By Elizabeth McGowan
As owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, outspoken billionaire Mark Cuban has been called lots of things. But environmentalist probably isn’t on that list.
In his entertainment mogul role, however, the hard-charging 48-year-old is a beacon for what could become a green revolution in Hollywood. As directors adapt to shooting, editing and delivering their prized productions with high-definition video and digital technology, they’re reducing their reliance on traditional film. That means less waste and close to zero chemicals.
It might be an instance of “accidental environmentalism,” but this transition away from analog isn’t lost on Jason Kliot of New York City-based HDNet Films. Mr. Cuban co-founded the high-definition production company in 2003 to attract feature- and documentary-makers with budgets less than $5 million. Nationwide distribution includes Landmark Theatres-which Cuban owns and has outfitted with digital projection systems-and exposure on Cuban’s high-definition channel HDNet.
“Anyone in film has been constantly frustrated by the huge amount of waste and cost involved,” Mr. Kliot said in an interview. “We’ve stumbled into this positive environmental element.”
Fabricating, processing and duplicating film is chemically intensive, Mr. Kliot said. Certainly, Hollywood isn’t writing film’s obituary, but many connected with the industry are impressed with how quickly HD quality is catching up. Among them is Alex Gibney, who created “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” with HD video and digital technology available with Mr. Cuban’s company.
“It’s beginning to look more and more like film,” Mr. Gibney, who began as a film editor in 1981, said in an interview. “I won’t say I don’t miss certain photographic properties of film, but video is getting good enough so you don’t feel your product is compromised.”
Digital issues such as how to compress enormous files, prevent piracy and properly archive final products are evolving.
While Mr. Cuban’s investment indicates he’s confident about digital’s influence and expansion, some insiders define the industry as being slothlike on such change for several reasons.
Constant innovation with equipment means inherent obsolescence, which is expensive. Also, the jury is still out on the environmental front.
Either way, Mr. Cuban is keeping his eye on the digital prize. And Hollywood isn’t ignoring his moxie.
“He’s an entrepreneurial guy, and he’s certainly onto something,” said Bob Hoffman, VP of marketing at movie production lab Technicolor. “Many of the studios are looking at his model and how he thinks outside of the box, and thinking, `How can we do that?”‘