Kelowna area cinemas going digital

As a movie fan, I found it to be a wondrous coincidence that this year’s Academy Award-winner for Best Picture was The Artist, a black and white silent film that adeptly illustrated the huge impact that the technological advancement of sound had on the movie industry.

It is a coincidence because we are currently in the midst of a technological change that could have as much or more of an impact.

And it was not just silent films to talkies: in the 100-plus years movies have been around the industry has also gone from black and white to colour; from monaural analog sound to six-channel digital stereo plus many other innovations that enhanced the movie going experience.

Now, the biggest technological leap in movies means the end of film.

As of this weekend, all of the Landmark Cinemas theatres in the Central Okanagan will be completely digital.

What does this mean for the average movie goer?

It means the best picture and sound possible.

The main disadvantage of film is that it has always been an imperfect medium: fragile and easily damaged plus very expensive to produce.

No longer will you see the classic image of film melting on-screen, scratches, reels in the wrong order or upside down and inconsistent sound.

The picture is brighter, clearer and steadier (no more picture weave or jiggle) on-screen and there is no more analog sound and even the digital sound is no longer compressed.

If there was any complaint about the digital picture, it is the same argument that is made about the change from vinyl records to CDs—it seems to lack a certain “warmth”.

This does not necessarily mean that movies

will not lose the look of film as many directors will continue to use film as a preferred medium to make movies, especially if they want their project to have a certain look.

Another big advantage of digital over film is the cost of distribution.

Whereas a print of film could cost $2000-$3,000 to produce, a digital copy of a movie costs about as much as a hard drive—and they can be reused.

Not only will this save the movie companies billions of dollars but the reduced cost will give more opportunity for independent filmmakers to get their movies into theatres.

Although the big distributors (like Paramount and Universal, both of which are celebrating their centennials this year) will still be the powerhouses, we might see more competition from smaller distributors.

However, the move away from film has been costly for the iconic Eastman Kodak Company as earlier this year it filed for bankruptcy protection.

Fifteen years ago, James Cameron used Kodak Film to make his epic Titanic but digital is allowing James Cameron to re-imagine it into a 3D experience for fans and a whole new generation.

It is also not lost on me that pictures of the actual Titanic taken 100 years ago were likely on Kodak film. Also filmed with Kodak stock and 13 years after American Pie was released, the original cast reunites for the suitably named American Reunion, in theatres this weekend.

Rick Davis is the manager of the Capitol Theatre in West Kelowna.



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