and so cinema operators are thinking about purchasing new equipment,” says Mark Kendall, business development digital cinema EMEA, NEC Display Solutions…

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