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TV vs. Theatre
In the 1940s an argument over who controlled the moving image, Television or Theatre, would have been a ludicrous discussion, and not just because of the whole world war thing going on at the time. Before the explosive spread of television sets the theatre house was the moving image, it was the source of movies, serials, cartoons, commentary and news. It debuted new cultures, exotic locales and entire continents to the landlocked and sequestered masses. The theatre was synonymous with cutting-edge audiovisual technology, acting as a gateway to other places and other times where descriptions were no longer constrained by the limitations of speech, text or stills.

70 years later this is no longer the case. Gateways to other worlds now exist in every living room, every briefcase, even in every pocket. Theatres continuously sport spiffy new upgrades, but the vanguard of technological innovation now belongs to mass produced, mass consumed visual devices that are just as likely to get smaller as they are to grow bigger. Whereas before the argument seemed to be heavily lopsided in favor of the theatre, the trajectory of electronics seems to have overwhelmingly crowned television the undisputed champion of moving media. In terms of sheer numbers, no one can deny television’s present-day supremacy over the theatre: a 2009 estimate pins the number of U.S. theatre screens at 39,233, a paltry sum compared to the 285 million television sets owned by U.S. households as of 2006.

There is a far larger pool of programming available on TV airways than there is for the cinema screen, so it’s no real surprise that people spend a lot more time in front of the tube than in the theatre auditorium (the cost of television is also a lot cheaper per hour, which undoubtedly plays a factor as well). I can’t even begin to fathom how you would go about quantifying the gross revenue stream for all television applications, but I’m sure it’s bigger than the $10.6 billion the U.S. and Canadian box offices hauled in for the 2009 calendar year. Despite the huge disparities between these two media platforms, the conversation between which outlet trumps which is a lot more complex than the subject may first imply. As the decades wear on the dividing line between theatre and television is quickly eroding, creating new stress on both markets as they try to re-define their scope.

Tackling the impact of the Internet and its synergistic influences on both mediums is a topic that deserves its own stand-alone article, so for the sake of simplicity I’ll try to keep that game-changer out of this discussion. Before we delve into the details I’d like to take a look at how television and movie theatres have progressed over the past Century, with the hope it’ll shed some light on how they’ll stack up against one another in the future.  

American Snapshot, 1950s and Beyond

Although some of the earliest television sets were produced in 1939, only about 3.6 million were sold through the 1940s. It wasn’t until the banner years of the ‘50s that television really started to catch on, with the highest initial demand for the new invention originating in New York, Pennsylvania, California and Illinois. Like the home or the automobile the television set immediately became an indicator of socioeconomic status and, fueled by an ambitious manufacturing schedule and a burgeoning list of programming, the television soon barrelled its way into more than 67 million U.S. homes by the end of that decade.

Throughout the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s the cathode ray tube became more refined with the addition of color, remote controls, larger screens and smaller price tags. The 1990s saw the introduction of high-definition programming while the 2000s witnessed its rampant proliferation as HD and flat panel TVs became the media console norm. Plasma, LCD, LED and 1080p are now common household terms, a reflection of our combined love for TV sets and new consumer technology. 65% of US homes owned at least one television back in 1955, now the average number of sets per household is 2.24 and over 99% of homes have at least one TV. According to statistics compiled by A.C. Nielsen, the average American now watches over 4 hours of television per day, a number that’s met with unimpressed acceptance or cringe-worthy disgust depending on who you’re talking to. After all 4 hours a day does equate to 9 full years of TV watching over a 65-year lifespan, a figure that health officials and anti-television advocates are eager to point out.

Could television and its prevalence in American culture be partly responsible for our youth’s declining academic literacy? Probably. Does the amount of time people spend watching TV directly correlate to poor diet and the nationwide obesity epidemic? Most likely. Is there any doubt that television is America’s, or for that matter the world’s, favorite media vehicle? Definitely not. But after television’s initial rise to prominence the comparisons between TV and theatre started to lose traction as the general public began thinking of the two as distinctly different entities. Over the decades our society found plenty of room to support both television and theatre without much financial harm to either industry, yet recently that’s once more beginning to change.

