New home televisions can deliver an experience closer to the movie creator’s artistic intent than theaters are capable of. Could this lead to the movie industry targeting the home for first release?
At NAB 2017, I participated in a panel entitled How They See It: Do Consumers Really Care About Artistic Intent? The panel moderator, SMPTE EVP Patrick Griffis, noted that the cinema experience has been the gold standard for experience. However, he went on to say:
“On the home side, technology is actually outpacing cinema. It creates a conundrum. Who’s the story for?”
Content creators still hold theaters as gold standard
Dominic Glynn, Senior Scientist with Pixar Animation Studios, confirmed that the movie theater remains the center of attention.
“We are driven timeline-wise by cinematic release. The first place our movie goes is the big screen, and that is the almost singular target for the creative leadership on the show.”
Until now, the cinema has been the place the viewer can enjoy the closest approximation to what the movie creators intended. However, the balance is shifting.
CE manufacturers respond to creator quality needs
CE manufacturers are now paying close attention to the needs of content providers, allowing the aggressive technological cycle to be heavily influenced by their needs. Neil Robinson, Director of Technology Partnerships, LG Electronics Inc. commented:
“If CE providers meet with the content producers we start to understand what’s important to you and what’s important to us, and to create some synergy where the artistic intent is preserved.”
CE manufacturers have responded to this conversation by supporting high dynamic range (HDR) in their Ultra HD televisions.* Though theater owners support Ultra HD, they have yet to announce a plan to support HDR. At least in terms of visual quality, that means recent home televisions sets can deliver a better picture than a movie theater.**
Content creators leverage technological advances to tell stories better
This sets up an entirely new dynamic within the content creator community. Sharon Calahan, Director of Photography/Lighting at Pixar, commented that, “The technology does influence the way we make films.”
And Mr. Glynn made it very clear that the movie creators will take advantage of every technical advance to deliver a better product.
“It seems to be demand driven for us. We spend as much money making a movie as we can. Provided that we can make the next movie. We don’t spend any less than we have to to make the best experience for our consumers. They vote with their box office and disc purchases and over-the-top consumption.”
How long can producers remain focused on the theater experience when the best place for their customer to experience a movie is in their own home? This is precisely what David Mercer, VP and Principal Analyst at Strategy Analytics, suggested with his question:
“Home systems are getting better and better. Is there a real business impact from those trends?”
Two-thirds of US consumers are already using SVOD services that have plenty of UHD and HDR content. These services can stream it to anyone with a fast enough broadband connection. Though the number of homes with HDR enabled TVs is in the US today is small, Mr. Mercer thinks that will change fast. He forecasts a quarter of U.S. homes will have an Ultra HD HDR TV by 2020.
Given the quality imperative at content providers like Pixar, the growth in penetration of these new TVs could lead to a sea change in the movie industry. It could switch focus from theaters to the home.
The big question for the theater owners is, can they move fast enough to keep up?
Why it matters
Currently movie creators target the theaters as the venue where consumers can get the experience closest to their artistic intent.
Advances in home televisions, including Ultra HD and high dynamic range, mean many homes can now see a better picture than they receive in theaters.
This could lead to a fundamental shift, where movie creators target the home for the best experience of their content.
*HDR allows TVs to display pictures that better represent the brightest and darkest scenes the human eye can perceive.
**Movies theaters that support Dolby Atmos still have a substantial advantage in the delivery of movie audio than any home theater system can deliver.