Feature: China's "pocket cinema" startup aims high in North America

Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-06 06:58:46|Editor: Liu
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by Julia Pierrepont III

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- To watch a new blockbuster at a theater or handily on your smart phone, that is going to be your call.

Americans can now watch newly released Chinese films on their smart phones via an app officially launched this week at the 15th annual China-U.S. Film and TV Festival in Hollywood, the heartland of the global entertainment industry.

According to Dr. Jack Gao, co-founder and CEO of Smart Cinema USA, the firm's new technology, combined with smart phones and advanced 4G or 5G telecommunications networks, can push full length feature films to every smart phone in China and the United States once they hit theaters.

"It's a disruptive idea that seeks to reframe the distribution model that has kept the film industry in an iron grip since cinema began 120 years ago," Gao said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

"The mission of Smart Cinema is not to replace theaters but to complement them. The two will work together to provide an upside for both," he added.

Referring to his past experiences in theater, production and IT with AMC, Wanda Cinemas and Legendary Entertainment, and Microsoft, respectively, Gao said he was able to see a bigger picture, or what Alibaba's Jack Ma would call the "pain points" in the industry.

"The biggest pain point and impediment to growth is the film industry's antiquated distribution model that hasn't changed in over a century," he said.

It has been a one-to-many model, or one screen showing a film to many people, and the number of screens is limited to tens of thousands. But now, filmmakers can distribute their movies to billions of mobile screens.

Of the thousands of movies produced in China and the United States, over two thirds never make it to the big screen. Now with Smart Cinema's open access model, filmmakers can also cut out the middleman, gain more profits and be fully informed of online tickets sales and advertising strategies.

The advantages of "pocket cinema" are far more than this, Gao said.

"The business model of a theater is fixed time, fixed location and fixed subject. But today's young people prefer anytime, anywhere and anything they like," he said.

In the meantime, user experience and image quality will not be compromised, according to Gao.

Through a formidable compression algorithm, the app can download a film in 2K resolution in less than a minute with the 4G network, and one in 4k resolution in just three seconds with 5G, Gao said.

"You will see the hairs on their arms instantly," Gao said.

Furthermore, using buyer's Big Data, "pocket films" can be targeted at the exact demographic that they are likely to appeal to. Dog-themed movies, for example, can be pushed to dog food purchasers.

The app also comes with a social networking feature so that viewers can watch and talk about a movie with friends, family or strangers.

"A soldier at the border could have a 'movie date night' with his wife back home. A mother working away in the big city could share a bittersweet moment enjoying an animated film with her child left behind," Gao said.

Gao believes that Smart Cinema will considerably increase the consumption of films and benefit filmmakers, consumers and societies as a whole.

"Movies are social vehicles, much more than games. They provide a deeper emotional connection," he added.

Echoing his view, Gao's partner and the company's co-founder Xia Jun said, "Films are part of a modern art form and only a film can touch the bottom of people's hearts all over the world."