Q&A: Owner of Arena Cinemas ’“ first public cinema with 3D LED screen

Arena Cinemas installed the first LED 3D cinema screen for public use in March. The venue’s owner, Edi Stöckli, tells Tim Kridel why he chose the technology and where he sees the market heading in the future.

TK: Arena Cinemas is one of the first theatres in the world to deploy Samsung Cinema LED. Do you have any plans to deploy it in more theatres? 

ES: We officially opened the CinemaLED auditorium in our complex in Zurich-Sihlcity on the 22nd of March. It is the first screen in 3D worldwide for public use. For the moment, we have only one CinemaLED screen installed in our theatres, but it is possible that our future complexes will be CinemaLED-only installations.

TK: Direct-view displays such as Samsung Cinema LED have several benefits, such as eliminating the space and expense of a projection booth and projector, as well as brighter images and higher contrast ratios. What benefits made you decide to try this technology? And are there any drawbacks? For example, some people cite the display's cost and weight as two potential issues. 

ES: It is a new technology for cinemas. We will test our installation in Zurich and we will see what other benefits we will get out. For the moment the price is very high, as all new technologies have at the beginning. The space we save in Zurich we will use to install a private lounge.

TK: How do LED displays compare to projectors and screens when it comes to maintenance costs and learning how to operate and support the technology? I ask because readers will be interested in what changes they'll have to make if they start using direct-view displays. 

ES: It seems this new technology needs much less power, less cooling and lives much longer than a projector. But all the details I can tell you after one year of operation.

TK: What other types of new technologies do you see becoming important for cinema over the next several years? For example, some people say 4K, laser projection, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and immersive audio will become more common and will help convince consumers to see movies in the theatre rather than at home. What do theatre owners typically consider when deciding whether to invest in a new technology? 

ES: I can only say what my opinion is. The other cinema owners worldwide, I don’t know. As I said before, the Cinema LED is the future of the cinemas. The digital projector was a step, but it is still a projector with all its technical limits. So in a few years I will probably change all my screens into Cinema LED. 

VR is a technology for individual use. We sell collectivity in our theatres: the togetherness of movie-goers, sharing the same emotion at the same time. My decision for a new technology is either business or technical improvement.

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