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Anderson Discusses Swan Cinemas’ Digital Experience
07 Jan 2010 : By Aileen Moon
Following years of planning and negotiations, December 18th of last year saw the launch of Swan Cinemas in Rathmines, Dublin. IFTN spoke to Omniplex’s Operations Director Mark Anderson about the new facility, interactive gaming on the big screen and his thoughts on the future of cinema.

The newly opened venue is the first custom designed digital cinema in Ireland and seeks to cater for a wide range of cinematic audiences by providing alternative forms of cinematic entertainment such as screening operas and theatrical performances live from the New York Met and the screening of Formula 1 races for which talks are currently underway alongside the latest blockbuster and independent films.

The cinema called for a 3 million euro investment and is manned by a staff of 20. The opening of the location was marked by the screening of ‘Avatar’ to highlight the theatre’s desire to exploit new digital technology. Currently two of the cinema’s three screens are open with the third expected to be open for business shortly. IFTN spoke with Omniplex’s Mark Anderson to discuss the new cinematic venture.

IFTN: The building of the Swan Cinemas in Rathmines is something that has been in the pipeline since the 90s – why has it taken so long to bring to fruition?

Mark Anderson (MA): Yes, we first made the application to build a cinema in Rathmines in 1999 and since then it has taken years of perseverance to actually see it happen. It was the culmination of a lot of efforts in the end but it was definitely worth the wait. What we want now is for the locals to take ownership of the cinema. The most important thing is that it meets the needs of the Rathmines community and the surrounding communities – Dublin 4, 14 and 6. It is the most high tech cinema in the country at the moment and that’ll hopefully draw people into Rathmines.

IFTN: You plan to open the third screen at the venue soon – is the demand there for such a move?

MA: Yes, definitely! We were delighted to be able to open with the two screens in December and we’ll soon have the third screen up and running from about late January, early February. The main reason behind having the three screens in use is that we don’t want to lose films while they’re still popular with audiences. The more screens we have the longer we can retain films that are doing well. 

IFTN: You are offering a lot of alternative cinematic experiences – live opera and concerts etc. Why did you decide to branch out from normal cinema formats?

MA:Digital projections allow for a broader range of services. We decided to incorporate the cultural formats as well as normal film screenings because it’s a whole new cinema form and will, I think, revolutionise how people see the cinema. Also, I think the live opera will help create a sense of community once it becomes a routine event for certain audience members. Live entertainment on the big screen is a very exciting new development in cinema and we want to make the most of it.

IFTN: Part of the ‘alternative cinema experience’ you hope to offer is the live screening of Formula 1 racing. How would this work?

MA: We’re currently in talks to make this happen, which will hopefully happen sometime in March. I’m a huge Formula 1 fan and the brilliant thing about this format is that the cinema cameras will bring audiences into the pit and other places that the TV cameras don’t get into. Also to see the racing on the big screen would be fantastic!

IFTN: Another format you are exploring is that of live interactive gaming – might this format prove logistically tricky to orchestrate?

MA: We’re talking to all the major game companies at the moment – X-Box, Playstation and Nintendo Wii to see how this could be developed. There’s all sort of things that need to be decided on – how many people could take part at any given time, whether we would employ a league format etc. There are already companies in the U.K. who have started interactive game leagues in their cinemas and there’s a choice of approaches that seem to work so we’re looking at that.

What it might be is that we organise an off-peak time – say Saturday and Sunday mornings where gamers – young and old – can come and play each other for sessions of an hour or two. There are a few options, we just have to see which one would work best for us.

IFTN: Screening something ‘live’ should, theoretically, take somewhat from the ‘live’ experience – the audiences’ demeanor is drastically different. Yet these screenings have still proved very popular already, why do you think this is?

MA: I was at a convention in the UK last year and one of the speakers there told us about an experience he had at the screening of a live comedy gig and the signal went down in 20 cinemas across the country. And obviously he expected complaints but people actually told him it made it feel really ‘live’. It made it fell authentic because they knew there were other people across the country who were experiencing the same thing. It retains the essence of a live event in that it’s something new and that no-one has ever experienced before. The best way to explain it is the difference between watching a football match live and watching a repeat of the same match – it’s a completely different experience because of the added ‘live’ factor.

IFTN: Looking at the website Swan Cinemas also put a heavy emphasis on Irish films it would seem?

MA: Yes indeed, we’re taking expressions of interest from filmmakers all the time. To get a film out onto the marketplace is so difficult. But digital projection allows for anything to be shown on the screen so this could possibly prove to be a way of realizing the dreams of many a producer. The films will still have to be certified of course but it is our way of introducing some innovation into the cinema and laying an emphasis on independent film here in Ireland.

IFTN: Finally Mark, digital is the most modern cinematic form we currently have – what’s next for cinema?

MA: Some of what we consider modern and innovative cinema formats like 3D have actually been around for a long time. 3D was introduced in the 50s for example and that had its last advent in the 80s and people didn’t warm to it but it’s having a whole new advent now with ‘Avatar’ which was embraced and continues to be so. People always want to see innovation in the cinema so we are definitely going to keep moving on. The dawn of digital means more competition, coupled with the fact that Sky are bringing 3D to television. Huge competition which means more innovation. All I know is that the next element, the next evolution will have to come soon.

For more information about Swan Cinemas’ Screenings and film timetables visit www.swancinemas.ie

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Anderson Discusses Swan Cinemas’ Digital Experience
07 Jan 2010 

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