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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.

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Old March 25th, 2005, 10:00 AM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Venice, FL
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Projection for Indies

I hate theoretical questions, but I hope some people will answer this one. If you were going to build a new theater devoted to Indie films, what capabilities would be desirable from a filmmakers standpoint? I am not looking for brands or specific equipment, just capabilties. My interest is in what it would cost additionally to build a venue to be able to get earlier releases or more variety from indies?

My limited understanding is that if an Indie project actually goes to distribution, it gets converted to film from video. But that has to be expensive. Do indie projects go to 35mm, and would a 16mm theater be a good thing? Is the real answer to have digital projection? What media should it be able to accept (beta, DV, DVD, ???) ? And how far from a typical commercial theater is this capability? Are new theaters essentially all being built with digital projection, or is it still rare?

If someone has very specific knowledge of these issues I would be happy to discuss my specific interest off-line.
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Old March 25th, 2005, 10:54 AM   #2
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
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"Are new theaters essentially all being built with digital projection, or is it still rare?"

It's still rare, but without plopping down $100 for NATO's Encyclopedia of Exhibition, it's difficult to say just how rare. According to the digital rollout plan for STAR WARS -- Episode II, in 2002 there were 116 digital cinemas across the globe (70 in North America, 25 in Asia, 18 in Europe and 3 in Latin America), and the film played in 103 of those 116. I would guess a maximum of 100 new multiplexes have been built in the United States since that time, and an average of 1 new DLP projector per multiplex would probably be a liberal estimate.

My old teacher Jason Squire released a revised edition of his Movie Business Book mid-2004, which you'll probably be able to find at a nearby library; woe if it does not have at least one article on Digital Cinema exhibition with some nice hard statistics. is selling it for $10.88; I must say this is a steal for a text of this authority and utility. While it's not a reference book that an industry professional would refer to on a daily basis, each of its chapters is an informative and enlightening essay piece authored by high-ranking executives and established filmmakers, and together they give the student and the old pro alike a very solid picture of the makeup of the movie business, especially when it comes to the murky intracacies of distribution and exhibition. The book has an average rating of 5 stars out of 5.

Any film worth seeing will have had at least one 35 mm print struck for travelling to film festivals--even if the film was shot and posted digitally. The best investment for a new cinema is still a good reliable 35 mm projector, and this will remain true for the next decade at least.

For viewing of content for which 35 mm blowup was unaffordable, the indie cinema should consider investing in a consumer DLP projector, of the sort readily available for under $5,000. You might not be able to project it from the back of a large theater, but you'll be able to use it in a more intimate screening setting, which is usually all that's required for these smaller movies.
All the best,
Robert K S

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Old March 25th, 2005, 10:37 PM   #3
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Ireland is full of digital theatres. I wrote about it here:

My Final Cut Pro X blog
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