Microcinema: enhancing small and medium-sized cinemas’ offer by using satellite communication

The company

Microcinema SpA was founded in 1997 with the technological support of RAI’s (Radiotelevisione Italiana SpA) Research and Technical Innovation Centre in Turin. The company was created with the aim of supporting Italian cinemas and theatres to find an economically sustainable solution for film distribution. Since 2007, with a staff of approximately 25 people, Microcinema offers audiovisual distribution services to 450 cinemas and theatres all around Italy.

The challenge

Cinemas have been facing a number of problems related to the availability of new films, the difficulty of distributing them to remote areas and the wear of reels over time. Especially small cinemas, that are mostly mono-screen, needed more flexible distribution processes than the ones offered to bigger auditoriums. To overcome such distribution problems and ensure a consistent quality of films throughout time, the film industry had been looking for innovative solutions that would provide small and medium-sized cinemas with flexible and affordable tools to manage their programming.

The satellite solution

In 2007, with the support of the European Space Agency, the company started using the ISIDE system (Innovative Satellite Interactive Digital Entertainment). Via a website, the system makes a catalogue of 300 HD movies available to every cinema of the network via a bidirectional satellite connection. Cinemas download the movies in real-time, together with the requested certificates of use, while paying only for the contents actually screened. Statistics on data usage and the number of tickets sold are stored in the system’s database and can be consulted on the reserved area of Microcinema’s website.

Moreover, the system allows the projection of live events: In 2011, the premiere of “Don Giovanni”, inaugurating the Opera season of La Scala Theatre in Milan, was broadcast live in 130 cinemas and over 150 connected digital screens, reaching 40 000 spectators all over Italy.

The result

With 300 auditoriums connected to the network via the bidirectional satellite connection, Microcinema is today a leading provider of films and audiovisual contents. Auditoriums can decide on their programming in a flexible and autonomous fashion, saving time and costs of management, transport, and setting up of film reels. Furthermore, the digital contents of the catalogue have no environmental impact and preserve the same quality for future projections.

The satellite solution is less expensive than an internet connection, and can reach any auditorium worldwide, thus overcoming obstacles connected to the digital divide.” Silvana Molino, Microcinema.