Cinema: The best entertainment value
American film productions achieved worldwide box-office revenues of $36 billion (€26 billion) in 2013. That’s a record! Cinema is expanding worldwide and the momentum in film production continues unabated. An average of 13 new cinema screens are erected every day in China. This year should also see 200 new screens going up in Pakistan. Cinema is growing fast in India, too, with Latin America and Russia not far behind.
The cinema market is becoming more global, which means that global trends, as well as various local preferences from different markets, now come together to be included in new film productions. The productions are varied, the genres diverse. Cinema is a large and comprehensive source of perfect leisure entertainment.
Nevertheless, the year 2013 was a bit difficult and 2014 will be as well, especially in mature markets such as North America and Western Europe. The dynamics of growth in new markets are still providing a fillip to the film industry, however. In more traditional markets, there are many side effects that are having a negative impact on the total number of visitors. The weather deserves mention here, but even more important is the impact of major sporting events and other mega-events in various countries. The 2014 World Cup is one example. During this time, cinema will of course be forced into a less noticeable role and briefly replaced by soccer. Debuts are set to occur before and after the World Cup, during which only smaller productions will tend to be released. This will naturally affect consumer spending and the number of tickets sold.
In 2015 we expect big blockbusters that should be unaffected by sports or other major planned events. A new James Bond film is to be released, followed by a resumption of the sequel to Fast & Furious. At the end of the year, we can look forward to George Lucas’ film version of Star Wars: Episode VII.
The major productions are enjoying ever-improving quality in theatres; operators are constantly called upon to upgrade their cinemas. The digital revolution in film projection is now being followed by the expansion of three-dimensional sound. Sound formats like Dolby Atmos and Barco Auro are conquering cinemas and delighting audiences with multichannel sound. The number of speakers in cinema auditoriums is increasing, and positioning them on the ceilings now allows three-dimensional sound quality, which audiences particularly enjoy. As far as projection goes, digital projection is now heading toward 4K, which corresponds to eight times the resolution of what we have so far witnessed and considered to be perfect. Image frequency is also sometimes raised (high frame rate) to 48 frames per second. This allows for particularly sharp images and eliminates any blurriness in 3D projection.
The greatest technical innovation in the field of projection is yet to come, however: laser projection. Major technology developers are working hard to bring this new projection system to market. Manufacturers like Sony, Christie and IMAX plan to offer laser projectors that provide an even wider color gamut and even better light intensity. Laser projection is expected to be ready for the market in 2016.
Cinemas are also investing in constantly improving seating comfort. There is a trend towards wider seats and VIP auditoriums or VIP rows in larger auditoriums. The last two to three rows are equipped with comfortable leather armchairs with greater legroom and small tables between them for stowing popcorn, Coca-Cola, or handbags.
All these developments are happening constantly. Cinema operators are meeting the challenge and are willing to make the necessary investments. This is the only way to constantly renew audiences’ enthusiasm.
If we look at all the investments in image and sound and at the stories that great filmmakers are telling us, we can see it clearly: All this is a fantastic experience which the home cinema could never offer. The big screen is something unique. The cinema experience is also special because audiences experience films together with others. The shared experience is always a reason why a lot of money is spent on certain leisure activities like pop concerts, ski races, football games between top teams, and even Formula 1 races, where ticket prices are often between €50 and €150. If we bear in mind that visitors in Western Europe pay an average of about €8 for a cinema ticket and get over two hours of perfect entertainment, it is obvious that cinema has “the best entertainment value."