Korean electronics group LG has laid the groundwork to enter the cinema sector with LED screens.

Korean electronics group LG has laid the groundwork to enter the cinema sector with LED screens. At the end of March, LG is reported to have registered the trademark LG LED Cinema, at the same as the cinema sector’s largest event, Cinemacon, where the new product was due to launch and be showcased.  The screen is already DCI-certified.

Screens will have a lifetime of 100,000 hours, at 16 hours operation a day, which is the same as Samsung’s ONYX screen. This equates to over 20 years of use in a cinema environment, where screens are in use constantly every day. The 14m wide and 7m high 4K screen is compatible with the Dolby media server IMS3000 and Dolby Atmos. It is a Surface Mounted Device (SMD), which is the most common type in the market, and the pitch is 3.3mm. There are 176 cabinets in the overall product. The contrast ratio is given as 4,000:1 as a minimum and brightness (after calibration) is given 48 nits. The Color Gamut is DCI-P3.

The implementation of a suitable audio system was an early issue for Samsung’s cinema offer, as a result of which the company acquired sound specialist Harman. The fact that a traditional cinema sound system can’t sit behind a normal LED screen is the problem at the heart of needing a specific LED solution. There is no mention currently of LG’s proposed sound solution but it will need to be addressed.

Our analysis

The market has been waiting some time for a rival to come along for Samsung’s ONYX screen. Samsung has probably needed a competitor to make its own game changing and disruptive LED screen more credible to exhibitors. This entry should also accelerate the price competition which is one of the main reasons why take-off for LED in cinema auditoriums has seen a slow start.

However, and to state the obvious, the timing is not perfect for the launch of this new product. The LED screen has a high upfront cost, even if the lifetime and technical details such as contrast ratio give it some clear positive selling points. Cinemas are likely to lose over $30bn in gross box office from the COVID-19 pandemic (with about half of that going back to cinemas) and investment in a range of items will have to be scaled back. However, the replacement cycle of the first-generation of digital cinema projectors has begun and cinemas will need to think about their options going forward, which does open a window for any new image viewing options (displays or projection).