Red cameras, 4k resolution and photoreal CGI are just three of the many juggernauts helping to drive the the cinema industry. Instead of simply 3D, we’re already talking about fully immersive viewing. Instead of HD, we’re already demanding high frame rate films that feel real enough to touch. This is fantastic for the art – but what about where these pieces of art end up? Cinemas are continually under pressure to deliver huuuuuuge file-size films to the biggest audiences possible, to project sales, and to keep them high for the longest amount of time. It’s a big ask when the internet-born ‘Generation Z’ can stream from home; who drive the real profit not from the tickets, but from the popcorn.
So it’s an interesting development that Vue Cinemas have just gone completely fibre optic, with plans to monitor ALL 82 of its UK screens from one central location. Moving towards a remote control experience may mean lower costs, more analytics direct from the computer’s belly and a faster reaction to audience reception in different micro-territories (meaning you can send a film from a server to a bigger screen with no lag if it becomes apparent that more people are buying tickets for that film). Yet, as ever, it could imply job losses or a move to a zero-hours/casual labour model – if the preference in retail for sales-bots are anything to go by when it comes to ticketing.
On the plus side, 4K and HFR film is much, much more viable for moving around servers to theatres at double the speed over their new-school fibre optics than on the UK’s backbone of copper wiring – which the majority of the UK’s wide area networks are based (for now).
Vue, a veritable if not smaller monolith of the UK cinema industry, works via digital projectors and each cinema has its own servers. The fibre optics installed will make 779 screens across 82 cinemas – in real time – easier to monitor and analyse from one super-centre of audience analysis. This means the more popular films, scored for their viewer attendance and ticket sales in real time, can be put on the the larger screens while the underperformers will be placed to fit the smaller screens – giving Vue more bang for their buck and making for a better experience with a ‘packed’ seating booth. (Although, who doesn’t like having a giant cinema to themselves at the 2pm matinee?)
Quite simply, if it looks like Thor: The Dark World 3D is going to be more sell out than its 2D cheaper version, Vue can easily switch it over to the 400-seater rather than the 200-seater as planned, boosting cinema revenue. Ultimately, there could be fewer and fewer bods deciding whether it’s screen 2 or screen 9 that we go to, will be decided from one place in the UK, remotely dictating where the films are sent.
The IT director of Vue, Roland Jones, said: “We are one of the first in the film industry to be using a fibre optic network and we’re excited to be leading the way with this innovation.”
“The evolution of technology has triggered a massive change within our industry. It was critical that we upgraded to a solution that could give us the speed and resiliency we need to deliver the next generation of cinematic experience to our customers.
“We’re an ambitious and energetic brand.”
Lee Hull, Director of Business Markets, Virgin Media Business said: “Going to see the latest blockbuster is great fun and we’re extremely pleased to be helping Vue make that experience even better. For businesses like Vue, where customer satisfaction is at the core of their values, out-dated corporate networks aren’t up to the challenge in an age where the latest films are shown in a much sharper quality, like 4K resolution, as well as in 3D.
“With cinema ticket sales continually on the up, we know that consumer demand for bigger and better films is growing. The technology to deliver state of the art film content is there in Vue, but it needs to be underpinned by super-fast networks. With our new network in place, Vue’s staff will be able to react to customer demand that bit quicker than their competitors can, making their customer service the next big thing to hit the silver screen.”