Bordwell on Pandora’s digital box, the threat of digital conversion to the art house cinema

David Bordwell has been writing a series of blog posts about the threat of digital conversion to art house cinemas, what Screen Digest has coined the ‘digital shortfall’ – i.e. those screens that will be lost becuase they cannot afford to upconvert to DCI compliant projection equipment.

The Art Theatre, Campaign, Illinois. Photo Sanford Hess (the cinema manger)

One of the cinemas cited is the Art House Cinema, in Champaign-Urbana, a University town in the middle of corn fields in the mid-West (where I happened to live for a short spell, and where my father is still based), pictured above.  I think it might be where I first saw Terence Mallick’s Days of Heaven as a girl of nine, and have been haunted by it ever since. This, combined with my involvement with the Curzon, and indeed the Whiteladies Picture House campaign, made me feel how urgent it is to preserve screen heritage beyond the conservation of the films themselves – which is in itself incredibly important – but there’s something rather pressing about preserving the cinema-going experience in today’s multi-screen world: the apparatus of cinema, the built environment, the technologies; which is at the heart of the Curzon Memories App, and Projection Hero in particular.

The Curzon is such a brilliant site through/in which to explore these issues as, come this April, a cinema will have been operating there for 100 years, yet it was also one of the 210 cinemas to receive a digital projector in the UK Film Council’s Digital Screen Network (DSN), and houses a unique collection of cinema projectors and equipment in the Curzon Collection, curated by Maurice Thornton.  I hope that the Curzon Memories App will enable visitors to enjoy the cinema’s history, whilst reflecting on the important but invisible work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure their viewing pleasure.

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