The Silver Screen

Before the development of electromagnetic theory the modern projector traced back its roots to optical illusion science and the early devices of Thaumatropes, Zoetropes and Praxinoscopes. It wasn’t until the invention of sprocketed celluloid film and the merging of electric motors to camera and projector equipment that the first modern theatre was born at the hands of William K.L. Dickson and Thomas Edison in the early 1890s. Demoed at Edison Laboratories in 1891, this Kinetoscope and Kinetograph added a lot of momentum to the emerging industry and I can only imagine how nutso this must have been for the first theatre-goers; seeing recreations of everyday life, no matter how stilted they first were, must have melted faces off. The Kinetoscope projector device, however, was still too primitive to become commercially viable. In order to achieve that milestone Edison’s manufacturing company bought the Vitascope, originally named the Phantascope by inventor C. Francis Jenkins a few years earlier, to screen a ballet sequence to the first paying American audience at New York City’s Koster & Bial’s Music Hall in April of 1896.

The first films, brief comedies and documentary-like “actualities,” were played as sideline attractions at fairgrounds, carnivals and vaudeville shows. By the turn of the Century, however, films needed bigger auditoriums and bigger screens to accommodate larger consumer interest. The first permanent movie theatre in the world was built in Paris in 1897, with the American counterpart coming along 5 years later in the form of Thomas Talley’s 200-seat Electric Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Films created around this time were very primitive and usually ran no more than 12 minutes, the maximum length of time that could fit on an early film reel.

A lot has changed since those infantile years of cinema. French special effects wizard George Melies and American projectionist Edwin Porter founded the modern narrative film with their respective, groundbreaking works Le Voyage Dans la Lune (1902) and The Great Train Robbery (1903). Sound and color were incorporated to enhance realism and further support the new narrative voice. Films went from one reel to multiple reels (reel-to-reel), with the projectionist needing to splice new reels on the fly during the show until the entire process became more automated with separate “platter” systems able to hold complete, pre-spliced multi-reel prints (the current industry norm). As the stories grew larger and more complex so too did auditoriums and cinema equipment.

At the turn of the 20th Century there were only a handful of permanent theatres in the U.S. The period between the ‘20s and ‘50s saw the construction of theatres in the hundreds. Now the U.S. theatre industry boasts roughly 6,000 hardtop cinemas as of 2009.

Home Box Office

Up until 1957 every theatre constructed in the world was a uniplex, or had only one screen to show product, which is kind of like selling televisions with only one channel...or a channel offering only one show on repeat. It wasn’t until Canadian Nat Taylor converted his dual-screen uniplex into a theatre capable of showing two different films at the same time that the multiplex was born. Even so this gets to the crux of all the contentious differences between television and theatre: programming.

Shortly after the television hit mainstream status it took over one programming niche from the theatre circuit: the news. Because it could circumvent the process of printing film and avoid physical distribution the TV broadcast system was much better equipped to handle the job of screening rapid turnover programming. It also allowed the news cycle to differentiate into local and state-wide scopes instead of just national and global headlines and paved the way for a 24-hour news cycle. The emerging theatre chains didn’t exactly fight over news casting prominence, after all news snippets found their way into the theatre as meager preview packs and even then only due to the importance of World Wars and the opportunity for the government to reinforce propaganda initiatives. Once television could offer the elusive wartime footage on a regular basis the theatres logically bowed out of the fast-moving news market.

Where the theatre has always made its money is in the feature presentations. Feature-length movies have become the new 20th Century novel, a story-telling convention that’s as diverse as it is archetypal. Television may have pioneered and solidified the half hour serial in mainstream media, but nothing so far has come close to the earning potential of a first-run theatrical feature. Yet that may also be changing.

