Kodak Quits Hardware Manufacture in Digital Cinema

Kodak will cease manufacture of all hardware within its Digital Cinema System and will instead focus on licensing the technology to other companies. Kodak cites an ever-increasing level of technical requirements and costs in digital exhibition for their decision to pull out.


Bob Gibbons, director of marketing and communications for Kodak Digital Cinema said, “We’re refocusing our strategy, which has been more hardware–based, to now get more into the service-side of the business and also focus on licensing some of our technology to other people to incorporate into their products.”


“We’ve been fighting the good fight and putting money in this for 10 years, but at the same time the industry is moving more rapidly to larger scale deployment. The continuing stream of DCI [Digital Cinema Initiatives] requirements also need to be met, and they all require technology development and investment. It’s becoming clear to us that this whole risk/reward profile doesn’t meet our test for a business we want to continue to put money into.”


The Digital Cinema System delivers automated on-screen content at multiscreen venues via a system of computer servers. For each screen there is a screen management server connected to a digital projector, and also a link to a central theatre management system (TMS) server. The TMS receives film and pre-show data by satellite link or hard copy and is also connected to the ticketing system at the box office. If the system is selling tickets for a given show, the TMS automatically sends the correct content to the screen management server to hit the screen at the correct time.


In the US market, this forms the sharp end of Kodak’s production line that starts with the digital preparation and distribution of pre-show, trailer content. At the theatre this is then hosted on the same server as the main feature, something that has been part of the system’s unique selling point.


Gibbons said, “We have a fairly good business in the prep and distribution of pre-show. We’ll continue to provide prep for the advertising content.”


He also added that Kodak will continue to support existing customers who have the Digital Cinema System installed:


“They have service contracts which clearly we will honour, as long as there are DCI requirements on the table we’re going to bring the systems up to meet those. That’s not to say we will continue to invest to meet future DCI requirements, but we will meet the current ones.”

Gibbons continues, “It’s the withdrawal from the hardware side of the digital cinema business, but not from technology licensing. Kodak’s an imaging company, whatever we become, we’re going to be an imaging company. We have some 500 digital patents and a lot our products are the result of innovation. We’re going to continue investing in the research and development. We have some neat technology in our screen management server and theatre management system. If companies came to us and wanted to license the technology in their products, we’d be interested in talking to them.”


Film Review – The Men Who Stare at Goats

Some time back in the mid-90s there was a documentary shown on UK television called The Real X-Files.  One interviewee was a supposed ex-member of a CIA taskforce that had been trained to ‘see’ or ‘remote view’ locations with nothing more than a longitude and latitude figure to guide them. It all seemed so tantalising and oh, how we wanted to believe. Ok, maybe it was just me. The Men Who Stare at Goats looks back on this superstitious period of primetime entertainment with affectionate humour, but unfortunately not much more than that.

Ewan McGregor (cheekily given billing in the opening credits over a picture of Saddam Hussein), digs out his dodgy but just tolerable American accent to play Bob Wilton, a small town American newspaper hack who finds that his wife is leaving him for his editor. In the throes of a broken heart he packs off to Iraq to get some real reporting action in the first Gulf War. However, his inexperience means he isn’t given entry to the warzone and he holes-up in a Kuwaiti hotel, listless and making cuckolded phone calls to his ex-wife.

While ruminating on his situation he meets Skip (George Clooney), a fellow American who says he is going into Iraq as a contractor to find business, but his name badge gives him away as Lyn Cassady, a remote viewer who Wilton has heard about from another ex-member of the ‘Jedi’ psychic-warrior program back in the US. Seeing a chance to finally get a story and also prove something to his ex-wife, Wilton persuades Cassady to take him into Iraq.

Officially named the ‘First Earth Battalion’, we are told the program was created by ex-Vietnam veteran Bill Django (Jeff Bridges, channeling a reincarnation of The Dude) to form a warrior who does battle by emanating peaceful, loving thoughts, while still seeing fit to recommend the gouging of eyeballs. With such a blatant contradiction at it’s heart, it is obvious why any credible film had to be a comedy, but comedy still needs a substantial dramatic element to work, and that is where things become a little lightweight.

Welcome laughs come from occasional, old-style slapstick, and also the ridiculous situation in which the US army supported an idea they didn’t believe in, but were funding in true Dr Strangelove style in case the Soviets got there first. Fair enough. The problem is that there are two stories of redemption at work here that dilute, rather than support each other, namely that of Wilton, and later Cassady. The latter falls at the mercy of his old army nemesis, Larry Hooper (Kevin Spacey in reliable, evil form) on discovering he has resurrected the old program for more sinister methods of application (with echoes of Guantanamo), destroying the ‘beautiful’ concept that Cassady’s hero Django created. There is just a shortness of characterisation and conflict within and between these characters, to make the dramatic element adequately engaging. 

That said, it has many moments to bring a smile to your face, and the tone of gentle humour and occasional irony is consistently entertaining. It just needed a little more of the dark-side to balance the light. Jedi in training then, rather than Jedi masters.