Cinema Owners Should Take Care When Making
Claims For ‘Big-D’
Marketing Digital Cinema
by Steven John Fellman
NATO Washington Counsel
At long last it appears that digital cinema
is about to become a reality. Several different providers,
exhibitor-based groups, are moving forward with programs
to bring digital cinema to U.S. exhibitors. The systems
offered will be designed to meet the studios’ Digital
Cinema Initiatives (DCI) and other industry specifications.
The transition to digital cinema will be paid for through
savings that the studios realize by eliminating print costs.
recognize that in making claims regarding digital cinema, the advertiser
will need to substantiate the claims made.
The FTC looks to the advertiser to have the substantiation available at
the time that
the ad is placed.
For the industry, it is expected that digital
cinema will result in providing the consumer with a better
experience based on improved technology. It has long
been recognized that film degrades after multiple showings
digital projection will not be subject to such a problem.
Certainly, a moviegoer who sees a print that has been
in constant use for three weeks will notice that the quality
of the print is not as good as it was on day one and
not as good as the quality of the digital version after
a similar 3-week run.
However, what about a new film print when
compared to “virtual
print”? Will the average moviegoer be able to tell
the difference between a new film print and the digital
version? As I talk to various industry “experts,” I
get different responses. I am told the answer to the question
will vary dependant on certain factors such as the size
and configuration of the auditorium, whether we have a
2K or a 4K projector, whether the movie has many special
effects, how the director sets the lighting, the sophistication
of the moviegoer, etc., etc.
If I had to categorize the responses I received,
I think the experts are saying that some moviegoers will
be able to tell the difference most of the time; most moviegoers
will probably be able to tell the difference some of the
time; and some moviegoers will probably never be able to
tell the difference.
For exhibitors, these issues are important
because they dictate what types of claims exhibitors can
digital cinema. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the
government agency responsible for reviewing national advertising
practices. Under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission
Act, the FTC is empowered to take action to prevent unfair
and deceptive advertising practices. The FTC has taken
the position that where an advertiser publishes an ad that
claims that “x” is better than “y,” the
advertiser must be able to substantiate the claim. In evaluating
substantiation documentation, the FTC evaluates whether
the advertiser can support the claims made in a manner
that is meaningful to consumers of the product. If an exhibitor
placed an ad claiming that digital cinema provided a consumer
with a “better” viewing experience, the FTC
would probably look for substantiation data that would
show not only that there is an enhanced technical difference
in the product displayed on the screen, but also that the
average consumer viewing the digital transmission of the
average movie would conclude that the digital presentation
was more enjoyable or superior in a material way when compared
to a celluloid presentation.
If digital equipment is not available to
all exhibitors in a marketplace at the same time, it can
be expected that
those exhibitors with digital equipment may want to market
the availability of the equipment as a way of inducing
more consumers to come to their theatres. Exhibitors must
recognize that in making claims regarding digital cinema,
the advertiser will need to substantiate the claims made.
The FTC looks to the advertiser to have the substantiation
available at the time that the ad is placed. What any exhibitor
will be able to claim will be based on the type of system
it uses and how that system operates in its theatres. In
other industries, vendors provide support for advertising
claims. Exhibitors should look to their digital cinema
vendors for such data.
The digital cinema world is a new world.
It provides many opportunities and yet presents many challenges.
using digital equipment should consult with counsel before
aggressively marketing this new technology to moviegoers.