Hit TV shows now garner viewership in the tens of millions and TV viewers now have a tremendous pool of television programming to choose from, a pool which has skyrocketed compared to the amount of Hollywood feature product available in theatres. More so than just an increase in quantity, television has also seen a dramatic elevation in programming quality. While many could still make a very valid argument against this declaration, the truth is prime-time and premium television now rivals some of the best studio work done in Tinseltown.

HBO first introduced the idea of a premium television experience in 1972 when it’s subscriber-based business model of broadcasting theatrically-released movies and original content took off amongst television aficionados. With mature, high production value shows HBO provided what every TV viewer wanted: theatre-quality content in the convenience of their own home. This practice of delivering higher production-value product started a chain reaction of emulation across all the broadcast companies, resulting in an overall rise in TV programming stature. Now it’s hard to find a well-funded premium channel that doesn’t offer original programming: HBO may have been the first, but now Showtime, Starz, ReelzChannel and even Netflix (woops, internet reference!) all deliver original work or plan to in the near future. Unfortunately the theatre industry never had a chance of matching a commensurate increase in the quality of their own product output to keep up with TV; their development pipeline is just too narrow compared to that of television. Outside of dramatic advances in visual effects and big-budget spectacle sequences, films simply grew into better-looking films whereas television became more like cinema with each new season.

Battle of the Screens

So where does television and theatre stand now? As I’ve mentioned before I love going to the theatre and personally prefer big auditoriums over my own living room, but I feel like I’m in the minority with that sentiment. The ubiquitous nature of high quality TVs, the rising cost of theatre tickets and concessions, and the dramatically changing landscape of movie distribution is heavily favoring more and more trips to the couch than the box office.

An advantage theatres have are their earning potential, predicated on product release supremacy. But while the big theatre chains have a lock on first-run distribution, the time between first and second-run is getting shorter, and pay-per-view has already drastically reduced the time between feature release and rental.

Regal theatres are trying to expand their product offering to negate declining theatre attendance by showing non-cinematic fare. The theatre chain’s digital infrastructure, which I touched upon briefly in a previous article, allows the company to project concerts, plays, seminars and sporting events to targeted audiences, but the appetite for such media in a movie theatre setting hasn’t been established. For now the battleground is still in feature film delivery and cost, comfort and ease of access are all obstacles theatre distributors will have to work against as the televised medium continues to move closer and closer to first-run distribution. Every man’s home is his castle and, now more than ever, his theatre as well.

Buying 1080p flat panels is no longer a question of whether or not you can afford it, but rather a decision of how big to go. Can anyone blame the 60” LED owner for skipping the theatre entirely in favor of rentals? This again calls into question the idea of what “theatre-worthy” pics are; before they were the cream of the action-adventure crop, big spectacles that would lose too much in translation to the tube. With the staggering improvements in readily available, consumer TVs, however, the big screen is no longer so big by comparison. Audiences are getting too smart to be duped into a theatre visit for every seemingly good-looking blockbuster that comes along. Even those who appreciate Michael Bay’s work can no longer be satiated with the same old fare, regardless of how pretty it’s dressed up. This brings us to an important concept in film theory, one pioneered by author Wolfgang Schivelbusch in his publication The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century. Without going into too much detail Schivelbusch argued that the modernization of Europe by railroads changed the way we perceive our world. Adapting to the views of rapidly moving landscape on a train ride forced our psyche and perception to “toughen,” creating what’s been termed a “stimulus shield.” As media and advertisements became more flashy, colorful, attention-grabbing and invasive the viewer has raised their sensory threshold to dull the impact of distracting stimuli. The side effect of this response is that it takes ever higher sensory input to elicit the shock and awe factor that action spectacles rely on for thrills.

