Don’t be surprised if your company’s next AGM is staged at the local cinema palace. Fibre to the premises is equipping leading cinema theatre chains like Adlabs to become the venue for two-way videoconferencing and gaming in their quest for revenue-enhancing opportunities.
Reliance Communications (RCom)’s nationwide fibre based Metro Ethernet has enabled sister concern Adlabs to become the first exhibitor in the world to transmit feature-length digital films directly to theatres on a commercial basis every week. As multiplexes proliferate and compete for audience footfalls, this same capacity is being tested for streaming business and personal entertainment content during slack weekday hours.
In July of this year, the screening of “Mission Istanbul” in Adlabs Ahmedabad marked the debut of “store and forward” cinema in the country and this week, Adlabs clocks up the 2,200th screening at the RWorld Gandhingar with “Hello.”
Fibre-distributed cinema is not new, having premiered in the year 2000 by Qwest, Cisco and 20th Century Fox in the US and again in 2005 for a handful of films by NTT West, Warner Brothers, Paramount and Sony Pictures in Japan. But neither of these agreements resulted in any permanent networked distribution for digital cinema.
Bollywood, with its heaving mass popularity across the length and breadth of India is a core candidate for same-day networked distribution of film files. And Adlabs has found a willing champion in RCom’s Broadband Division, which is seeking to optimise the capillarity of its IP-over-multicast capabilities.
The first step to digital transmission is to make the screens digital-ready. Towards this end, Adlabs Cinema converted more than ten percent of its 185 screens in north and western India this year to Hollywood-grade cinema and is distributing to the majority of these sites via optical fibre. The plan is to gradually migrate all 78 theatres to fibre-based distribution from the current physical medium.
Typically, the average size of a digital cinema package (in film parlance, a Hollywood-quality digitally-encoded feature film) is 100 to 170 Gbps. These are distributed on hard disk drives (HDDs), sent by courier to theatres around the country. This carries its share of risks as the containers could get lost, intercepted, damaged or stolen along the way. While the file is heavily encrypted, a 500 GB drive is worth a significant amount in its own right.