Lasers and movies

While most laser light source applications have been very nichey, such as laser auto headlights, the application of laser cinema projection has been growing nicely.

Allen Nogee 720

While most laser light source applications have been very nichey, such as laser auto headlights, the application of laser cinema projection has been growing nicely. While still under $150M worldwide, this laser area is an interesting one to watch. But like almost every laser application, laser sales don’t increase in a vacuum, rather they depend on other factors as the driver. If new movie theaters aren’t being built, and theater owners aren’t spending the money to improve the quality of their movie projections, then laser cinema revenues can suffer.

Spurred on by third-party subscription movie services like Sinemia and Moviepass, a monumental change to the U.S. movie industry occurred when AMC, the largest movie chain in the U.S., introduced its “A-List” subscription service in July. Basically, for $20/month, you could see three movies a week, with IMAX and Dolby theater movies included and a few smaller theater chains are trying similar plans. So how does this affect laser cinema revenue in the U.S.? Unfortunately, it’s not all beneficial because it shows U.S. theater owners are now in a mood to favor quantity over quality. Get as many people into the theater as possible--since popcorn and soda sales account for about 40% of a theater’s profits--and reduce spending on extras like laser projectors. Still in the U.S., several hundred laser cinema projectors were installed in 2017, generally RGB projectors in bigger theaters.

Related: Comparing RGB lasers vs. LEDs for cinema-scale displays

Related: Frequency-doubled degenerate laser is speckle-free green light source

In China the picture is quite different. With streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are blocked in China, movie attendance is at an all-time high, and movie revenue in China could overtake the U.S./Canada in 2019. In China, the number of screens increased from 3,527 in 2007 to over 50,000 in 2017, overtaking the number in the U.S., which has about 41,000 screens. By 2021, China is forecast to have more than 80,000 movie screens. Movie revenue in China for the first half of 2018 grew almost 18% year-on-year, and the number of laser cinema theaters also grew. Several thousand laser cinema projectors were installing in China in 2017, and most of these were laser phosphor projectors. (Laser Phosphor projectors use a single blue laser and a phosphor wheel to produce white light for projection. They are designed for smaller multiplex theaters and are a fraction of the price of larger RGB laser projectors.)

Read the full blog from Allen Nogee:

Lasers and movies

More in Commentary