When the going gets tough… The toughest rise to the challenge. CTC’s Peter Knight reflects on the global technology organisation’s success in delivering for its members in recent months.
DESPITE EMERGING IN its current guise just two and half years ago, now the world’s largest cinema technology trade organisation, the Cinema Technology Community (“CTC” to its friends) has been an important part of our community for over 30 years. Initially founded within the BKSTS (now IMIS), the group spent the better part of three decades supporting and educating projectionists during the film era and subsequently supporting the industry through the changeover to digital. Whilst the cinema sector was transforming, other sectors of media and entertainment were doing the same, so in 2017 the CTC team made the hard decision to step away from the BKSTS to form an independent body serving a wider global community.
“It was a tough choice for everyone involved, but in hindsight the correct one,” explains Richard Mitchell, president of CTC (and SVP at Harkness Screens). “At the end of digitisation and with a changing internal team, we recognised that there was a need to reform and chart a new direction in order to ensure we were best-serving the globally connected cinema industry. We stood back and looked at our mission statement — and indeed our team — and identified both the changes we needed to make and the direction of travel we needed to head in. We spent a lot of time re-shaping the leadership team to create a more gender-balanced, diverse group with a range of skills and experience to help us be best-placed to support the industry. To an extent that remains a work in progress, but the team we’ve assembled is one of the finest in the business. I’m especially proud that we’ve increased our female representation from 3% to 30%.”
A wider remit, new avenues
That wider skillset has meant that the new-look CTC has been able to focus not just on auditorium technology but on all aspects of cinema technology, right the way from POS and ticketing technology through to digital marketing and signage and even to future technologies, such as LED screens.
With a grand unveiling at its first annual awards in London in 2017 with a number of famous faces including long-time CTC friends film critic Mark Kermode presenter Simon Mayo and actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, CTC started the process of creating a new community-focused platform with the promise of a ramping up of activities built on a foundation of training, projection handbooks, certification and networking. The CTC has truly delivered on this.
“The task was daunting. We’d parted ways with our friends at the BKSTS amicably and then there was an immediate realisation that we were now independent, almost in start-up mode with a big, bold mission and a tiny shoe-string budget. Getting to where we are would not have been possible without the dedication and contribution of directors and governors old and new who gave time freely and our first members and sponsors who helped get CTC on a solid platform,” Mitchell explains.
Support from loyal friends
With a growing global profile and list of outputs, CTC attracted members across the globe and today has a set of sponsors that includes the likes of RealD, QSC, Christie, NEC, Harkness Screens, Movio, Arts Alliance Media, Sound Associates, Strong/MDI and The Picture House Uckfield — not forgetting the long-standing support of Motion Picture Solutions which creates Cinema Technology for the benefit of the industry and for distribution to CTC members quarterly. These contributions enable CTC to reinvest funds directly to support the industry.
In 2018/19, CTC used its sponsors’ funds to create a guide to premium formats, new test DCP content, support for audio description testing, training courses, CTC’s acclaimed Women in Cinema series with Celluloid Junkie, launch a podcast series and support events including the Emerging Markets Conference in Turkey, the UKCA Conference, BigCineExpo in India, ExpoCine in Brazil and the Kino Konferansen in Norway. In 2020, the not-for-profit member-led organisation has been working harder than ever, still on an incredibly limited budget to help support the industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rising to the challenge
“CV19 hit our industry harder and faster than anyone could have imagined,” explains Graham Lodge, vice president of CTC (CEO, Sound Associates). “We quickly discussed what we could do to play our part and fill the gap left behind by the absence of the global trade show calendar. We deferred all membership and sponsorship renewals for a minimum of six months — it felt the right thing to do, but we wanted to go further,” he adds. With the remit to be a global community that provides knowledge-sharing opportunities and drives the industry forward, CTC’s board rapidly took the unprecedented step of creating a free six-month Community Membership scheme to enable industry professionals worldwide to stay connected and access resources, network and learn throughout the crisis. “Behind the CTC team there’s a real passion for our industry and the people in it, a love of what we do in our day jobs and a sense of wanting to give back where we can,” Graham explains. “When the industry and the world about us felt as if they were falling apart, we decided the best thing to do was stand up and do our own small bit to help in the best way we knew how. We didn’t expect the uptake to be so dramatic, but the feedback from across the world has been incredible, not just about the initiative but about the quality, variety and depth of materials we have made available to the global community.” he adds.