This is where the theatre must draw the line to resist takeover by the hundreds of millions of TVs around the world. The modern moving image was first displayed via a theatre and that’s where the movie magic must stay for theatres to remain relevant. Although electronics makers have already embraced 3D TVs, the theatre must stay one step ahead, challenging the technology and providing a audio-visual experience that tears through the desensitized masses and cuts through our callous stimulus shields. Future advancements in theatre projection and 3D technology will be needed to stay ahead of the TV tech curve, as mere increases in high-def resolution (such as new digital 4K recording and projection) will be quickly matched or exceeded by consumer systems. In the face of our dynamic distribution environment, the real question is whether or not the movie industry is capable of elevating the theatre viewing experience high enough to differentiate it from that offered by current television. With so much money at stake in the feature film box office game, I’m willing to bet they are.

Resources & References

Television History: The First 75 Years
High-Tech Productions: The History of Film, Television & Video
The Physics Factbook: Number of Televisions in the US
The Sourcebook for Teaching Science: Television & Health
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Total Comments: 22
Karl Schneider
Karl Schneider    Apr 15 2011 2:15pm
An interesting article, one which makes me think about the future 50 years from now and how these two will interact then.

The crux of your viewpoint seems to be that TV is more universally loved, and that our thirst for consumption on our own home theater may squeeze the theater out of existence unless it re-embraces the technological curve, once more placing itself at the front.

That won't happen.

Theaters barely make money as it is. You reference the money at stake, but all the money is hoarded by the production companies. Still, that fact aside, I continue to believe theaters have a place in the near future.

Why? Well, mainly because despite the fact that I agree, the home theater is the preferred consumption mechanism, we are an impatient species and the theater is clearly has an advantage. HBO may produce great television, but it doesn't produce great movies. There is not a single company out there that has proven a movie direct to home theater can be more profitable than that same movie going through the theatrical channels first.

IF and only if someone gets ballsy enough to try and perfect that business model will theaters truly have to look over their shoulder. The day could certainly come ... just not yet.
Patrick Ferrara
Patrick Ferrara    Apr 15 2011 2:45pm
Yep, i agree with you on the monetization of theatrical releases, simply put they can't be matched by a direct-to-television premiere (even typing such a thing sounds absurd).

I disagree with you on theatres not being able to keep the front runner spot in tech evolution, we've already seen it with 3D, which is a bad example to use since as soon as that platform started making money it was quickly subsumed in TVs. The big question is what will top 3D? And not just current 3D but more realized, future state 3D. I have some ideas, but they belong in a separate article.
BK    Apr 17 2011 6:57am
Fantastic article but I cannot see how the theatres can stay ahead of television technology-wise.

The idea for 3D came up with producers who then probably informed theatres to equip themselves with gear that could make the 3D movie possible or at least that's what I think.

Anything the theatre can do, television can do better, but what it can never achieve, at least to me, is the experience. Yes, there may be crying babies and idiot teenagers, but never all the time and thus more often than not the experience is profound or rather familiar but enjoyable.

Sure I may like to see movies in HD, but you can't beat the theatre's screen and their sound system, though you may get close, and experiencing the movie with a random bunch of strangers who you may never talk to or see again, still edges out sitting alone on the couch, or even with a bunch of friends, who seem to lose all form of propriety and cinema etiquette just because the atmosphere is friendlier.
Magnus    Apr 17 2011 8:16pm
Very good article indeed.

To me, 3D isn't really a solution. Not everyone likes 3D to begin with, let alone likes it enough to pay the extra money. Also, 3D TVs will in about 10 years time become more accessible so that boost goes away. Peter Jackson/James Cameron are pushing for 48 frames per second, but again, that's something you can duplicate on TVs.

To me, all players involved (theaters, studios, filmmakers) need to change in order to keep the theater system alive:

A. Prices need to drop, or at least stay stagnant. Whenever I go to the theaters with people who aren't regular movie-goers such as myself, the biggest thing they complain about is the price of the ticket. The inflation in ticket prices is getting out of hand. A family of four going to the movies will cost close $50 in tickets at some theaters. Much easier to just stay at home and watch a movie.

