ICTA President Alan Roe addresses the membership at the 2019 Los Angeles Seminar Series - ICTA ICTA President Alan Roe addresses the membership at the 2019 Los Angeles Seminar Series - ICTA

ICTA President Alan Roe addresses the membership at the 2019 Los Angeles Seminar Series

March 17, 2019

The Seminar Series of the International Cinema Technology Association attracted more than 250 participants from 130 different companies to its Los Angeles sessions, held every January at the Universal Hilton. Chairperson of the conference was Mark Mayfield, Director of Global Cinema Marketing at QSC. It was the twenty-third year of the LASS conference; others are held in Munich and Barcelona. Shorter session are offered at CinemaCon, ShowEast and CineAsia. As the conference concluded, Alan Roe, ICTA President sat down for a wide-ranging discussion, including background on the ICTA, the rationale for the seminar series, and his enthusiasm for what had taken place.


Q: What are your feelings on the success of the conference?

Roe: I’m delighted with it – we knew going into it that we had a particularly strong schedule, in terms of depth, variety and relevance of topics.  We needed each one to be delivered concisely in order to cover all the information and allow time for discussions that are important to us today. The large attendance reflects the strength of the topics and also the success of previous years’ events. Based on this year’s event I would expect next year’s conference to be bigger again.  This means more people participating in the discussions and questions that are raised, which in turn further strengthens the quality of the content – it’s a positive feedback loop.  In addition to that, it means more people taking these ideas, concepts and solutions back to their own customers, and more moviegoers benefiting as a result.  A huge amount of volunteer time goes into these events every year and it’s tremendous to see all that goodwill and effort paying off for the industry.


Q: Can you talk a little bit about the program?

Roe: We covered a variety of audio systems, standards, and their performance in real rooms; we discussed imaging issues, including HDR and wide color gamut. We had presentations on technologies — such as light-shaping projectors — that are still in prototype stage.  There were Q&As with top level studio and creative executives on how our technologies are being used by creatives and their real impact on the box office. We had panel discussions where exhibitors and dealers and security experts spoke out. Manufacturers told us what was new with their products and services. We listened to experts talk about different aspects of our industry that go beyond technology, but which influence technology and in turn are influenced by it. We made three cinema visits including one to a historic landmark, one to see new screen technology and another for presentations and a panel on eSports. All of that was handled by experts in their fields and from the feedback we heard, our attendees found it not only relevant and useful but were actually excited by what they saw and heard during the week – cinema is exciting, and so too can be the technology behind it.”


Q: So who is ICTA today?

Roe: We are 225 cinema industry companies, 84 of which are international – and in some of those companies we have dozens of individual members. We started as a few fans of cinema technology, led by industry legend, Ioan Allen; decades later we’re a diverse and independent association that believes in cinema, believes in ourselves and in each other. Ioan himself remains very active at all our events, both at the seminars and at the board level and that’s been part of our success.  Our Association includes fierce competitors, best friends and absolute strangers. We all have successes and we all have failures. But like different sports teams, we all play the same game and we have a common goal — to make the cinema industry as successful as possible. We put our divisions aside, and we work together towards that common goal.


Q: How did you personally get involved in the organization?

Roe: I’ve been coming to ICTA since 2005, but it took me a couple of years to “get it,” to understand how valuable and important this was. But after I left these meetings, I found myself going back to the office with new ideas, sometimes related to what I came looking for, sometimes not. Just the time being out of the office, being around really smart technically-creative people helped me think of things that were very beneficial to us and to our business. So, for me, I began to realize that these two-or-three-day meetings were really helpful to idea-generation, to developing new contacts, and to understanding how we all fit together in this industry. We can help each other be more successful and enable our industry to grow.


Q: ICTA began in the era of film; how has the organization evolved in the past decade?

Roe: The beauty of film was in its simplicity. Now, the technology has undergone a revolution and while the simplicity is gone, its legacy remains. The work that members and attendees at our events do for the cinema experience transforms our industry, influencing the lives of over a billion people. And while we now have unparalleled tools to create experiences like we’ve never had before, we have also the motivation – and need – to explore this opportunity as we compete against a world of other entertainment and markets for our audience’s attention. Audiences are hungry and we as an industry need to feel the hunger also.  Our predecessors have achieved great things.  Now it is our turn and we encourage everyone in the industry, members and non-members alike, to be a part of the discussion.


