June 6, 2010

The Digital Cineplex: Change is on the Screen

Recently my preferred local theater switched over completely from film projectors to digital ones. It was a very exciting day for all those involved. Yes, that includes me, I have seen digital projection and it can be quite stunning. However, I was also left with a bit of sadness. The old ways are going away and it does not seem like there is any turning back.

Digital is the way of the future. The proliferation of digital projectors is gaining steam and before you know it you will be hard pressed to find a theater using actual film. Yes, the projectors are quite pricey, but they pay for themselves in the long term with lowered distribution costs and have the benefit of not wearing down. In order to see actual film you may have to find small arthouses, second run houses, and perhaps a return of the grindhouse (well, maybe not that).

Personally, I like the look of digital projection. The colors are brighter, detail is crisp and sharp, there are no distracting cigarette burns (you know, the block dots that appear in the upper left approximately every twenty-minutes to signal the reel change), and there is never any print wear or damage to worry about. On the other hand, there are moments where it looks like you're watching video, which is a vastly different experience from film.

Yes, digital can look absolutely stunning, but there is no way that you can take away to look and feel of real film. Film is tangible, it has personality, the film grain, the speckles, marks, and damage all add to that personality. Imperfections? Perhaps. Still, I am not sure anything will take away the feeling of watching celluloid being lit up in a projector. Case in point, a couple of weeks back I saw 35mm projections of Pieces, Zombie, and The Evil Dead and it was an amazing experience. Those prints had the feeling of age. They were old and you could tell, but they were treated with love and they were great to see.

What does all this mean? Film is starting to go away. Some day film will only be seen as a historical remnant. This is a sad thing, but it is just the next step in the evolution of the theater.

Article first published as The Digital Cineplex: Change is Coming to the Big Screen on Technorati.


Post a Comment