One of the oldest, and most unique buildings in the UK has become the country’s first community cinema to take an all-digital approach — thanks to equity funding from two DTI schemes and membership of the UK Film Council’s Digital Screen Network.
By adopting Christie 2K projection, integrated in an image processor and Doremi server environment at its cinema in Hawkhurst, Kent, owners Kino Holdings have established a blueprint for expansion into Europe while at the same time supporting local film makers.
The company was set up by Australian entrepreneur Paul Corcoran and partner Helen Jones in 2003, but since they achieved their funding in 2005 there has been no stopping them.
While the fascia of the Kino community cinema betrays its Victorian (and more recently village hall) heritage, inside a sophisticated design upgrade — masterminded by Stefanie Fischer of Burrell, Foley, Fischer — has utterly transformed it. Studio experts Munro Acoustics designed the 5.1 Dynaudio Acoustics process-controlled sound system (while their construction company Form Funktion provided the acoustic insulation) and Arts Alliance Media supplied the media storage, processing and projection devices.
Said Paul Corcoran, “As a result we became the UK’s first all digital cinema, with products like the Christie CP2000 really transforming the place. We are digital focused, and into the whole cinema network management system — we have a Dolby encoder in our other cinema in Sevenoaks and the idea is to link all the screens together. We want to develop small cinemas in towns with a high retail offering, and a crossover into education.”
In fact one of the features that first attracted Kino Holdings to the empty Hawkhurst Village Hall was the fact that there was a new primary school in the town. “This place was empty and the Parish Council called us back the same day we inquired about it.” Where as a village hall it was being used by 2000 people a year it could now expect 40,000-45,000 in the bijou 90-seat cinema.
All of which places huge demands on the CP2000. But it is not only the ease of use of the Christie projector that impresses Corcoran but the somewhat alarming duty cycle it has been performing. “The projector is running constantly without a single problem — from 10am-11pm and often a 15-hours-a-day duty cycle — every day of the year except Christmas day.”
The projection room certainly looks both future-proof and bullet-proof. Munro Acoustics’ highly-specified Dynaudio Acoustics sound FX rack is plugged with MC2 amplification and TC Electronic processing (driving Dynaudio Acoustics monitors) while the CP-2000 is joined by Christie’s sophisticated Cine-IPM 2K image processor and TCP touch panel.
High-bandwidth movies, delivered encrypted on hard drive are fed into the Doremi DCP-2000 server and unlocked by the server software (matching to the appropriate serial numbers). Opening and closing of the douser and setting of the frame rates are also handled in the software domain, while Arts Alliance provided the necessary relays to trigger the curtains and lower and raise the house lights on presets.
Content availability has grown exponentially in the two years since Kino became all-digital.
“The Arts Alliance Digital Network has given greater access to films and in addition, we have been able to screen locally-made films made by students as well as high-quality local advertising — all shown through the same system. The cost of film would have made access like this impossible.
“In fact Christie can take comfort in the fact that their projectors will be used for community access for local film makers and local advertising.”
But it hasn’t always been that simple. “Two years ago there was a struggle to get digital content so we were having to programme just a week in advance,” says Corcoran. Now there is such a dynamic relationship with the audience that the policy works in their favour. Kino Hawkhurst — like its two-screen counterpart in Sevenoaks — runs between six and eight sessions a day, with a rolling repertoire of between six and eight films a week.
“The UK Film Council wanted more specialised films, and although there are still some things we are not showing, this is now changing fast. The kind of films now being digitised are the films we want to show — foreign language and anything that is British mainstream right through to commercial arthouse.” It will transform what the public consumes, he says.
Kino Holdings are now a company in a hurry. While their short-term plans include a flotation on the Plus Market, they are also keen to enter the European market and open an office in Berlin.
Paul Corcoran has come a long way since his days working in the film industry in his native Melbourne. “I had some background in technical but not in film post, and I have largely learnt as I’ve gone along.”
He knows his company is perfectly placed to be at the vanguard of the movie industry’s evolution.
“The relationship between exhibitors like us, distributors and producers will change dramatically over the next few years,” he predicts, “especially in Europe where it will all be about breaking down the national borders.”