At this year’s CinemaCon, laser projector innovator Cinionic held a panel discussion on sustainability, led by sustainability expert Bas van Heek, Cinionic’s director of strategic marketing (CaaS). Accompanying him on the panel were Sam Enoch, the vice president of film strategy and business development at Universal Pictures, Melissa Thomas, the chief financial officer of Cinemark, Eric Dominguez, the vice president for engineering and asset management at Ceasar’s Entertainment, Nick Gault, Coca-Cola’s Away from Home customer’s director, and Eldad Farkash, the chief executive officer and co-founder of data platform Zira. BoxOffice Pro spoke with van Heek following the panel to learn more about Cinionic’s sustainability initiatives and how Cinionic is helping exhibition customers go green.
What were some of your main takeaways from the conversation today?
We had a great panel discussion. The general consensus on the panel was, nobody can do it alone. We all agreed that we are part of the bigger chain, we all feel responsible for targets set by the United Nations, to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to minimize global warming to two degrees, preferably 1.5 degrees. We all agree that that’s important. We all have our programs and they neatly fit into each other. So if an exhibitor says, it’s important for us to report on the sustainability numbers, it’s important for them that they also have the support of their suppliers. They are relying on their suppliers to innovate and help them meet their numbers. As long as their supplier keep sending them straws and paper cups, it’s difficult for them to come up with their numbers. If suppliers keep sending xenon bulbs, it’s very difficult to reduce the power consumption. We all agree that it’s a chain, going from production to exhibition, but also to suppliers, in order to make the whole industry eventually carbon neutral.
How does Cinionic fit into the overall chain?
We are a small but important part of it. Cinionic makes technical innovations by going through laser. By making products that require less services, we help exhibitors to reach their targets. We had a statistic in the panel where, the projection system only represents 16% of the carbon footprint in terms of energy usage of cinemas. The biggest emission generator, I would say is HVAC, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. We are only a small part of it, but everybody has to contribute. For that 16%, if anyone can do something and help exhibitors to reach those targets, it’s us, through technological innovation. So we came up with our own program, which has been submitted to Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Eric of Caesar’s Entertainment Group, they’re going through that process right now, he couldn’t have said it better. He said, “You know, you put a target out in 2050, you say you’ll become carbon neutral. But if you don’t follow up on that year by year, you’re never gonna meet it. Before, you know it, it’s 2050 and you didn’t make it.” SBTi is actually founded by the same people, like the United Nations, the WWF, CDP, they’re all in there. They help companies to achieve the net zero by 2050. It’s voluntary, you even have to pay for it by the way, but they make you very conscious about targets. It’s not just a target, it’s a commitment. It’s a long term commitment, you will be asked about it, you will be tested, and as a report, you will be benchmarked against industry peers. So if you go and submit your targets through SBTi, you basically go a little bit public, I would say, and you expose yourself to your responsibility on your commitment. So we’re very happy that we do that, and it was a conscious decision as well. We have our own targets to lower our own power consumption and our own greenhouse gas emissions, and then we have targets on how we can help our customers.
What do those targets look like for Cinionic?
Our own is, I wouldn’t say it’s simple, but it’s obvious. You want to reduce your energy that you use in your day-to-day operations in your office or to your production facilities. If you look at general industry numbers, 40-50% of the energy consumption in offices and production is, again, in HVAC. In cinema it’s even higher, according to French research, about 69% of cinema greenhouse gas emissions is in HVAC. We target to do -35% on our own operations, one of the aspects is lowering our energy consumption, but that’s not going to cut it. What we do is, we put a wind turbine at our headquarters in Kortrijk, for example. We have a plant that has 1,250 people working every day, we have offices, we have a plant where we do production. That single windmill produces more energy on a yearly basis than we use at that site. So that site will be 100% sustainable in terms of energy consumption. It doesn’t help you with your energy consumption reduction, but it does help with the associated greenhouse gas emissions on that consumption. So those are initiatives that we take for ourselves.
For your customers, in what ways does Cinionic play a role in sustainability?
For our customers, we bring sustainable products to market. With a sustainable product, that means that it starts years ago. In every design step, we keep sustainability in mind. We have developed an eco-score which is accredited by Ernst & Young. We design products according to four areas of sustainability: energy efficiency, material use, packaging and logistics, and end of life optimization. Whenever we come up with a new product, in every design stage, we think, ‘Okay, this is a feature you want. What is the impact on packaging? What is the impact on material use? What’s the impact on energy efficiency?’ At the end of the stage, when we launch a product, we’re going to rate the product, we’re going to say, ‘Okay, with all the efforts that we’ve done with this product, it’s a fantastic cinema experience, but it’s also an A+ rating.’ An example is the SP2K-9S, that’s the first cinema product that got the A+ rating. For an A+ rating, in terms of energy efficiency, it’s one of the most energy efficient machines in the market. In terms of material usage, all the aluminum is 100% recycled, plastics are 38% recycled. Every part is in the material passport, we know exactly what to do with it at end-of-life. Packaging holistic means that when we ship the projector in, we try to be as much as small as possible, lowering volume, lowering the weight, but also less components. So we don’t ship a media server and a projector separately, we ship them together. We make sure that over the whole platform, we have a commonality. We have common spare parts, so that we have less spare parts for less warehousing space, less logistics, and less products that we have to produce. So that all fits into the packaging logistics. But the only way to do that is when you think about it in the design process. Then there is the end of life optimization, which by the way, I think in the next revision of the eco scoring, this will be called lifecycle management. That’s what it’s about, because it’s not that your product comes out of the factory and we say, ‘It’s an A+, have fun with it.’ We help you during the lifetime of the product to make sure that it performs like A+. Even at the end of its lifetime, maybe we can squeeze in a little bit extra by upgrading some of the components.
