Wednesday, November 16, 2011
35mm projection on its way out, presumed dead by 2015
In what is both a sad moment for the ending of an era and a wondrous one for a new frontier, classic 35mm projection is slated to go the way of the dinosaur. While 35mm has been the standard for many years, its days are clearly numbered. Digital projection has come in on the wave of supporters like George Lucas and more recently, James Cameron, who's feature Avatar has been seen as the tipping point. With more theaters looking to 3D for added revenue, it only strengthens digital's foothold. The folks at IHS Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service have stated that the beginning of 2012 will "mark the crossover point when digital technology overtakes 35mm." If that is the case, then look out for December of 2012, when potential blockbusters like The Hobbit: An unexpected Journey and Man of Steel hit theaters. With The Hobbit movies, you have perhaps an even even more significant advancement, that being the first commercial motion picture to be displayed at 48fps (frames per second) as opposed to the 24fps standard that his been with us since the talkies. Add 3D to the mix, and you can see that the world of cinema is changing forever. For good or for bad, we are on a path away from the old 35MM print standard.
IHS estimates that: "By the end of 2012, the share of 35mm will decline to 37 percent of global cinema screens, with digital accounting for the remaining 63 percent. This represents a dramatic decline for 35mm, which was used in 68 percent of global cinema screens in 2010. In 2015, 35mm will be used in just 17 percent of global movie screens, relegating it to a niche projection format."
35MM film won't go away totally... for now. You do still have movie directors who love to shoot on film. Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino seem to much prefer film, but then you have a director like Martin Scorsese, who seems to be changing hist tune. Scorsese, a once outspoken artist against both 3D and digital has decided to embrace both for the filming of his upcoming picture Hugo. Still, as we get farther away from 35mm, I'm sure the warmth of its old fashioned film look will bring artists back, even if it's only for a concept piece here and there. Most likely though, it will be converted for digital projection. The trend, even before digital projection fully caught on, has been to transfer to digital to do editing, grading, and compositing of visual effects, so many have been comfortable with that stage for quite a while.
So enjoy 35mm projection while you can... if you can find it, because pretty soon, it will be time to say fin.
Posted by Gordon Dewey at 11:10 AM