B. Theaters need to enforce stricter policies against troublesome customers. Certain premium theaters have options that allow people to contact the theater from their seats and notify employees of annoying customers. Early on, you may not see any difference but overtime, people will learn to act civil in the theaters. Theaters need to weed out those moviegoers that cause annoyance to the majority of customers.

C. Studios need to keep the gap between home-video and theater. The gap has been shrinking over the years, to the point that it seems we're on an inevitable course to where films come out in theaters and home-video on the same day. This day can't happen. There needs to be a few month gap between the two.

D. Filmmakers, particularly those with the tasks of big-budget films, need to deliver. As films like Inception and Avatar showed, if you give audiences a spectacle that they haven't experienced before, they will come. And on the smaller-budget side, films like Black Swan and The King's Speech show that great films will have great legs. This rule doesn't always hold true (there are plenty of great films that never really managed great legs), but the chances of strong legs certainly get better when the quality of film is high.

Now, even if all four of these things happen, the BO still never reach the heights of admissions that we had from 2001-2004 (known as the "golden era" by myself and others). But it will manage to keep admissions at the level they are now and stop the bleeding. Cause if something doesn't change and the decrease in admissions continues at this rate, the theater system will be dead in 20 years.
Patrick Ferrara
Patrick Ferrara    Apr 18 2011 10:44am
BK and Magnus thanks a lot for the support. Magnus you seem to have a better handle on theatre distribution trends than I do, throw up an article! I agree with you about theatre policing, one of the main reasons why Regal instituted a specific role for employees to walk up and down the theatre aisles with flashlights once or twice every showing (even in calm theatres Regal didn't want to give patrons the impression that they just take your money then forget about you, but I know people get mad at this distraction and at most theatres it's straight up just not enforced).

The release gap is crucial, as well as overall quality of product, which I think cut both ways: the lack in quality movies opened the door for higher quality TV while simultaneously turning off regular theatre-goers. But I think we're kidding ourselves if we don't acknowledge that the biggest reason people flock to their living rooms now is because of the dramatic increase in TV quality.

I think the theatre will reclaim the tech high ground, but I agree it has to sport something that TVs can't readily trump. The next logical step from 3D is holography, which I guarantee will be seen in theatres long before its seen in your home (at least in terms of feature-length displays).
Magnus    Apr 19 2011 1:10am
Holographic would be awesome!!

But my concern over stuff like that is that by the time it's available, many theaters will be dead. Not sure how long it will take for holographic to take over but I assume it'll be at least 10 years right? In my opinion, many theaters fate will be decided by the end of this decade. If admissions continue to decrease at the rate they have been over the past 6 years, lots of theaters will be dead in 10 years. The popular theaters will be fine (aka major theaters in major cities/suburbs) but the rest won't fare so well.

Theaters have to make adjustments RIGHT NOW to help mitigate this decrease. If the theater system can survive for the technology to catch up, it will be fine. But the question is whether it can survive that long.

Proud Ryu
Proud Ryu    Apr 21 2011 8:21pm
Very nice article! Enjoyed the historical perspective the most, including the train analogy. Very nice addition.

There are so many possible pros (vs. cons) of a home viewing experience these days
-hd / big&wide / surround sound
-no people near by talking / texting / kicking your chair
-can pause, subtitle, rewind; control volume, control lighting
-eat and drink whatever you want at decent prices

But so long as the theater maintains its pros (vs. cons) over tv, theatrical will at least stabilize at at some minimum level but never go extinct
-exclusivity of exhibition window (as Magnus said of at least 3 months)
-public event atmosphere (for those who want it, theater will always trump here)
-massive screen
-edge in tech (film innovations, sound, dimension)

You can look to video arcades for an analogy. They were once massive, in the late 80's, early 90's. But once the Playstation generation hit and then online multiplayer hit arcades became like old mining ghost-towns. To survive at all they had to have games that people would still want to or have to play standing up or in a bigger area or with more tech: dancing, gun games, driving games, basketball and other ticket reward games, etc. People will probably never have those kinds of experiences at home, and can do them while out shopping or playing pool or bowling or such.

