Since it makes for an entertaining comparison, I will post the email exchange here for the NY Times email
interviews that I do.
This is a previous interview experience with the
This is the column Randall Stross wrote
for this Sunday. Proving the editorial standards of the NYTimes havent improved.
This is the email exchange:
> >From: Randy Stross/NYT/New York Times
> >Sent: Wednesday, December 14, 2005 11:44 PM
I am preparing a Digital Domain column for this Sunday’s paper that features Mark Cuban and 2929 Entertainment. I am
writing to see if Mr.Cuban would be free to chat by phone for twenty minutes tomorrow(Thursday) to permit
me to obtain his most recent thoughts on his all-digital strategy. I see the great prospects for HDTV, but only dim
ones for the theatrical exhibition businesseven with 4K digital projection. I didlisten to Mr. Cuban’s talk at
Digimart in September but am open to hearing updates, elaborations, and adjustments.
I’m afraid time is very short: the story will close tomorrow.
Thank you for considering the request.
Randy Stross,Digital Domain columnist,New York Times
At 06:04 AM 12/15/2005, you wrote:
Im happy to answer any questions by email.. im in meetings this amand then on a plane, so cheating you some
answers during my meeting may be the best option
The following is my responses following his questions. There was no further correspondence beyond a thank you after
> 1. I would think that running an art-house chain is not unlike runningan opinion magazine like The
Atlantic or The New Republic: it’s less a conventional business than a good cause. Can you say: is the
Landmark Theaters unit profitable?
we dont disclose financials, but we are pleased with our operations.
If so, was this the case before you purchased Landmarkand if profitability has only been attained recently,
what measures account for this feat? If the unit is not profitable, how will digital projection help? I
understand that theoretically many more programs can be offered in a given week, but variety also means
higher marketing costs. Do you have data that shows a dramatic increase in attendance when multiple programs are
packed into a schedule? Are there other economic arguments to be made in favor of the transition?
Its a very simple equation. People come to see good movies. There arent any magic formulas. Digital creates some new
opportunities to increase customer satisfaction. The quality of a digital print never declines. if a movie is popular,
we dont have to wait to create another print. We can spend money on content or marketing rather than making and
distributing prints. But none matter if our audience doesnt care about the film
2. Has Sony worked out the kinks on its 4K projectors to your satisfaction? Do you still plan to go with
4K exclusively, or will you try out 2Ks, too?
Sony has been very responsive and we like what we see so far. There is more to 4k projection than just the
projectors. The servers, the codecs, and other issues. There havent been any showstoppers so far.
We are going to move forward in a way that we think serves our customer base the best.
-What’s the current timetable for conversion? What will the costs runper theater?
We are in progress, and we dont disclose numbers
3. This holiday season, the sales of HDTV sets are likely to be incredible, and HDNet and HDNet Movies should
do very well. But the better they do, I expect the harder it will be to get your happy subscribers to leave
the comfort of home and head to a Landmarkespecially with day-and-date universal release. Do you have any
additional thoughts about offers or promotions targeted at theater patrons beyond those you discussed at
Digitmart in September?
HDTVs havent cured cabin fever, the desire to get away from the kids, or the desire of kids to go on dates without
their parents. Just because you better the home aspect of the entertainment experience doesnt mean you detract from the
value of another.
the only missing link right now is the theater business, landmark included, extolling the virtues of enjoying a
movie in a theater with fellow movie fans.
4. A blast from the past: In 2000, you said that you planned to have high-speed Internet jacks installed
in every seat in the Mavericks’ arena. Did that come to pass? If not, what happened, and are there plans to
add this in the near future?
we have wireless installed at the arena. What changed is that i learned that the fans create a communal experience
when they come to a game. We want people screaming and yelling, not staring at a PDA or laptop. So we havent turned it
on for fans.
Thanks very much.
So there you have the email exchange. And just for the fun of it, sinceRandy was so worried
about Landmarks business, I thought I would include an email from inside of Landmark Theaters this past
is opening this week in 16 more Landmark markets after the hugely successful and much publicized opening at the
Embarcadero in San Francisco. (140,000 box office44 consecutive sell outs). In the 16 new
markets we haveXX prints on the screen. This print count is unprecedented in LT history. I am
ecstatically reporting the following opening numbers so far today. Thank you for all the hard work it will take
this weekend to seat and satisfy our theatre guests.
these numbers out, all pre 5pm (**Note, I have removed the theater names- m)
16,700 @ 4:00
16,300 @ 5:00
13,800 @ 3:00
15,200 @ 5:00
14,000 @ 5:00
12,739 @ 3:00
12,511 @ 3:00
12,283 @ 4:00
10,743 @ 5:00
7161 @ 5:00
6800 @ 5:00
5582 @ 5:00
7587 @ 5:00
4000 @ 3:00
3200 @ 3:00
3105 @ 3:00
2052 @ 3:00
Lets just say , that for matinees, those are
damn good numbers. The 44 consecutive sellouts is not too shabby. Congrats to the producers of Brokeback
Mountainand to Landmark employees.
And all of this is on the heels of Good Night
and Good Luck. A movie that not only did Landmark have great success with, but that2929 executive
producedas well. And there have been other indie and art films that have done very, very well this year.
