Cinemas exploring sustainability measures

Cinemas exploring sustainability measures

iStock photo

The world’s leading businesses, from the largest corporations to the corner coffee shop, are moving forward with sustainability programs that improve their business operations and serve their marketplace and surrounding communities in more efficient and less wasteful ways.

The exhibition industry is supported and surrounded by suppliers that have comprehensive, multi-year sustainability programs for reducing energy use and shrinking the carbon footprint of their business and products. Some cinema operations are looking to develop sustainability plans as well, reports Film Journal International.

Sustainability momentum is gathering around the exhibition industry. Energy and waste handling are the main elements of a cinema’s environmental footprint, as cinemas continue to work with suppliers, their own operations, and local waste processors to advance their efficiency in this area.

Here’s how cinema complexes, according to Film Journal International, can be run with a smaller carbon footprint.

Better buildings

In North America, there are only a small number of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified cinema complexes. The LEED rating system establishes standards and promotes “green building” practices and environmental leadership within the building industry, and provides a mark of design and construction excellence.

LEED efforts can be made in overhauling and renovating auditoriums and complexes to modernize and raise the customer experience through luxury seating, new fixtures, added food services, and the latest in projection and audio technologies.


Lighting tops the “easy with simple payback” list, and many exhibitors have already completed significant change-outs to highly efficient, long-lasting LED lamps. Autosensing switches and timers are used wherever possible. These improvements have already resulted in major kWh (kilowatt-hour) reductions and energy cost savings for cinema operators, as well as significant carbon offsets.

Almost every zone of a cinema complex can gain from LED retrofitting. Auditorium LEDs have the added benefit of years of operation without replacement.


Depending on the region and season, a building’s peak energy costs are driven by either lighting or HVAC services. Upgrading the building envelope provides a first opportunity for efficiency gains with minimal incremental cost.

Theatres need to ensure their mechanical system provider is using the most up-to-date design standards and providing efficiency-driven equipment options directed toward optimizing total building performance and energy use.

All areas of the complex can be programmed to deliver viewer comfort in sync with show programming and real-time adjustment to visitor occupancy levels using simple sensing systems. During non-show times, HVAC settings are eased to match the season and reduce non-occupied room energy costs.

Digital projection systems have simpler exhausting requirements, and newer air-handling systems are eliminating direct-to-outdoors exhausting and incorporating the warm, dry projector air into the main building HVAC system. This results in better humidity control and air quality, as well as operational savings. Next-generation projection and audio systems, running in closed and unattended spaces, will simplify these opportunities even further. With the right approach, today’s HVAC systems can be expected to operate using 30 to 50 percent less energy than those of a decade ago.

Audio systems

Audio systems have quietly become a significant power-saving opportunity with the availability of new Class-D or switching amplifiers, which approach 90 percent efficiency delivering significant power savings and lower heat rejection to the building HVAC system.

Additionally, these devices are more compact, lighter weight for a given power output and ideal for small booth and boothless setups. Also becoming popular, and useful for attendant-free operation, are networkable models allowing remote monitoring and control for quality assurance and power savings management.

Projectors and laser illumination

Reduced power consumption is a benefit of some newer projection systems. As a next step in facilitating wider laser adoption, system providers are moving toward total cost of ownership (TCO) models that will pass an exhibitor’s careful cost review and move these products into the mainstream.

Barco recently announced a major laser milestone with the upcoming opening of the world’s first all-laser projection cinema complex at Texas exhibitor Santikos’ new Casa Blanca site in San Antonio. This 16-plex will use both RGB and laser phosphor illuminated Barco projectors.

It is envisioned that widespread adoption of operationally friendly, energy-efficient and image-improving laser-based projectors will coincide with the future replacement of lamp-based first-generation digital projectors as they reach end of lifetime and the laser projector energy savings help to underwrite change-out costs.

Projection booth power savings and automation

Equipment efficiency gains are providing energy-savings opportunities during show operation, but systems, both new and old, are often left running during down times, wasting both electricity and HVAC servicing. This waste carries a financial cost, especially in international markets where energy costs can be two to three times that of North America. Wasted energy is also damaging to a cinema’s carbon footprint.

Moving iMage Technologies, seeing the need to provide exhibitors with effective energy-saving opportunities, has recently rolled out several new “energy-conscious” products as part of a suite of power management devices that automatically power-control audio systems as per daily opening and closing times. Another cinema-specific controller had been developed to provide on-demand control of projector exhausting and stop conditioned air from leaving the booth when cooling is not required.

Water conservation

Water use and conservation has become a significant operations concern in meeting legislated restrictions and minimizing consumption within the local community. Low-flow toilets and taps, as well as waterless fixtures, are becoming the norm for new builds and retrofits.

Energy sourcing

Rooftop solar power generation has been embraced by only a few exhibitors. These installations provide their communities with an immediate feed of clean energy, which is usually delivered into the local grid with supply credits going back to the theatre.

Solar installations use various forms of long-term agreements, often between the building owner and system provider, with the cinema as a partner player.

The continuing expansion of both large-scale and local rooftop solar power generation, along with ongoing tax credits and local subsidies, continues to shorten the payback and cost of these systems. Sourcing energy from third-party renewable sources rather than carbon-emitting utilities is another popular option for accessing clean energy and offsetting the carbon footprint.


Topics: Architectural Firms, Automation and Controls, Building Owners and Managers, Certifications, Construction Firms, Consulting - Green & Sustainable Strategies and Solutions, Energy Audit / Energy Management, Energy Recovery & Heat Recovery Ventilation, Energy Saving Products, Energy Storage - Solar Energy Storage, Engineering Firms, Entertainment Buildings - Amusement Parks / Gaming & Casinos / Other, Exteriors, Great Commercial Buildings, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), Interiors, Lighting - Energy Efficient Lighting, Maintenance, Plumbing, Roofing, Solar Energy & Solar Power, Sound and Accoustical Solutions, Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Trends and Statistics, Technology, Thermal Envelope - Building Envelope, Urban Planning and Design, Ventilation, Water Saving Strategies and Devices

Sponsored Links:

Latest Content

Find Us On:


Get the latest news & insights




High-efficiency refugee center seeks final partners for construction