Work that CTC has done has spread far and wide. From humble beginnings, CTC has become the go-to resource for impartial technical guidance in the world’s cinema community and CTC has seen its membership rise to well over 500 members from 65 countries, with additional members added to that number every day from all areas of the industry at all levels. It is fair to assume CTC has become the largest global cinema technology trade organisation by some margin.
The signs of a promising future
Despite the vast amount of material that has already been produced in the first half of the year, CTC still has plans for a wide range of content for the rest of 2020 into 2021.
As well as a follow-up to the Women In Cinema series in conjunction with Celluloid Junkie, CTC also promises to deliver further episodes of Tech Talks, more podcasts, a white paper on Series 1 and 2 Projection Uplifts, new test materials and guidance for event cinema, video content covering the post production process, consumer insights into 3D, a completely new version of the CTC Projection Handbook, training courses and the hugely anticipated annual awards night.
Producing such a huge swathe of content in trying times creates its own challenges, as Richard Mitchell explains, “the world we’re entering in to is likely to require us to reimagine how we deliver our outputs, specifically those involving large gatherings like our training courses or our annual awards night where we typically host around 200 people.” It’s a challenge the CTC team doesn’t appear to be nervous to face — if there’s one thing they appear to have learned over the past few months, it’s that their plans and their team are incredibly adaptable. Their drive and enthusiasm to support a growing membership and the global cinema community will enable CTC to keep delivering for the industry.
CTC had ambitious plans for 2020… only to find them turned upside down by CV19.
Whilst some of the regular outputs such as the hands-on training courses from CTC have been placed on hold, the delivery of a large amount of planned content for 2020 has been re-imagined to make it available to CTC’s membership. This includes a whole range of new material that has been produced over the past three months:
- Covid-19 Closure; Technology Tips for Equipment Upkeep and Preparation for Re-opening – The outbreak of CV19 placed critical pressure on the exhibition sector in most major markets, leading to this document. As a follow-up, CTC produced Covid-19 Closure; Things to Consider Prior to Cinemas Re-Opening, which focussed on operational and technological recommendations.
- Drive-In Screening Guide – produced in direct response to the resurgence in drive-in screenings around the world as the industry seeks to provide the big screen experience whilst adhering to government social-distancing guidelines.
- Social Distancing White Paper and DCP Support – produced to support cinemas re-opening focusing on measures that could be taken to ensure maximum possible occupancy levels whilst maintaining social distancing.
- Tech-Talk On Demand Seminars – Due to the loss of the global tradeshow calendar, CTC created a new Tech Talk series. With new pre-recorded episodes bi-weekly for the foreseeable future, these sessions provide technology seminars.
- New podcast episodes – In The Pub With Mike Bradbury. Despite lockdown conditions, CTC has found innovative ways to create its popular podcast. Each time Mike is joined by regulars Kevin Markwick (The Picture House Uckfield) and Toni Purvis (Amblin Partners) plus guests to take an irreverent look at cinema technology and topical industry issues. In the first episode produced during the lockdown in April, the team was joined by Adam MacDonald (GDC) to discuss topics such as paperless tickets, phone-friendly screenings and rogue aspect ratios. In the latest edition, released at the end of May, the team was joined by Brian Claypool of Christie Digital to discuss auditorium EQs, the learnings from the digital roll-out, buying projection light, automated services and a ratings system for cinema.
- Kids Cinema Activity Pack – Recognising that beyond their jobs, the cinema community is made up of people, many of whom are parents juggling working life with home-schooling, CTC created an activity pack of movie-themed colouring in, puzzles, wordsearches and mazes to help keep children engaged and active.
While the majority of these outputs had never been conceived prior to March, the circumstantial changes in the global industry meant that many of them were quickly created, showcasing the breadth of knowledge and the dynamic responsiveness that CTC possesses.