Just look at the award nominees and discussions taking place. Plus, it looks like 2006 could be very strong as well
But then again, we have great partners and great
employees at Landmark that make things happen and keep our customers happy. We arent perfect, but we have people in
every theater who bust theirasses trying to make sureeveryLandmarkcustomer has a good or
And as far as the value of digital projection, i
gave him some simple starting points. He didnt want to delve any further.He used that old NY Times standard…find a
quote(s) that supports my conclusion and go with it. The value of digital projection in a vertical company such as ours
is wide reaching. Producing a film in High Definition and never having to
take it to film, not only saves us time and money that can be plowed into the product or marketing, but it also creates
a unique visual look that we think filmgoers will appreciate, enjoy and find reason to go to a theater for.
It also allows us to create new programs for
film makers like Trulyindie.com . But he obviously was in a hurry and not
interested in finding out more information.
And on the topic of HDTV in the home relative to
digital projection in theaters:
. I obviously think High Definition is going to
change the way we view and experience TV at home. HDNet and HDNet Movies are built on
that premise. I expect a coming golden age of TV as
viewers expect high definition quality from programmers and only HD channels, not the internet will be able to deliver
in the manner consumers will want to experience it.
That said, I have also spoken and written about
the importance of picture quality to HDTV consumers. The thing about HDNet and viewers of any High Def content, they
want the best picture quality possible. The more they watch HDTV, the more demanding they are of quality. The greater
the investment in a home theater system, the more demanding they are of better picture quality. The picture quality
capabilites of new HDTVs will continue to improve as prices go down, UNFORTUNATELY, the picture quality of content
delivered to those TV sets will probably never match the capabilities of those HDTV sets.
Put aside that new sets are being sold that are
capable of displaying 1080p. Put aside that the cameras that will enable the capture of HD content in 1080p are a ways
off. The reality of today, and for the forseeable future, is that there is a HUGE disparity ofpicture
quality between what will be delivered to all those HDTV sets from cable, satellite , DVD, HD DVD or Blu Ray and what
those sets are capable of. (Sony, Panny, where are our HDCam and D5 lossless codecs ???)
What does this have to do with digital cinema
? HDTV content delivered to anHDTVset via your local cable or satellite proider, IF its
compressed and there is a very good chance that it is or will be, will be ofan equal or lower picture
quality than than what will be delivered via coming optical media options.
The picture quality of content delivered on
optical media,which for the next 18 to 24 months at least, will be limited to the 50 to 100gb range in capacity.
This will allow for picture quality, that while better than cable or satellite, wont be able to hold a candle to
the picture quality of what can be shown viaa digital projector in a theater..
That means thatpicture or sound
quality in the home, will pale in comparison to the picture quality in a theater for a long, long , long
The opportunity to deliver a movie shot on film
and converted at full resolution to digital cinema quality, or like any of our movies at HDNet Films, starting with
Bubble this coming January, to be displayed in the exact format it was captured, without compression, will create a
unique visual experience for the film goer.( Just ask anyone who was at the Venice Film Festival and saw Bubble
In english, that means that picture quality of a
movie, shot in full resolution digital, shown in full resolution, on a digital projector will look fucking
amazing. It will look as amazing 10 years from now as the first time it was shown.
Of course if its a lousy film, it wont matter.
Of coursethere are people who will say they are happy with good old tv as is. That they are happy with DVDs as
are. Just as has been said about everycurrent to previous technology comparision ever made. Of course you can and
are making do with what you are currently doing.Technology will still march on and impact
The fact that the sound and picture quality in a
digital theater will far exceed anything you can experience in your home wont be the deciding factor for many film
goers. But there will be cinephiles who do want to experience “Full Resolution Cinema”. Maybe it wont matter for
American Pie 7 or Cheaper by the Dozen 6, or The Family Stone or any movie shown in the 16 screen multiplex. But thats
not Landmark Theater’s audience.
Landmark Theater patrons want to see what a
brilliant director like Steven Soderbergh can do with a High Definition palette and what it looks like from
adigital projector. They wouldnt care if it was for Oceans 16. They care if its
Landmark Theater patrons will appreciate the
fact that the resolution and sound are far superior to anything they could experience on their brand new HDTV and home
Landmark Theater patrons want to know
thatjust because they are seeing a movie in its 3rd week, they arent going to be subject to dirt, wear and
tear and pops in the filmthey are watching. We cant prevent that today. We will be able to with
Landmark Theaterpatrons will love the fact
that we can digitally feature new and exciting film makers knowing that their budgets went to the movie, rather
thanconverting to film and striking prints, as will independent filmmakers.
Maybe digitalwont matter for some of the
big theater chains. It will matter for Landmark Theaters.
You would think that in the business section of
the NY Times, a columnist wouldrecognize the difference inthe Landmark customer and those of large theater
chains and in the goals of the associations that represent themvs those of Landmark.
You would think that he would take more time
than an admittedly rushed email exchange before he would write the article that he did.
Personallly, I would have thought the NY
Times Publisher and Editors would have demanded more before they would print the article. Its not likeIm
not accessible, and its not like they havent screwed up before.