Douglas Trumbull - Future Movie Theaters

thefilmbook by Benjamin B

This post continues an account of my discussion with the legendary Douglas Trumbull in Amsterdam during IBC.

In the first post, Douglas presented his belief in the importance of temporal continuity between the camera and the projector. In this post he shares his vision of the future of theatrical movies.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my readers the best that the spirit of the season has to offer.

Douglas Trumbull interview by Benjamin B -thefilmbook1

Cinema technology pioneer Douglas Trumbull during our interview


Box Office Down

Douglas notes that US domestic box office numbers are declining. Looking at the chart below with the number of US tickets sold, the trend is clear: a slow decline of 20% since the high of 2002, and a 7% reduction from last year. Box office revenues are up from 2002 because of price increases, but are 5% lower than 2013.

annual US movie ticket sales-

The annual number of US tickets sold has declined from 2002 high of 1.58 billion to 1.25 billion in 2014 (source:

Obviously, there are many possible explanations for the downturn in US theatrical attendance. Trumbull cites the growing competition from the other screens in our lives: television, computers and tablets which have, he says, put the convenience of the "multiplex in your pocket".

Trumbull avers that theaters presently need to offer a "spectacle" to lure the audiences back in. His argument harkens back to the 1950s, when cinema developed the wide-screen anamorphic and Cinerama formats to attract audiences away from television.

As I detailed in an earlier post, the international box office trends are more complex, with the phenomenal growth of the Chinese market, with revenues growing 25% in the first half of this year. China is also leading Imax theater growth, the country currently has 170 Imax screens, half of the North American total, but plans to build 250 more in the next five years.


Video interview

Douglas begins the interview by emphasizing his wish to see 24 fps movies continue as the dominant cinematic "art form". But he believes theater owners must complement this traditional format with bigger, brighter screens with high frame rate content to give viewers an immersive experience of "spectacle" movies.

watch on YouTube



Wikipedia: Douglas Trumbull

Douglas Trumbull web site

YouTube: UFOTOG MAGI demo video

YouTube: Trumbull Cinerama/70mm video playlist yearly domestic box office yearly domestic theatrical tickets sold Box Office Drops 5% in 2014: What’s Behind the Fall Imax Intends to Get Bigger in China

thefilmbook: Hollywood Business - China

(trends in the global theatrical movie market)


thefilmbook: Douglas Trumbull 1 - Temporal Continuity

thefilmbook: Douglas Trumbull 2 - Future Movie Theaters

thefilmbook: Douglas Tumbull 3 - Future Filmmaking


Douglas Trumbull interview by Benjamin B -thefilmbook3



Subscribe Today

Act now to receive 12 issues of the award-winning AC magazine — the world’s finest cinematography resource.

Print Edition   Digital Edition
May 2021 AC Magazine Cover April 2021 AC Magazine Cover March 2021 AC Magazine Cover