Re holograms, I guess that's the coming thing but I have a hard time imaging how that will look in a theater environment. I could see no-glasses high frame 3D, assuming that's possible, becoming a norm though. I don't have a guess as to where screen counts will stabilize but it's hard to imagine a huge chunk disappearing.

Proud Ryu
Proud Ryu    Apr 21 2011 8:22pm
Hey what happened to my spacing :(
Proud Ryu
Proud Ryu    Apr 21 2011 9:09pm
Thanks ;)

I just found this article as well

You can watch Just Go With It today at home - for $30, pricey but cheaper than 2 tickets, popcorn and drink.
Patrick Ferrara
Patrick Ferrara    Apr 22 2011 2:33am
Thanks for the link Ryu; heard it was in the works with DirecTV but didn't realize they were rolling out the service out so quickly. Also great analogy with arcades, I hadn't thought of that before but the similarities between the two sets of comparisons are striking, though I really hope theatres can withstand the test of time longer than arcades could!
resident    Apr 22 2011 6:28am
Before HBO appeared, there was Zenith Phonevision.
It used a broadcast system with a descrambler box and on-demand via the telephone.
But it either did not catch on or was otherwise not eventually offered nationwide.

I'm not sure about holography, those I am sure it will appear for the home first, based on LCD
technology constructing the needed variable holographic plate (unlike current latent imaging), before it will appear in theaters due to the logistics of projecting a magnified and surround holographic image. In the home, the holographic tv will likely function more like watching object-da "live-in-a-box". The Antique Roadshow, anyone?

If you have ever witnessed an excellent hologram, you will know that such a hologram also conveys a live quality as if you are looking at a real object, similar to the dynamics of a video vs. the softer dynamics of film. I don't know if the public would care for a live video dynamic hologram and I suspect the softer values will prevail, even as a holographic feature.

What I would like to see is a full-blown field-of-focus system with artistic control of variable field-of-focus by the filmmakers, operating in impact the same as native vision, that would be holographic by default. Currently, every lens used to focus the image does so by restricting/fixing the density of the image light in order to focus the view to a single latent density.
A hologram is a recording of the light patterns according to a fixed axis diameter.
And then, the theatrical projectors sacrifice density as a trade-off for magnification while allowing the projection to continue on in a divergent pattern of light off the screen and away from the eyes.

What would be interesting to me is a system that records the density of the light by distance.

Or maybe a theater composed of several digital projectors utilizing mirror periscopes to convert the projected light to a narrower divergent pattern (to increase dynamic densities arriving at the eyes), and as close as possible to straight rays would be best for glassless 3D or holograms, providing both an average value of light and a difference of light by density and by parallax. Oh I wish...and I am sure something like this is coming, that is, if it is not already in the R/D labs.
But the family is greedy for working on it now, since before Faroudja and Tru-Life video enhancement became available back in 1984 I think..
resident    Apr 22 2011 6:29am spaces...
resident    Apr 22 2011 6:48am
And about Pay TV, I wanted to mention that I remember back in the 1960's in California there was a Proposition on the ballot to outlaw Pay TV before Pay TV even appeared. Maybe in 1966??
There was a tv spot for the measure that showed a typical television set with a set-top box with an add-on device designed to look like a taxi meter. The announcer went on about how terrible it will be if Pay TV is allowed to start business in California and take over the broadcasting industry, requiring you to deposit coins in the box every hour just to watch your favorite shows.

