Here’s an interesting turn to The Hobbit 48 frame per second tale that has been big news since CinemaCon – the studio is limited the release.
Warner Bros. has stated that those wanting to see The Hobbit in the 48fps rate Peter Jackson shot the movie in may be disappointed as the high frame rate release will be severely limited. Not only that, many major cities may not even get the HFR release. Why the sudden change? According to the PR people it’s not because there is a problem with audiences accepting the jarring non-film look experienced during CinemaCon, but because many theaters aren’t equipped with high frame rate projectors. In this day and age of digital projection, many theaters simply have to install a firmware update to project the higher frame rate, but others will have to buy an entirely new projection system.
More recent “Series 2” projectors can be upgraded, but the expense and difficulty of those upgrades varies. Theaters storing digital prints on a server, for instance, need to attach to each projector hardware called an “Integrated Media Block.”
For smaller theaters that seem to be hemorrhaging money due to overall low attendance, dropping the money for a new projector or an expensive upgrade is completely out of the question. Something similar to this happened when Disney released Fantasia with the early version of Surround Sound; theaters had to install a new audio system throughout their theaters so audiences could get the full experience. Many passed because of expense, others because they didn’t believe in this new audio sound system.
What does this announcement mean for the other two Hobbit films coming out in 2013 and 2014? Unless the theaters and projection system manufacturers can make the migration to 4K 3D HFR systems more affordable, expect to see the movie in good ol’ 24fps.