It's the Beginning of the End for 35mm as Worldwide D-Cinema Roll-out Accelerates

Twentieth Century Fox International says it will stop shipping film prints to theaters in Hong Kong and Macau at the end of 2011. Starting next year, all Fox movies will be provided exclusively in digital cinema versions.
By 2012, Fox expects more than 95 percent of theater screens in Hong Kong and Macau will be digital. “The entire Asia-Pacific region has been rapidly deploying digital cinema systems, and over the next two years we expect to be announcing additional markets where supply of 35mm will be phased out,” said Fox International executive Sunder Kimatrai in a prepared statement.

Obviously, the U.S. market is a long way from having 35mm film prints pulled from circulation entirely, but there should be little doubt that the day will eventually come when only certain specialty venues – maybe including old-school IMAX theaters – will still have the needed 35mm equipment up in the projection booth.

In stateside digital-exhibition news, Cinedigm Digital Cinema, which claims responsibilty for rolling out almost one-third of all digital screens in North America, said it had signed up more than 9,000 screens total for its ongoing digital cinema deployment. “With just over 12 months remaining before the end of our rollout period per our studio agreements, we are expecting an unprecedented number of additional signings and installations for the many remaining exhibitors,” said Chuck Goldwater, president of Cinedigm’s media services group, in a prepared statement.

Cinedigm has virtual print fee agreements with major studios and independent distributors, and it also partners with the National Association of Theatre Owners’ CBG buying program for independent theater owners. Cinedigm provides alternative programming to digital theaters (such as rock concerts, sporting events, or the Kidtoons series of children’s cartoon matinee programs) and aims to become a player in indie film distribution – Cinedigm’s realtionship with ARC Entertainment saw it releasing John Carpenter’s The Ward and the Sarah Palin documentary The Undefeated this summer.

According to a report from iSuppli earlier this year, the U.S. market for alternative cinema content – mainly opera, music, and sports – was worth $112 million last year, and accounts for 58 percent of worldwide revenue.

And RealD said its own digital cinema roll-out had accelerated dramatically in the last year. In reporting results for its fiscal Q1, which ended June 24, the company said it had deployed 17,500 RealD-enabled digital screens worldwide, with about 10,000 of those installations coming in the previous 12-month period. 10,300 of those screens were in North America, with another 7200 in place internationally.