As an entertainment reporter, I am not usually in awe of the A-list talent and studio execs I encounter. Nor am I intimidated by world political figures I meet and interview. But when it came time to interview Dr. Man-Nang Chong, founder and CEO of GDC Technology, I almost completely blew it. Here was a man whose career I had followed from the turn of the 21st century. In Asia, he is known as a visionary, a father of the digital movement.
FJI: Is digital 3D a fad or here to stay?
Dr. Chong: 3D used in animation will stay around for the foreseeable future. For feature films other than animation, I’m not sure. 3D is good for the re-release of films. But, you know, 3D is not doing so well in some Asian countries—Korea, Japan and Singapore, for example.
As for China, while there were 500 digital systems in place in China before Avatar , now there are around 10,000 screens, 9,000 all-digital with only 4,000 to 5,000 3D-enabled. That is somewhat encouraging—however, I’m not sure the Chinese understand the 3D economic model. Distributors there are very conservative. If box office is not met, the distributor has to pay. Exhibitors, of course, like that model and promote it—so why take a chance with 3D?
And by the way, GDC Tech maintains a 55% lead in the Chinese digital-cinema server market.
FJI: How do you define alternative content?
Alternative content is games, live events, etc. where full use is being made of an auditorium. Alternative presentations are the best way to utilize the advanced technology that one finds in theatres today. There has been great success in the U.S. and Europe with alternative-content events such as presentations of the Metropolitan Opera, but there is a need to make such events ongoing.
In Asia, there have been limited experiments with alternative content. As a matter of fact, T-Joy in Japan was a pioneer in the use of alternative content six to eight years ago [see FJI’s December 2011 profile] and the FIFA 2012 World Cup Games were a tremendous success in Korea.
FJI: What does the future hold for alternative content?
Dr. Chong: The first problem that needs to be dealt with is increasing spending on alternative-content marketing. While screening windows can be rescheduled, one-day events usually cannot and become very expensive to market. Consumer behavior is not ready to accept these one-day events. It is a challenging market.
As an individual and as CEO of the company, I need to make clear that we believe in alternative content. But there are business issues that must be dealt with. While theatres can handle live concerts now, there is more infrastructure that needs to be put in place, especially here in Asia where we are missing satellite dishes and hook-ups, for example. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation.
At GDC Tech, we are looking at problems that exist, especially with building infrastructure. We need a cost-effective way to deal with them.
The switch from analog to digital will create new opportunities and consumer interest with high rental returns for the industry. But we need to take a look at new technologies that will make it easier to broadcast by satellite games like Kino, video conferencing, sports events, etc.
FJI: I understand GDC Tech is going to be introducing a new piece of equipment at CinemaCon in April.
Dr. Chong: Yes, that’s right. We will be introducing our SX-3000 Standalone
Integrated Media Block (IMB). But let’s wait until the show before I start pitching this new technology.
Since we were talking about 3D and alternative content here, I will tell you our full
IMB family comes integrated with RealD Live and Sensio Hi-Fi 3D, which makes receiving high-quality 3D broadcasts possible. They also provide a built-in integrated 3D receiver-decoder to seamlessly support 3D live broadcasts without requiring an additional receiver-decoder.