Can Data Technology Revive Moviegoing?
Movie theaters everywhere are searching in earnest for new ways to attract audiences. From ultra-high resolution to 3D and VR, updating infrastructure to bring the latest in data technology to theatergoers might just be the way to revive the box office slump.
Once-Popular Entertainment Destinations on the Decline
Ticket sales in the U.S. hit a two-decade low1 in 2017, with admission dropping year over year from almost 1.32 billion to 1.24 billion.
While the reason for the drop-off is multifaceted, poor cinema experiences carry a large share of the blame. Why pay a record high2 sum to wedge yourself into an uncomfortable seat, chew on stale popcorn, and watch a movie on a stain-covered screen when the comfort and experience are increasingly better at home?
Can Data Technology Upgrade the Movie-Going Experience?
Hollywood and theater operators are working hard to flip the script on home streaming competitors by reinventing movie theaters from dismal warehouses with sticky floors to entertainment palaces for the 21st century (and beyond).
Three emerging technologies—ultra-resolution, 3D and virtual reality—could be the upgrades movie-going needs in order to remain relevant. But before audiences can start indulging, filmmakers and theaters need to up their investments in storage (local and cloud) and connectivity to bring these new experiences to life.
8K Ultra-Resolution Gets Out of the Living Room
In 2018, 4K televisions (a display resolution that is roughly 4000 pixels in width) are widespread. With a TV like this your living room, you have better video resolution under your roof than most movie theaters in the U.S. (and better than 83 percent4 of movie theaters worldwide).
The move toward 4K in theaters is finally picking up steam due in large part5 to mandates from top studios. But where movie theaters can really differentiate is by doubling down on resolution, adopting 8K video6 as the norm. 8k is already seeing some use (and to great acclaim) in the theaters: A 2017 box-office giant was shot in the format and the film ended up being one of the highest-grossing films7 of the year.
In order for cinemas to simply jump over 4K as they upgrade their operations, though, they’ll have to update their storage capabilities. The requirements for 8K video are massive.
To support this massive amount of data, theaters will have to contend with (and update) their infrastructure. Today, movie data is stored on local hard drives in theaters because, so far, streaming a movie in 8k would result in latency issues. Eventually, with the advent of 5G, theaters should be able to move from on-premise storage solutions to cloud-based capabilities, fully supporting an 8K environment and enhancing the movie-going experience.
3D Goes Global
While the shine of going to see a movie in 3D has worn off a bit in the U.S., the technology is far from on its way out. Globally, moviegoers can’t seem to get enough of 3D.
Allen Schoonmaker, Chief Marketing Officer of Volfoni 3D,10 which makes a variety of 3D equipment, says that 3D is so hot in China today that 78 percent11 of movie screens are equipped to project 3D movies.
“It’s really the golden age of 3D technology,” Schoonmaker says of the groundswell in China.
And if a renaissance of 3D is imminent, movie studios will need to start upgrading their storage solutions since 3D films require double12 the space of their 2D counterparts. One studio, which works in post-production for both 2D and 3D films, reports generating 1-2TB of data per day per project.13
In order to capitalize on the 3D trend, theaters can invest in cloud solutions to supplement their on-premise storage (that is, until 5G becomes widespread).
Virtual Reality Turns Theater into Immersion
Until now, the experience of going to the theater has been a passive one: hop in a car, drive to a venue, and sit back and watch. But new technologies, mainly in the form of immersive virtual reality, are changing that, putting you in the driver’s seat by letting you act as a physical participant in the show. These types of encounters can take place at home or, increasingly, in custom VR venues where people can interact with friends.
“It’s possible that movie theaters will become more and more like [an amusement park], where it’s a big-ticket item – and a special experience,” says Darshan Shankar, CEO of Bigscreen VR.
The catch? VR is a beast when it comes to processing power and bandwidth requirements.
Currently, high-end VR experiences require strapping a computer to your back or being tethered to one via a thick cable—hardly an ideal experience for today’s ultra-mobile user. To make it to the mainstream (where the tech will ultimately be incorporated into tomorrow’s smartphones), VR will require advances in 5G, AI and data storage—the lattermost a critical issue since VR files eat up ten to twenty times15 the amount of storage of standard HD file.
The good news is that these advances are in the works, with everything from edge computing that can lower latency to VR headsets that are less bulky.
“Expect the next three to five years to see a series of dramatic upgrades to the VR experience as we now know it,” says Shankar.
Read More about Media and Entertainment:
- Media Analytics – Harnessing Viewer Data in a Hybrid Cloud World
- Blockchain and the Media Industry – The Next Big Hit
- How Object Storage Improves Digital Media Workflows
This content is produced by WIRED Brand Lab in collaboration with Western Digital Corporation.
- Movie attendance
- Ticket prices
- Demand for cloud storage capacity
- Screen resolution
- 4K video in movie theaters
- 8K video
- Highest-grossing film in 2017
- 90 minute movie will require 18 TB of storage
- Hubble Telescope data
- 3D movies in China
- 3D films require double the space of 2D
- One studio generates 1-2TB of data per day
- Bigscreen VR
- VR storage requirements
FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS: This article may contain forward-looking statements, including statements relating to expectations for storage products, the market for storage products, product development efforts, and the capacities, capabilities and applications of Western Digital products. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in the forward-looking statements, including development challenges or delays, supply chain and logistics issues, changes in markets, demand, global economic conditions and other risks and uncertainties listed in Western Digital Corporation’s most recent quarterly and annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, to which your attention is directed. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements and we undertake no obligation to update these forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances.