Last year, I wrote a journal entry about how movie theaters were looking for gimmicks to try to bring more people into theaters and away from their home-theater TV setups. One of those gimmicks was digital theaters. Of course, the question was then and still is now, “Who’s going to pay for this?” The theater chains think the studios should, the studios think the theater chains should, and so there’s no great exodus to digital screens—just the occasional cinema converting one at a time.
But even considering the expense of the process, it seems that one impetus toward digital cinema conversion, believe it or not, could actually be cheapness.
After a long and arduous search, Harmony Gold finally found a distributor for its long-awaited sequel to the Robotech TV series, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Funimation will be releasing it to DVD, and they will even be releasing it theatrically. Except, there’s a catch to this theatrical release.
Will the film be shown in a theatre in my city?
Possibly, it’s important to understand that Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles can only be shown in theatres with digital projection systems. (No 35mm prints of the film exist at this time.) While that may seem to limit the venues the film can screen in, there are more and more theatres slowly converting to digital every month.
Funimation is going to supply the film into theatres where there is a demand for the film to be seen. To that end, we suggest that you contact your local movie theatre and tell them you want to see the Funimation Films release of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles! Theatre owners/mangers want films that people want to see so we urge you to contact your local theatre and let them know you want to see the film.
The theatres near me do not have digital projection so I guess I’m out of luck?
Not necessarily, as I mentioned above more and more theatres are slowly already have, are converting to or researching the possibly of, digital projection systems. Many theatres are often part of a larger theatre chain and many of those theatre chains are spearheading the conversion to digital projection. So when you tell your local theatre manger your desire to see Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles on the big screen it creates a incentive for the theatre to convert to digital or have the theatre chain to book it into their theatres that already have digital projection.
The idea of a movie theater converting to digital—such an expensive process that there has been the aforementioned continual wrangling over who should pay for it—on the strength of wanting to show Shadow Chronicles is frankly ludicrous, but the announcement is still very interesting.
It used to be that you would only see big-budget blockbusters screened digitally, probably because there were so few digital theaters that it didn’t make sense for a distributor even to try to aim for them. But apparently there are now enough extant digital screens that we can see quite the opposite: a digital-only theatrical release because Harmony Gold and Funimation are too cheap to want to spring for 35mm prints of their film.
To be fair, 35mm prints are often quite expensive, and spending that money on Shadow Chronicles would probably be counter-indicated before they know how well the film is actually going to do. And it’s not necessary to create more than one digital “print” of a film, because it can then be downloaded or burned onto DVDs for shipping very cheaply. That being said, I find it very interesting that digital cinema has apparently become a viable option for film distribution based on budgetary concerns of the distributor, when the spread of it was slowed by budgetary concerns of the theatrical chains.