What kind of upgrades are customers able to make?
A very good example are the Series 2 projectors, which are Xenon projectors from 2010. We have already upgraded 3,000 projectors with laser light sources. Those are machines from 2010 and they’re good for another five years now. So lifecycle management is very important for us. In the new design of projectors, and that’s also one of the reasons why it’s an A+, it’s so modular. If the brightness, for example, in a machine goes down over time, we are able to replace very small parts in order to get the brightness on target. So I think we do our utmost best to help our customers to achieve their goals.
What are some of the current goals you’re seeing from your customers?
Lifecycle management, in our eyes, means less cost, better usage of the product, and a smaller ecological footprint over the lifetime of the product. It has everything to do with making sure that it doesn’t need any consumables, doesn’t need any service, also that it is built for an extended lifetime. Normally we design a projector for 10 years. Our customers, they want to squeeze 15, 16, maybe 18 years out of a projector. In the old days, we would say, ‘Wow, we don’t know about that.’ Now, there are sufficient sensors in the machines. We know exactly what the status of it is. We’re not going to promise you can achieve that, but we’re going to help you. We’ll give you all the information and the data insights to tell you how to optimize the usage of the projector, so that you can use it for a longer term. Then if a component fails, or if a component is degrading over time, you can replace it very easily. That not only counts for the Series 4, but also for the Series 2. I talked about the laser light upgrade, for example. Those projectors today are 12 years old. They go into get a laser light upgrade, which usually gives the projector another five years. We don’t know what’s going to happen with those projectors, but the intention of our customers is to use those projectors for [a total] of 15 years. Does it have impact on other components? Probably, but let’s see together how we can fix that.
How does the upgrade to laser assist sustainability goals?
We just talked about the design of the product, but once the design is finished, you have the product to market. Laser does not only mean that you gain a lot of energy efficiency, it’s about 70% more efficient compared to earlier generation products, but it also allows for much less maintenance, less service visits, less parts needed, no consumables. For example, you don’t need to replace the cooling liquid. Filters don’t need a replacement, you can actually put them in the dishwasher. A laser machine doesn’t only mean less power consumption, but it only also means it is very easy to manage over time. It is 100% remotely manageable. If you switch from 2D to 3D, everything can be done over the network. And the projector also tells you when it needs to be serviced. In the old days, the manual said replace the filters every three months. Then the manual said clean the filters once a year. Now, the manual still says clean once a year, but we’re going to tell you when we deliver the product to you, you don’t have to clean it every year. The projector has a sensor, it’s going to tell you when it needs to be cleaned. If it’s six months, if it’s a year, if it’s two years. Only clean it when it’s necessary, we’ll let you know.
What do you think is the next evolution for Cinionic on the sustainability front?
Circle economy initiatives. We want to work with our customers to take responsibility for repair, reuse, remanufacturing, redeployment and recycling, where we retain ownership of the projector and we offer this as a service. If you need a projector with 14 foot-lamberts on screen, we’re going to make sure you have 14 foot-lamberts on screen. How are we going to do that? Don’t worry, we got your back. The projectors are connected to Cinionic Cloud. So we know exactly what’s going on with the projector and make sure that the projector is constantly available for you to use, for which you pay a monthly fee. So in that respect, we are responsible for the product. We may say, ‘Okay, this is the moment to optimize the lifetime, we’re going to take the projected back, we’re going to re-manufacture it and we’re going to redeploy it elsewhere.’ So it’s not about the hardware anymore. It’s about the outcome and what the customer needs. If the customer needs a 2D image in 4K on the screen, if you need to treat the image in 2K on the screen, if you need 6 foot-lamberts, 14 foot-lamberts—those are the things that we’re going to talk about and those are the things we’re going to deliver. We’re not going to deliver products anymore, we’re going to deliver outcome and performance. So in terms of sustainability, that means that we retain the ownership. We are responsible with what happens to the projector. We’re going to optimize the lifecycle, that’s for sure, because it’s our equipment, it’s in our interest to do so. When it finally comes to the end of its lifetime, we know exactly what to do with it. We know exactly what to do with every component and we will take care of it. Customers do not have to worry about that. That’s our contribution and how we can help our customers to meet their sustainability goals.