By Gregory Davies, Marketing Manager at Arts Alliance Media
After recently becoming our latest software partner, we caught up with Dave Jones, co-founder and lead engineer at KDKinotec, to find out more about the services they provide, what they’ve been up to throughout the pandemic, and what the future holds for cinema in their sector.
GD: To kick things off, tell me about KDKinotec and services you provide.
DJ: Well, KDKinotec is run by Kore Pendragon and myself. We’ve been in cinema well before the digital changeover and used to run 35mm films so we’re experienced in all that. During our careers we gained a lot of links in the industry and occasionally did a bit of freelance work in different places, and then in 2019 the opportunity came up to support a new drive-in cinema chain, so we set up KDKinotec and we grew from there.
The services we offer are indoor and outdoor installation, maintenance contracts, call out support, equipment monitoring, and training and advice, both on site and remote. We do remote projection services, which not many people do, playlist building and show scheduling, DCP conversion, TMS hosting, onsite projection services, and event support.
GD: I noticed on your website that it was after a career in multiplex cinemas that you decided to move into independent cinemas and cinema events, what was the attraction there?
DJ: I find independents are a lot friendlier than multiplexes which are often quite corporate. That’s not always a bad thing but sometimes the independents focus more on the actual customer experience and art of cinema, whereas multiplexes are a bit large and can forget where they came from and what their original aims may have been when they started.
I’ve seen a company go from a small multiplex chain into a huge international, and I saw the changes from the start to where it is now, and I wanted to go back to how I felt it should be, making the best presentation possible. I think multiplexes sometimes lose that as they just want to get bums on seats.
GD: It feels like forever since we were last able to go and enter the cinema. How have you been preparing for its return? Have you got any exciting events lined up this year?
DJ: As a business, we’ve increased our network infrastructure and ability to serve cinemas, and we’ve designed a new server which is quite flexible. It can run a TMS but can also play Blu-Rays, do satellite performance, streaming services, and can be mobile in a flight case or be fixed. We wanted to cater for both outdoor and indoor cinema. So, we’ve got quite a few outdoor cinemas to install and then the indoors will start again soon so we’ll be supporting them.
GD: So, with cinemas reopening and these events going ahead, do you think the pandemic will have an impact on the technical side of cinema? And if so, how?
DJ: I do think the technical side has been affected. There may be projectors that will break down over this period and with the VPF recently ending and coinciding with this, it’s accelerated the changeover to cinemas having to fund things more themselves.
I think capital expenditure is going to drop in cinemas on new equipment but they’re also going to have to try to get people in by spending money on new equipment, so it’s going to be quite difficult in the short term at least. I think we’re going to see a lot more of the older equipment being used for longer periods than originally intended, and stuff that has gone out of warranty may still be used a bit longer than the warranty.
Unfortunately, I do expect some cinemas will close. That will increase the amount of used equipment available which will support the [case for] used equipment to keep running a bit longer until cinemas can get a bit more money to spend.
GD: And do you think there’s a case to say that, in the wake of the pandemic, there may be increased demand for the outdoor cinema experience? What changes, if any, are you expecting there?
DJ: Even in between the lockdowns I saw a big increase in outdoor cinema demand. It’s a different experience to indoor cinema and even after the masks are gone this time, outdoor cinema has a foothold now as people have gone out and experienced it. I think it’s going to stay even after the social distancing is over and people can sit next to each other in cinemas again.
The outdoor cinema is a different experience, it’s something else, it’s another night out. You can have an indoor cinema experience that’s a night out, but you can also have the outdoor night out, and I think people would want to get out a lot more after all the lockdowns are over.
GD: What do you expect the reaction of the public will be when cinemas do open their doors? An instantaneous return or more ‘slow and steady’?
DJ: I think it will be slow and steady. There’s a lot of people who are eager to return to cinemas out of the people I’ve spoken to, and there’ll be others who are a little more cautious that won’t necessarily want to go and sit there with a mask on for two hours. I think it will be slow, and with limited new releases, there’s a lot of films people can watch at home at the moment, but I think that will go back with a bigger release window again later on.
GD: As you reference that initial lack of content, my next question is what do you think the biggest challenge is for cinema this year? And to extend that further, what do you think the biggest challenge is for independent cinemas and outdoors?
DJ: For indoor cinemas, there’s obviously the studios offering less content as I said so that will be a big challenge to remind people just what cinema’s about, to come in and have the experience that was meant to be given to you in the first place by the film makers. Because, you can’t really get the same experience sitting at home unless you have a significant amount of money, so the venues do provide a better experience overall than home cinema.
I find independent cinemas have a good customer base and do more independent films than just blockbusters so I think people will return to that, but the big problem in the short term at least is that indoor cinemas don’t tend to have as large auditoriums so can’t fit as many people in with the social distancing rules. So, as they become more relaxed, they can get more people in to watch films but obviously they will have limited customers at the start.
GD: Okay thank you. So finally, we’re talking today because you recently chose Screenwriter as your TMS of choice, what are the benefits that most appeal to you?
DJ: I find that the Screenwriter interface is very user friendly, not overly complicated. I’ve seen it change of the years since it was first released. I remember actually going down to Arts Alliance Media when the QuVIS system was first introduced because I was a projectionist at the time and then the TMS came later on. But you’ve been in digital cinema since the start and you’ve adapted and integrated new technologies into the TMS when they become available, and it is compatible with all the projection equipment out there.
If you went into the background it’s very complicated, but you’ve created a nice interface for cinema managers and projectionists to use. I always like the way that you can put whatever projectors you want in whatever screen you want, but the TMS server will always be the same interface so people can’t get too confused over it.
GD: Great, thank you. And so, to finish off then, what movie are you most looking forward to watching in the outdoor theatres?
DJ: I’d go with James Bond. I’m looking forward to that.
GD: I’d have to agree. Thank you for your time, and it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.