Digital cinema to attract big money

Mumbai, March 23 | Updated: Mar 24 2006, 05:30am hrs
The Rs 6,800 crore Indian film industry will get a major boost by 2007 with over 2,500 movie theatres turning digital. Digitalization of Cinema and movie exhibition business will attract over Rs 500 crore of investments from companies including the Essel group, Reliance Entertainment and Apollo International.

A digital cinema halls screens the film directly from the server using special exhibition equipments. The films prints are converted into encrypted digital format and transmitted via broadband or satellite, directly to the cinema theatre. The exhibitors then pay a fee of Rs 400 per screening to the content provider thereby saving a big sum of money. One film print costs Rs 60-65,000, industry sources said.

Speaking to FE at Ficci-FRAMES, Raaj Kanwar, Vice Chairman of Valuable Media, part of Rs 3,500 crore Apollo International said: "We have already installed our digital storage and film exhibition equipments in over 200 theatres. By the end of 2007 this number will touch 2,000 with over Rs 300 crore of investments." The digitalization of cinema allows the single-screen theatre owners to use their theatres like a multiplex and schedule three-four different films in a day. Digitalization of television and movie content is also high on the agenda of Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra as he too announced the expansion of E-City's digitalization of cinema theatre to go over the current number of 80. "We have completely digitalzed 80 of our theatres for receiving cinema via satellite. IBM is already in the process of digitalizing entire Zee library of TV software and movies in wake of the digitalization wave," Mr Chandra said.

Elaborating on the digitalization plans of Reliance Entertainment, its President Rajesh Sawhney said that the company has geared up to the digial challenge and is preparing content and the delivery mechanism to deliver it on mobile, internet as well as on direct-to-home platform. According to the latest Ficci-PricewaterhouseCooper's report on Indian media and entertainment industry, the digitalization and Corporatisation of Indian cinema will lead to over 18% growth of Indian film industry.

"Digitalization of cinema halls in the country are already underway. This will not only improve the quality of prints and thereby make film viewing a more pleasurable experience, but also reduce piracy of prints thereby boosting the Indian film industry," said Deepak Kapoor, Executive Director and Leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers' Entertainment & Media Practice in India.