Q: How has the digital transformation affected the tone of this conference?

Roe: A decade ago, discussion was overshadowed by the economic downturn. Prior to that, there was fear and uncertainty over a digital rollout; but then it was “hang on, this is really happening, the uncertainty is behind us.” Now the opportunities are here — we recognize them, and conferences like this bring us together to talk about them, to learn from each other and to take advantage of them. The digital projection conversion is squarely behind us and there’s been an increase in broader conversations. We’re all a hotbed of new ideas, making each year more exciting than the last.


Q: You have “international” in your name. How international is this association?

Roe: At LASS this year we had attendees from America, Canada, Europe, Asia and Latin America. We have already received requests for translations of transcripts of the entire seminars.  As an association, we are increasingly international. The ICTA’s European office is thriving under the leadership of first Thomas Rüttgers and now Jan Runge and our international membership is increasing every month. This provides insight into what is happening in other parts of the world. Sometimes the most unexpected countries are exceptionally progressive for some particular reason, so it’s great to get that feedback and extra perspective. We all play off each other and make each other stronger.


Q: How are ICTA gatherings different from other industry shows?

Roe: There must be around 20 different trade shows and seminar events for our industry just in the US, and they each fulfill important needs for our industry.  Trade shows are very important, but because they need to be largely sales focused, they can’t ever be a safe place for the kind of discussions we have at our events.  It takes 2-3 days to break down some of the barriers between competitors and see the discussions that unfold. The events we hold are about gathering and sharing information, they’re about collaboration. The ICTA’s goal is for companies and minds to work together and to make the cinema industry healthier through technology.  That includes manufacturers, dealers, studios and cinema exhibitors.  It’s like our industry is one big company.  We are all members of that company and the more effectively that we work together to make our industry bigger and stronger, the better our industry becomes — and the moviegoers benefit from that. Our events are about taking a couple of days to put sales and competition to one side and focus on the greater good that will benefit us all.


Q: How do you keep presentations from becoming sales pitches?

Roe: We have manufacturer presentations, and we have product slots. We’ve limited manufacturers’ presentations to a strict three minutes each.  This encourages them to focus on the key messages, the new developments, the things we really need to know about their services and products. As a result, the manufacturers’ presentations provide useful information; what is coming down the pipeline and how that will impact what we do. ICTA is a melting pot because we cover such a broad spectrum: from audio to images and everything in between. It’s like we’re all here as one big company just for a few days.  This is our annual meeting to discuss our achievements and our future strategies. For companies like ours that have less than a hundred employees; there are other ICTA-member-companies of a similar size. So, it’s exciting to see the larger organization and appreciate our own roles within it.  You could visibly see that Jon Landau’s enthusiasm for using the new technological canvases was changing the mood of the room.  Sometimes we are so lost in the detail of our own specific challenges that it’s really useful to be reminded of why we do it.


Q: Do you have goals for future events?

Roe: A conference like this must always be about unity. Many of us are competitors of course, and events like this bring us together. They show us how working together and communicating with each other can make a difference; we can be a more positive force as one.  And without doing that, we will lose ground to other, better organized industries.  For me, the ICTA needs always to be a safe place where people can get together to discuss what we can do to make our industry better. I believe that cinema is a force for good. My great grandad believed that in 1912, and I believe it too. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t be at this conference, or even in this industry. We provide escapism, adventure, emotional development and an outlet for creativity.  We provide relaxation in an often relentless and chaotic world.  How can more people benefit from that? We should set challenging goals for our industry – look at the growth of other entertainment industries.  It’s great when we see year-on-year growth for global cinema, but let’s be asking the question: “How could we increase that growth by a factor of 10?”  Could we do it by working together if it were a problem that had to be solved?  I believe that the answer is “Yes.” And we should be thinking in those terms.

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