“The ‘wow’ obviously starts with the creativity of the film maker”

Global CEO of Harkness Screens, Mark Ashcroft, believes the creativity of a film maker and the technology being used are reasons why the domestic box office has recently hit $10 billion in record time.

According to the website deadline.com, the box office generated $11.4 billion in 2016, but in 2018, it is on course to beat that 12-month figure from two years ago.

Without what is becoming a mandatory Star Wars film to end the year, many would have expected the box office figure to be down, but Mark feels the imagination of the movie maker and the technology used are contributing factors to why the popularity of the cinema is increasing.

“I think this time last year, we were all getting really excited about Star Wars,” said Mark.

“We were excited because the heritage and the backstory is so important to the cinema industry. That movie hit the box office and went superbly.

“That means people are coming to the cinema and are looking to be entertained and looking for a ‘wow.’ That ‘wow’ obviously starts with the creativity of the film maker. You have then got the post-production and then the movie comes to the cinema.

“The projector manufactures have also been investing heavily in new forms of projection technology, lasers particularly. In my mind, we are already on our third or fourth generation of laser projectors and that is in no more than four years.

“Those projectors give a great and consistent light. Movie makers, cinema owners and the audience have all benefitted from the fantastic screens, these great new projectors and the great content.”

In 2018, there has been that ‘great content’ which Mark eludes to. Films such as Venom, A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody have all whetted the appetite of cinema-goers and in turn, these movies have helped enhance the experience for consumers.

Mark added: “We were responsible for providing the screen for the Wembley Premiere of Bohemian Rhapsody. That was one of the premieres of 2018. To have been a part of it and to have contributed to its success is a huge endorsement of what we do at Harkness.

“In terms of the figures in the United States, they are hugely encouraging because people want to go to the cinema. Going to the cinema is not a lonely experience. It has been an experience where you can go with friends and family.

“Looking at a smart phone screen with your headphones in doesn’t have that same experience and also, virtual reality really takes that loneliness a step further because you are putting goggles on and you’re totally removed from everybody else.

“Cinema is the opposite of that. Cinema is about sharing your experience and I do believe that is a really important step in the right direction.

“Fine dining and service to your seat within the cinema has increased. The style and quality of the seating has been upgraded. We have also seen the introduction of new formats and all of this makes the moving-going experience more impactful.”

Despite the positive box office numbers, Mark admitted that in China, the figures were affected because of the limited number of releases that occurred last month.

“What was interesting was the headline figure for the United States was positive yet, in China during October’s national weeks holiday, we actually saw numbers down,” Mark continued.

“That was disappointing. We know that box office has been difficult in China and we also know that there were less Hollywood releases during October that could have influenced those box office numbers.”

However, despite the dip in China and the continuing evolution of phone and television technology across the world, the cinema and movie industry seem to be in a healthy state as we prepare to enter 2019.

With Marvel set to release more films from their franchise as well as Toy Story 4, Star Wars XI and the new Avatar film expected to hit our screens next year, Mark is excited for Harkness to carry on working alongside the latest technology in order for consumers to feel the whole cinema experience when watching the headline movies.

“I think for cinemas, the slate of upcoming movies is really important to them”, Mark said. “There are some encouraging signs as we go into 2019. It is often mentioned that Avatar 2 is due out which transformed 3D.

“If you go back 10 years, 3D screens were being installed in their thousands. Those screens, inevitably, would have gone on to frames which were at least 10 years old.

“What we have seen is the cinema have tried to create that experience, by starting to curve and tilt the screens, for example.

“We have seen the walls of the cinema used to display the image. The lobby experience on the way into the auditorium has been upgraded so that complete experience and that immersive effect has been so important.

“I believe as the projector manufactures look at the next generation of lasers, they will be initially looking to take the existing screens and use those screens.

“As the light engine within a laser is modified, we at Harkness, really need to be able to develop optical screen surfaces that can optimise the total presentation.

“For me, one of the most exciting parts of my job is actually working with our R & D team as we look at some of these new optical surfaces and how they can be deployed across our manufacturing units.”

Article by Chris Heal.

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