Digital possibilities: U.K. Conference emphasizes alternative-content options
More than 250 delegates from some 150 companies representing 14 countries attended Digital Cinema Solutions’ all-industry, all-digital event on March 7 at Vue Cinemas Westfield in West London, United Kingdom. “The conference went extremely well indeed, I’m pleased to say,” declares Nicole Oakley, one of the three directors of DCS.
Coming from as far away as the United Arab Emirates, the attendees “debated and discussed high frame rates, laser, immersive sound formats, content delivery, and new event cinema content,” Oakley details. “The day was rounded off by a session on marketing and audience development. We are absolutely delighted by the positive feedback we’ve had from delegate attendees and sponsor companies, and due to that feedback, we’re already having conversations about making this an annual event. Digital cinema provides so much material, food for thought and fascinating topics that the industry should be debating and discussing now and going forwards.”
Oliver Pasch, sales director for Europe with headline sponsor Sony Digital Cinema 4K, agrees. “The conference was a truly great event to be part of. The discussions that took place particularly around 4K and alternative content were fascinating. The U.K. cinema industry has fully embraced the digital era, but it is critical that we continue to progress,” he maintains. “Events like DCS, where the digital-cinema community really comes together, are critical to ensuring these benefits can be realized by those outside of Hollywood, and to ensuring the continued development of the industry overall.”
Oakley and her fellow directors, Rob Arthur and Derek Cownty, developed the idea for bringing together “industry suppliers, content distributors and cinema exhibitors to explore, debate and discuss the various topics around digital cinema” shortly after forming DCS in the summer of 2012. “Between us we have a large amount of contacts from our respective professional areas in the industry, which we knew would help putting together an event of this kind. We spoke to the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association here in the U.K. and they were very keen to run a similar conference. In fact, the CEA felt there would be a real appetite amongst exhibitors to attend such a one-day event.” Working out the details, CEA asked DCS to focus more on the technical side. “We duly extended and incorporated these sessions,” Oakley says, giving credit to the day’s presenters, moderators and panelists.
CEA’s chief executive, Phil Clapp, also attended to provide the latest on CineEurope, scheduled for June 24 to 27 in Barcelona, Spain. David Hancock, director, head of film and cinema at IHS Screen Digest, presented an overview of digital and 3D deployment in the morning and his “Alternative Content Update” during the afternoon.
During the morning program, “Technical Updates” were moderated by Steve Perrin, who would later receive the Industry Award for his “Outstanding Achievement in Digital Cinema.” The chief executive officer of U.K. Digital Funding Partnership welcomed key representatives from European Digital Cinema Forum (David Monk), Arts Alliance Media (Rich Phillips), SMPTE International (Richard Welsh) and Cinema Technology magazine (Jim Slater). Keith Pullinger, general manager and director of dcinex U.K., spoke about “Supporting Digital Cinema Systems—Challenges & Opportunities for Independent Exhibitors” before George Eyles, head of worldwide business development and strategic planning at Technicolor Digital Cinema, illuminated “Cost Efficiencies with Digital.” Eyles assembled panelists representing cinema advertising (Rod Wheeler, Unique Digital), exhibition (Gerald C. Buckle, Odeon/UCI Cinemas) and distribution (Richard Aseme, Paramount Pictures International).
“The afternoon was focused on alternative content and audience development/marketing,” Oakley continues. Not only did this programming choice “tie in well to the whole day, bringing another large and relevant area of debate to the event,” but “it also meant we could attract delegates from PR/communications agencies, retail and leisure companies and property developers… Instead of running two separate events, it made complete sense to collaborate with the CEA and their support was invaluable in getting the word out to independent operators particularly across the U.K.. We also worked with UNIC to reach out to operators in Europe.”
That European reach was part of the motivation to hold the conference now, Oakley addresses our question about its relevance, as the rollout is well into its final phase. “As digital conversion across Europe in some territories reaches its conclusion,” she explains, “there are still countries who are further behind in this journey and could learn from knowledgeable speakers and panel sessions we put together. Even though almost 95% of cinema screens in the U.K. are digital, we still felt strongly there were lots of questions to be answered and topics to be debated which would be invaluable and of great interest to all that attended.”
At the same time, DCS felt that “by recognizing and awarding Steve Perrin for his services to digital cinema, it was a great way of land-marking just how much has been achieved in the digital-cinema journey in the U.K.” In fact, it was high time to celebrate, Oakley found. “It’s very much now about embracing the technology and demonstrating what cinemas can do with it and how they can reach a new and incremental audience” with the help from opera, ballet, sports and “new types of event cinema” which were announced at the conference.
A promotional trailer that was recently launched by the Event Cinema Association (ECA, www.eventcinemaassociation.org) handily demonstrated all those opportunities and more. Kicking off the Arqiva-sponsored session under the title of “Success and Opportunity—Alternative Content Case Studies,” the spot is currently playing on 3,250 cinema screens in 12 countries and four languages, and will be further supported this summer by a dedicated consumer-centric site at www.livecinemaevents.com. “It’s truly a time for free-thinking innovation,” ECA chairman Melissa Keeping opines. “The only limits are our imagination, it seems—and it’s so exciting to be part of it.” Thanking her partners and “speakers from very diverse backgrounds,” she “can’t think of many other situations where you’d get the British Museum, the Royal Opera House, [the Cambridge Film Trust] and The Comedy Store all on one panel. The overlap isn’t exactly enormous, but the appeal to audiences about their content is a uniting factor, and everyone seems very excited to see where the British Museum takes this.”
Keeping is referring to the first live cinema event produced and staged by a museum. Two separate broadcasts to cinemas in the U.K. and Ireland (with a June 19 special offer to school groups) will offer what the British Museum promises to be an expert and intimate, private viewing of its exhibition about “Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.”
At Vue Westfield, the prospect of stand-up comedy nights in cinemas seemed to tickle the attendees. “The feedback I received was that it was probably the most entertaining of the day’s line-up because we had a stand-up comedian on the panel. Don Ward [owner and founder of The Comedy Store] brought the house down!”
Upbeat was the feeling following Sony’s session about “Past, Present & Future,” which featured feedback from production (cinematographer Nic Morris), distribution (Saul Mahoney of Walt Disney Studios) and exhibition (Andrew Myers of Everyman Media and Graham Spurling of Movies@). “4K technology is one of the key cinema trends for 2013,” Oliver Pasch shares with our readers. “We are going to see an increase in demand from both the consumers and the exhibitors… Sony is committed to equipping the entertainment sector with the tools and knowledge to ensure they can deliver the best possible experience to customers. We’re particularly excited about the impact 4K is going to have on the delivery of film in the future. You only have to look at this year’s Oscar nominations, where four of the nine films nominated for best picture are 4K, to understand the potential it has to transform film.”
On that note, Peter Buckingham of SampoMedia agreed that “Cinema Has Never Looked and Sounded Better.” Together with Cameron Saunders (20th Century Fox), Will Brown (PSA Comms) and Alex Stolz (the British Film Institute), the panel also wondered “But Do Our Customers Know It?”
Oakley agrees with that assessment. “To provide a cohesive message to the millions of customers who go to their local cinema week on week to watch films as well as alternative content on the big screen” is key to future success. “By coming together as an industry and debating these kinds of topics, we can tackle and hopefully agree on important and current issues,” she concludes. “It’s only by having these sorts of conversations that we can strengthen the message that cinema is a powerful force in our society and one that’s here to stay—more so now than ever as digital conversion is near completion or a good part of the way there in so many territories.”
Companies attending included:
20th Century Fox; Action Marketing Works; AMC Cinemas; Arqiva; Arts Alliance Media; Avanti Communications; Barco Ltd; BBC; BBC Worldwide Ltd; BBFC; Bite PR; British Film Institute; British Museum; British Video Association; Britvic Soft Drinks; Burrows Little (LPF); Cambridge Film Trust; Carlton Screen Advertising ; Christie Digital Systems Canada, Inc.; Cinelogistics; Cinema Digitaal; Cinema Exhibitors’ Association; Cinema Technology; CinemaLive; Cineplex Paradiso Ltd; Cinetech Ltd; Cineworld; City Screen Ltd; Coca Cola; Creative England; Creative Skillset; Cue Entertainment; Curzon Cinemas; Cushman & Wakefield LLP; Danish Cinema Association; dCinex; DCM; DCPI Ltd; Deloitte; Delta Group; Deluxe; Digital Funding Partnership; Digital Theatre; Dolby; Doremi Cinema; E3 Consulting; ECCO European Cinema Consulting GmbH; Eclipse Cinemas; European Digital Cinema Forum; Electric Cinema, Birmingham; Electric Palace (Harwich) Limited; Empire Cinemas; Empire Design; Eomac U.K. Ltd; Event Cinema Association; Everyman Media; Ellis Williams Architects; Film Distributors Association; Film London; filmbuyer.co.uk; Flix Innovations Ltd; Four Seasons Entertainment; GDC Digital Cinema Technology Europe; Golant Media Ventures; Grand Cinemas; Graves (Cumberland) Ltd; Harkness Screens; Haverhill Arts Centre; Hawthorne Theatre & Rollercity; HDDC; Highlands & Islands Enterprise; IHS Screen Digest; IMAX Corporation; Independent Cinema Office; IntoSolutions; Koch Media; Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation; Light House Media Centre; Lionsgate U.K. Ltd; Mars Chocolate U.K.; Mars Entertainment Turkey; MasterImage3D PLC; Missing in Action; More2Screen; Movies@; MyMovies.net; National Amusements; NEC Display Solutions; Nevafilm; NPH Cinema; Oban Phoenix; Odeon UCI Cinemas; Omniplex; Omniverse Vision; Organic Marketing; Paramount Pictures International; Parkway Entertainment Company; Pavilion Hailsham; Peach Digital Ltd; Pearl & Dean; Pinsent Masons LLP; PremierComms; PSA Comms; Pulse; Qube Cinema; RealD; Reel Cinemas; Regional Screen Scotland; Rentrak; Rich Mix Cinema; Royal Opera House Enterprises; Saffron Screen; SampoMedia; Scott Cinemas; ScreenTech; Screentrade; Show Film First; Sony Digital Cinema Europe; Sound Associates; SRP Risk & Finance LLP; SRP2 LLP; Stag Community Arts Centre; Strode Theatre; TDE Solutions Limited; Technicolor; The Ambassadors, Woking; The Comedy Store; The Eye Cinema; The Industry Trust; The Light Cinemas; The Picture House, Uckfield; The Thurso Cinema; Thinktank & The Giant Screen at Millennium Point; TLS U.K. Ltd; Triskel Arts Centre; UNIC; Unique Digital; Universal; utd. by content; Veezi; Vue Entertainment; Walt Disney; Warner Bros.; West World Media; WTW Cinemas; www.dmand.it.