Movie Theater Owners Take The Lead In Digital Cinema Requirements

October 2, 2019

Dave McNary

NATO logo National Association of Theatre Owners


Movie theater owners are taking the lead in setting requirements for new digital cinema technology.

The National Association of Theatre Owners said Tuesday that its executive board approved a resolution that spells out how digital cinema technology will be evaluated. NATO promised that its technology committee will initiate and conduct an open process to understand and evaluate digital cinema technologies, and create metrics to analyze future technologies.

The resolution said the process will include various stakeholders, including filmmakers, distributors, manufacturers, service providers and exhibitors. The initiative contrasts with efforts during the early 2000s, when studios were paying for the digital cinema transition through virtual print fees, which gave them a big say in setting requirements for digital cinema technology.

“Digital cinema has opened up the door to a wide range of technological advances,” said AMC NATO technology committee chairman John D. McDonald, who also serves as executive vice president of operations at AMC. “Exhibitors — the primary consumers of these technologies — along with other industry stakeholders, need an open, rational testing program to determine which of these technologies will work in the cinema space.”

In the early days of the digital cinema transition, the major film studios formed Digital Cinema Initiatives to establish a standard architecture for digital cinema systems known as the “DCI Specification” in order to create a uniform level of security, technical performance and quality.

“The pace of technological advance has increased,” NATO said. “It is, then, necessary and proper for exhibitors to take the lead in evaluating the impact of light levels, contrast and colorimetry on their patrons and the exhibition environment. NATO seeks to create an open process to understand and evaluate digital cinema technologies and create metrics to analyze future technologies, and to open this process to include various stakeholders including filmmakers, distributors, manufacturers, service providers and exhibitors.”

NATO also said its technology committee, led by NATO’s technology consultant Jerry Pierce, has already begun initial measuring to prepare for industry-wide testing. The technology committee will report its initial findings to membership at NATO annual meetings in 2020.

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