After launching D-BOX motion seats at their O2 site, Matthew Eyre, VP of Operations for Cineworld in Europe, speaks to 3D Focus about the decision to introduce 4D style motion seating and how it will enhance Prometheus 3D, Cineworld’s high frame rate projection plans and the challenge of increasing the brightness of 3D presentation.
Cineworld are now the second largest cinema chain in the UK operating 78 cinemas including the world’s tallest – Glasgow Renfrew Street. Cineworld started its D-BOX MFX seating roll out at the Glasgow site just over a month ago where movie fans have had the option to be rolled forwards, backwards, side to side, up and down (with a choice of three intensity levels) ever since.
The second Cineworld site to introduce the premium service was the O2 venue in London. On May 4th, 29 journalists were the first to experience the “most amazing, all-encompassing entertainment experience ever” during a premier viewing of the hugely successful post converted 'Avengers 3D'.
We started asking Matthew Eyre whether he has experienced a backlash from film ‘purists’ who say this is nothing more than a gimmick…
Matthew Eyre: It is almost the complete opposite. Certainly at the O2, the audience that we had in for the premiere were all journalists from film magazines and the leisure/entertainment sections of papers. They all pretty much agreed that, the first time you sit on the seat you think it is a bit gimmicky, but then you get into it and the seat becomes part of the movie. They all came out heart heartedly said they would be coming back.
3D Focus: Are people second booking D-BOX seats after the initial novelty/curiosity factor?
Matthew Eyre: We have had the D-BOX system at the Glasgow site now for about 4 to 5 weeks and the amount of people that have second booked is remarkable.
3D Focus: How long does Cineworld expect to wait to make a return on the D-BOX investment?
Matthew Eyre: As with all public companies we need a very rapid return on our investment and we will certainly be hoping for less than four years.
3D Focus: How long does it take to install D-BOX seating in an auditorium?
Matthew Eyre: It is done in stages. You first prepare the auditorium; take some of the seats out, put the power cable in, put the data cable in and the seats then go in overnight. From start to finish it takes about three days.
3D Focus: Will Prometheus be a D-BOX encoded film?
Matthew Eyre: Yes and it is looking fabulous. We are extremely excited about Prometheus. We are also extremely excited about Snow White which opens on the same day, both of which are D-BOX encoded. This is all part of our Customer First process. We are trying to enhance the experience for all of our customers in many forms. Technology is just one of them. We have put IMAX in three sites so far and we are putting D-BOX in another three and then potentially another 24 or 25 after that over the next two years based on the success of the initial roll out.
3D Focus: A number of vendors are recommending developing laser illuminated projection technology to make the screens brighter for 3D. It was also quoted at the CinemaCon conference that the technology could be in theatres by the end of 2013. Are Cineworld looking into laser projection?
Matthew Eyre: I was at Cinemacon and was really shocked that some people expect laser projection to be in theatres by 2013 because none of the laser projection companies were saying that. While I was over there, I saw the new IMAX laser system and they are talking about potentially getting something out over the next couple of years. I talked to NEC and they are talking about something three to four years down the line for their laser projector. I also saw Sony’s laser projector and they are also talking about three to four years down the line.
Pretty much what all of them are saying at the moment is that all they can do is small screens. There is a lot of legislation around lasers in small spaces and until that is changed, I don’t expect there to be an appetite for it.
What was amazing is I went to Tokyo last September to look at a laser projector prototype. The room was about 30 square foot and the box was about 10 square foot with cables and wires all over it. 6 months down the line and they have got it in a box …
Currently for 3D projection, we have managed to get the O2 site from 2.7 foot-lamberts to 6.5 foot-lamberts by installing some 7K lamps. We have also changed the way we do the 3D. We are still using RealD but RealD have got some new technology out now that increases the light. We have got a prototype in the O2 which is an advance on the RealD XL system. We have also changed the screen to a Microperf screen which has never been done on a screen that size before. The holes in the screen are a lot smaller and it reflects a lot more light back.
3D Focus: Will Cineworld be presenting films produced at higher frame rates such as The Hobbit at the new speeds and are there associated costs with 48 frames per second projection?