I'm not sure if the measure passed, but I'm thinking it did and was thrown out in court later.
resident    Apr 22 2011 7:33am
Ah yes. In California 1964, the theater owners circulated a petition to ban Pay TV which also affected the start of Cable t.v. as we know it. This spot for the petition that became Proposition 15 on the 1964 ballot was shown in theaters in 1964, not 1968 as the youtube page incorrectly states:
The measure passed and was thrown out by the courts:
Karl Schneider
Karl Schneider    Apr 22 2011 2:59pm
The concept of placing coins in a box to keep watching a TV show, with a voice overlaying your show saying "Ten minuets remaining, please deposit another 10 cents for an additional 30 minutes" cracks me up.
resident    Apr 22 2011 4:03pm
That was the paranoia the backers of the proposition used to persuade the voters.
It was crazy b.s.
And of course they Never mentioned the matter of local sports events being offered on Pay TV when at the same time, the local games were blocked from free t.v. by Default, same as now.

Curious though, that it was a group of theater owners behind the measure. I would think it would be broadcast and commercial sponsor groups who depend on commercials to sell their products who would oppose Pay TV/Cable services. The narrative in that theater ad for the petition sure sounds like the radio ads for Free HD Radio, doesn't it?
resident    Apr 22 2011 4:42pm
You gotta love the first picture under "American Snapshot, 1950s and Beyond"; the one with the girl cuddling up between the two t.v.s. That was a deliberate subliminal pose, like the short-lived local children's program "Magic Screen" which aired in Pittsburgh, Pa. in the 1950's.
"Magic Screen" centered around both a piece of plastic sheet that the children were instructed to place over the t.v. screen, and a crayon. The sheet stuck to the screen by the static generated from the CRT picture tube. The program then featured skits where the performers would make up a story and then stop and point to an area in the screen, at which time the viewers were instructed to draw a specified creature or object on the magic screen plastic sheet in that area with the crayon. Then the performers would respond to the indicated area and the requested drawing.

But, like the picture with the girl, the actual purpose of the "Magic Screen" program was to convince the general public of the safety and sanity of harboring an electronic imaging device in the comfort of their living rooms that generated an otherwise fatal value of 29 Kilovolts, this in an era where The Electric Chair was still in use.
Patrick Ferrara
Patrick Ferrara    Apr 23 2011 9:44pm
Some good thoughts resident, though I think the cost of developing holographic projection systems for the home will be prohibitively expensive, and I think the technology will initially develop within the theatre network in order to target exhibition profits; simply put, holographic hardware will be too expensive for mass consumption right out of the gate. But it could develop along an arc similar to that of television rather than the projector, and maybe we could see it in homes first. Yet with television early inventors had a pretty good handle of how video information could be transported wirelessly, whereas early holographic features will undoubtedly be contained on static plates.

I don't think large-scale projection of holographic images will create insurmountable hurdles either, once the core technology is realized scale-up of the photoelectric plate should be pretty do-able. People will want holograms big, and they'll get them big.
resident    Apr 24 2011 3:54am
And of course with Digital Projection, they could use very large imaging plates Now.
There is more depth-of-field available with large format portrait lenses and plates for instance.
IMAX could use something like a 40 inch digital plate with a much shallower projection lens = less light divergence and more density arriving to the eyes.

There probably is great interest in keeping holography commercial on behalf of theater owners, but you know, it isn't that expensive to use LCD as a holographic plate coupled with some Faroudja magic to recover approximate holography from conventional 2D prints. The Faroudja Tru-Life video enhancer is the proc used to increase the apparent depth-of-field of conventional broadcast television. When you suddenly notice greater depth-of-field while watching an old movie, etc., that's probably the Faroudja system at work. It was first used in 1984 during the Olympics telecasts and it can often look exactly like windowed 3D in the results.
Of course, things coming out of the set at you like full stereo-optic 3D are another matter...
ShawnMR    Apr 26 2011 2:13am
I'll comment in further detail later, but I wanted to let you know that this is one of the best and most informative articles I've seen on KJ to date. Excellent work, Patrick.
Proud Ryu
Proud Ryu    May 3 2011 8:32pm

Interesting tidbit.
Patrick Ferrara
Patrick Ferrara    May 5 2011 10:06pm
Sehr interesting Ryu, we'll see how long that trend lasts, especially when OLEDs really come to market and push down LCD prices