The beginning of the end for celluloid film in Hong Kong and Macau has been heralded with a movie giant's announcement that it will stop supplying 35mm prints to cinemas in the two cities next year.
Twentieth Century Fox, which accounted for almost a third of Hollywood's box-office takings in Hong Kong last year, said yesterday it would in future supply only digital versions.
Sunder Kimatrai, Asia-Pacific regional managing director of Twentieth Century Fox International, expected that by the end of the year over 95 per cent of cinema screens in Hong Kong and Macau would support digital projection technology.
'As a local result of the transition, we feel the time is right to phase out the supply of our films in 35mm analogue formats... over the next two years we expect to be announcing additional markets where supply of 35mm will be phased out,' he said.
Other studios, including Paramount and Sony, said they had no plans to stop supplying prints.
One of the eight major Hollywood studios, Fox supplied 16 movies to Hong Kong last year, accounting for 30 per cent of the city's box office takings for Hollywood productions.
Professor Cheuk Pak-tong, director of the Academy of Film at Hong Kong Baptist University, said showing movies in digital format could save money in the long term. He said one film copy could cost as much as HK$20,000 and each theatre needed its own copy. But a digital signal could be played from a centralised system with all theatres able to receive the signal and show the movie.
Cheuk said the quality of digital movies would soon exceed that of traditional film. He expected more theatres to go digital with the increasing popularity of 3D and HD movies.
'New technology will also revolutionise film aesthetics as a whole. We will have a new set of standard of aesthetics for digital film.'