Matthew Eyre: Ultimately, in order to project higher frame rates on our 2K machines, a Media Block needs to be installed. Our 100 plus 4K projectors will automatically have the high frame rate capability. Bear in mind there are not many films filmed at 48 FPS but we will aim to get maximum exposure of that.
3D Focus: Preview 48 FPS showings of The Hobbit received very mixed responses at Cinemacon. Did you watch it and what were your thoughts?
Matthew Eyre: I’m really disappointed with that (the negative reaction) because I think someone has been making a mountain out of a molehill. It was very disappointed to read. The Director came on and said he was going to show some footage at 48 frames per second. He emphasised it was completely raw footage and hadn’t even been graded. Then, off went a journalist “saying it’s too lifelike, it’s too this, it’s too that”. The Director couldn’t have been more outright in his statement that the showing had no cuts, cleaning, editing or colour editing so I thought that was a little bit harsh to say the least.
If you go to any of these things, the directors want to show you raw footage of stuff they have just finished making, that hasn’t been edited or been through the labs. Everybody accepts that but I think just because it was 48 frames per second one journalist jumped on it and said ouch! Which I think was very harsh.
3D Focus: The ODEON have introduced restaurant style dining – will Cineworld be doing the same?
Matthew Eyre: We already have a screening room concept in Cheltenham where we serve food at the tables and we have been making various trips to various cinemas across the water to see if there is stuff we can emulate. We are always looking at innovation and new things to try out.
3D Focus: Vue Entertainment CEO Tim Richards said the chain will screen 3D coverage of the Olympics – will Cineworld be doing the same?
Matthew Eyre: We are looking at it at the moment.
3D Focus: Is live/non live non-theatrical presentation 2D or 3D a growing part of your business? Will you be screening the Wimbledon tennis again?
Matthew Eyre: Absolutely. We have a whole department dedicated towards that aspect of the business and we will be doing the tennis again probably this year. The 3D rugby a few years ago was sold out. That was tremendously well accepted.
3D Focus: Have 3D ticket sales started to settle down and mature now?
Matthew Eyre: 3D has settled down now. If you want to see a film in 3D you will do, if you don’t you will watch it in 2D. I think everybody makes both offers available.
3D Focus: Will you be extending your IMAX screen portfolio? Are you looking at installing D-BOX seating in IMAX screens?
Matthew Eyre: Yes, we are looking at expanding our IMAX portfolio. It is very much regulated so you can’t have two IMAX cinemas in the same town. IMAX doesn’t allow it so there are only certain markets you can put one in. But we are expanding it and we have pretty much locked out a certain amount of screens so we have the first opportunity to install in the UK.
I think D-BOX in IMAX would be a perfect fit. I had a chat with IMAX about that a while ago and it is something they haven’t got round to looking at because they have just gone and spent a huge amount of money on the laser projection side. That is what they have been putting all their resources into for the past two or three years from what I have been told. Now they may start to look at things like D-BOX being an enhancement to their product.
3D Focus: What is the next stage of innovation?
Matthew Eyre: There are always changes and we are always looking at being at the forefront of those changes. I think we have done a remarkable job. We have got the Unlimited Card, the My Cineworld programme that nobody else has got and we were the first to jump on-board D-BOX and try that out – it’s great to be able to give the customers an alternative to the norm. There are lots of other things in the pipeline, some may work, some may not work, but we are always willing to give it a try.
3D Focus: Pearl & Dean introduced a glasses free 3D network in some of its auditoriums called Cinevation. Are Cineworld looking at introducing glasses free 3D related materials inside or outside of its network to promote its 3D films?
Matthew Eyre: It is possible. DCM, who are our advertising agency, are always looking at new things like that and I can see 3D advertising happening just round the corner. I also expect to see time based advertising where there is the potential to screen an advert in a three o clock showing different to a nine o clock showing. We can do that now because of the networks.
3D Focus: How well did the Star Wars 3D re-release and Titanic re-release do?
Matthew Eyre: Titanic 3D did very well, as well as could be expected. I think Star Wars was a little bit soft.
3D Focus: What are your expectations for Prometheus?
Matthew Eyre: It’s a bit early to say for Prometheus. We have started taking bookings for d box which is doing extremely well. It is going to be big for us.
You can pre-book Prometheus D-BOX tickets on the Cineworld website.
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