Digitisation of cinemas

Small towns save their cinemas thanks to Epson technology

In the past few years, cinematography in the Czech Republic has faced a major transformation in the form of digitisation. While digitisation offers a number of advantages, it can also be very costly – the average investment in a digital solution typically ranges from CZK 2.5 million to CZK 4.5 million.

Furthermore, since 2013, films have been distributed in digital format only, and 35 mm films have pretty much vanished altogether. As a result, most cinemas in small towns and villages are teetering on the edge of an abyss: they do not have the equipment or funds for “big” digital projection, and there are simply no films available to screen using the existing technology. Mayors are therefore faced with a critical choice – either close down their cinema, or find another cost-effective solution that will help them save it.

Cinema digitisation can be achieved in two ways. The first solution is D-cinema standard projection, which means fully fledged digitisation with all the technologies used having to conform to DCI standard 1specifications. This is the type of equipment available in cinema multiplexes. The second solution is E-cinema standard projection, which may not comply with DCI standard specifications but is far more favourable in terms of acquisition and operating costs.  But E-cinema standard projection is nevertheless capable of offering high image and sound quality, so high as a matter of fact that the human eye is practically unable to tell the difference.

Cinemas saved in Chlumec nad Cidlinou and Vysoké Mýto

The towns of Chlumec nad Cidlinou and Vysoké Mýto are examples of communities that managed to keep their existing cinemas at minimal cost, expanding their cultural programme as a result thanks to the new options that their cinemas now offer. Both towns chose an affordable E-cinema standard solution, at the heart of which lies cutting-edge Epson projection technology – the EB-Z8450WU projector. The acquisition costs of the digital projector itself were slashed to one fifth, while the total cost of the system was one third. Even at this low cost, the cinema halls were equipped with technology that enables them not only to screen films, but also to hold “thematic” evenings, travelogues and stream live satellite feeds from, for example, the New York Metropolitan Opera. The low operating costs and ease of use are another bonus for the management.

“I was faced with the choice of whether to shut the cinema doors for good, or to try and save it. In 2006 we invested substantial resources in a refurbishment of the cinema hall in the Klicpera Cultural Centre, so it would have been a waste to close it down for cinemagoers. I was looking for a solution that wouldn't ruin our budget but would let us continue to run the cinema, and something that we could also possibly use to host other types of cultural events.”explains Miroslav Uchytil, mayor of Chlumec nad Cidlinou.

“The times when we had large crowds of cinemagoers are gone for good, but all the same, I didn't want our cinema to cease to exist,” adds Miloslav Soušek, mayor of Vysoké Mýto. That’s why we were searching for ways of making more effective and better use of the cinema, in addition to the unavoidable digitisation. So, for example, every year we announce our Annual Town Awards, a sort of local Oscar ceremony.”

The Epson EB-Z8450WU projector delivers cost savings and high quality

The Epson EB-Z8450WU projector perfectly meets the requirements of both small and large venues thanks to its high light output, high resolution and large colour space conforming to DCI standards, as well as its other functionalities. Small cinema owners will appreciate its connectivity options, image signal processing and enhancement capabilities, ease of operation and, last but not least, its affordable operating costs.

“We have been active in the digitisation business for years, and what we see as key to success is finding the optimal solution for the customer. The heart of all of our solutions is of course the projector, but we have to address other requirements as well, such as the issue of signal preparation and processing, the preview and control station, professional sound processors, the sound system installation and other equipment that allows more versatile use of the system, in addition to film projection itself. For the towns of Chlumec nad Cidlinou and Vysoké Mýto, we offered a custom-built solution with the Epson EB-Z8450WU projector at its core that made it possible for them to save their cinemas from closing and also offered them new options to make use of their cinema halls. And all this at a very affordable price.”explains Miroslav Frýba, Managing Director of CSF, s.r.o.

“I am delighted that we have managed to keep screening both Czech and foreign films in our cinema hall, with excellent colours and brilliantly sharp image, thanks to the new solution. “The quality of film projection is comparable to that offered by large multiplexes, but unlike them, we still retain the cosy atmosphere and the advantages of a multifunctional cultural venue,”says Miloslav Soušek, mayor of Vysoké Mýto, who is enthusiastic about the advantages of the new system.

“The Epson EB-Z8450WU projector is able to play practically any digital content with excellent picture quality. One of its big advantages that the people here appreciate is its capability to screen, for example, satellite live feeds, photos or videos,”says the mayor of Chlumec nad Cidlinou, Miroslav Uchytil.

Most small towns have little desire to compete with large cinemas. Rather than compete with large multiplexes as to who will be the first to launch the latest “hot” release, they focus on themed events. According to the mayor of Vysoké Mýto, Mr Soušek, the most popular films have been traditional folk tales. The town therefore hosts special showings for schools, when the hall is almost filled up completely. Likewise, the mayor of Chlumec nad Cidlinou came up with an interesting idea. In his town, showings of photos and videos by locals accompanied by accounts of travel adventures draw the largest crowds. Large multiplexes, with their expensive equipment and high operating costs, couldn't afford any of this.

1 DCI specifications define projection quality standards and procedures that have to be observed to ensure projection safety. The minimum projected image resolution is 2K. Coding systems, decryption systems, server-to-projector connection security and digital watermarking (which can reveal the source of potential piracy) are also defined by the DCI specifications. The DCI specifications are updated regularly.