Half Movie Screens To Be Digital By 2013

Hollywood and Theater owners are betting on Digital 3D to save the declining in-theater business. And with the biggest release in digital 3D on the horizon (more on Beowulf later), all the buzz seems to be on this new technology. Dreamworks Animation has vowed to release all of its computer animated films in 3D starting in 2009. Studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg predicts 12-18 3D movies per year in 2010. And now Variety is reporting that half of all the worldwide screens will be digital in 2013. George Lucas' vision is starting to become a reality 15 years too late.

This year has seen an explosion in digital conversion with 4,627 screens, 5% of the global total, switched to digital up to September. Penetration is deepest in the U.S., home to 78% of the world's digital screens. The U.K. and South Korea boast the second and third most digital screens.

And the promise of 3D profits are fueling this new interest in digital film. I do see the value in a 3D presentation, but will it lose it's value when the films become less event-worthy? Do we really need 18 3D movies per year? And do you really need to see a 3D movie in the crappy movie theater down the street? This is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, independent film is sure to benefit in the long run. Distribution has always been a high cost for smaller movies. When digital distribution becomes the norm, the way movies are screened will change more dramatically than anyone thinks, including the theater owners. Theatrical screenings will become on demand, and the audience will again regain the cinema for themselves.

photo: Flickr