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Fri 1 Jun 2007 12:00 AM

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Kuwait on the cusp of a D-cinema revolution

Kuwait is set to become the first country in the world to boast an all-digital cinema (D-cinema) network.

Kuwait is set to become the first country in the world to boast an all-digital cinema (D-cinema) network, under an auspicious plan by the country's dominant cinema chain, Kuwait National Cinema Company (KNCC).

KNCC, which operates the Cinescape chain in Kuwait, recently contracted Indian company Real Image Media Technologies (RIMT) to develop a pilot D-cinema project installed in its flagship Kuwait City cinema multiplex. The project involved the installation of Real Image's Qube high definition XP-D DCI compliant digital cinema server and a Cinemeccanica 2K digital projector.

The installation surpasses the 2K quality standard agreed upon by the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI), a US-based industry lobby group whose members include the major Hollywood film studios.

KNCC plans to digitise 40 existing cinema screens and establish a further 50 digital theatres across Kuwait over the next 12 months. RMIT director Senthil Kumar said the 1Tb XP-D server provided storage capacity for up to five 2K-standard digital films, providing KNCC with increased flexibility in terms of film session scheduling.

"The Middle East is a unique market in that cinema chains have to feature a mix of Arabic, Western and Bollywood films to cater to the demands of the region's multicultural population," he said.

"Digital cinema is a great technology for markets such as the Middle East where cost is a primary consideration. Film prints cost around US$2000 to produce, which is expensive, when you consider digital copies are around one-tenth this amount."

Kumar predicted the growth of D-cinema in the Middle East would ultimately encourage greater digital film production across the region.

"High-quality 2K and 4K cameras are becoming more accessible price-wise which should encourage filmmakers to increase their output," he claimed. "Already, all of the Hollywood Studios have committed to producing their films for digital distribution under the terms of the DCI agreement, and in India we are also producing the bulk of our films for digital distribution.

"The DCI standard is very forward-looking. At 2K, it's actually beyond high-definition image quality."

However, while many Western cinema chains had embraced digital film delivery platforms such as the internet and satellite distribution technology, Kumar said that given Kuwait's relatively small geographical footprint, establishing a data network was not a major priority. "It's actually more cost-effective for KNCC to manually distribute the films to cinemas across the country on USB drives," he said.

KNCC does plan to introduce D-cinema projection technology to other countries across the GCC region as part of its regional expansion strategy, starting with the UAE and Oman later this year.

Kumar also confirmed that RIMT and KNCC planned to establish a mastering facility in Dubai, which would provide digital mastering services to filmmakers based across the region.

"We are currently assessing a number of options in terms of a location for the facility," he said. "Our preference is the Dubai Studio City precinct.

"We expect to attract many clients from across the Middle East looking to showcase their films in a D-cinema environment."