How green is your projector?

While much of the focus on cinemas’ sustainability efforts are at the consumer end, an equally important aspect is behind the scenes, mostly relating to energy consumption, as Patrick von Sychowski explains. 


The cinema industry took its first big step towards becoming greener when it went digital. This has done away with the production of thousands of 35mm film reels weekly, with the associated chemicals and waste created from lab processing. Whether DCPs are sent on hard drive or transmitted electronically, the energy used is less than that of multiple film canisters on delivery trucks and planes. Finally, disposing of old films no longer means dumping reels in landfills, but simply re-using existing hard drives. 

The next step for cinemas will be a switch from lamp-based projectors to laser light sources, according to Cinionic’s Tom Bert and Goran Stojmenovik. According to them there are two quantifiable benefits:

Higher optical efficiency

A mind-blowing 700GWh is consumed every year by European cinema projectors. Yes, that is Giga Watt hours. If we were to replace every lamp-based cinema projector with its equivalent laser-illuminated version, Cinionic estimates this number would drop by 150GWh (the equivalent production of a small nuclear power plant in one month). To do the same for the worldwide cinema market, results would be between 3 to 5 times higher.

A reduction in lamp swaps & transport

Based on an analysis of the European cinema market, Cinionic found that 150,000 traditional lamps are being swapped and sent around on an annual basis. That’s around 100 trucks filled with lamps driving around Europe, every year. Barco’s flagship RGB laser projector runs up to 30,000 hours with an expected light drop of only 20% — replacing every lamp-based cinema projector with a laser projector of similar efficiency would avoid more than 1 million lamp swaps in Europe. Extrapolating on a worldwide basis yields a number 3 to 5 times higher. Swapping to laser could also help eliminate hazardous waste — xenon lamps contain  a certain amount of radioactive material — and lead to additional energy savings (lower air conditioning costs, for example). The next generation of direct view displays, such as Samsung’s Onyx Cinema LED, promise further energy savings.

Practical steps already being taken

Cinemas across Europe are already embracing these and other initiatives. Kathryn Pritchard, group chief people officer at The Odeon Group sees major benefits in learning from each other. “We’re fortunate that we can find the best practices and share them across our 14 countries.” Odeon has a major Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy across all of its 14 territories, “targeting three important promises: to become more inclusive through ‘Our Incredible Differences’ programme, to reduce our carbon footprint, and to contribute more in our communities.” Odeon and its parent AMC are already seeing results of this strategy, as Pritchard revealed exclusively to CT Magazine:

“We’ve seen good initial success on energy consumption. The best recent examples have been our team in Cinesa, who reduced electricity consumption by nearly 14% in the past 3 years; our team in UCI Italy who cut energy costs by €1.4m in the past 3 years; and the SF Kino team in Sweden who cut consumption by nearly 7% from 2016 to 2017.

“In the UK, we’re pleased to have been re-accredited with the Carbon Trust Standard for Carbon, thanks to a 14.8% reduction in our CO2 footprint from April 2015 to March 2017.  We were first awarded the standard in 2010. We’ve held it ever since.” Pritchard stresses there are no grounds for complacency. “We’ve actively invested in new equipment such as new a/c units and LED lighting across the estate, and use renewable energy where possible.”

Cineworld is looking at how it can reduce energy and paper consumption. “We encourage energy saving at all our cinemas and have switched to more efficient LED lights in our new cinemas and refurbs,” a spokesperson told CT magazine. “We have also introduced a voltage optimisation technology which helps to eliminate wasteful electricity from electrical appliances at a number of our sites. Our extensive refurbishment programme has been carried out with sustainability in mind. We have introduced high-impact rotunda screens and digital posters in our foyers to reduce paper waste.”

In Germany, Berlin-based art-house chain Yorck Group has gone green by sourcing all of its electricity from renewable sources; paying a ‘green offset tax’ on 90% of its printed material; switching all its lighting to energy-saving LED; and participating in the Green Cinema Sustainability Initiative of the AG KINO “with the goal of a significantly more sustainable business.” For cinemas looking to reduce their carbon footprint, showcased its Virtual Energy Management System at this year’s CineEurope, which it says can offer 20%-40% energy savings for cinemas. As well as saving the environment they also provide budget savings.

Green may be the costliest, most challenging colour to achieve for RGB lasers, but going green behind the scenes seems to be both easier and a cost-saving for cinemas!