A Niche Too Small – Pete Putman

Rumors had been spreading for a couple of months now that Philips would give up production of its unique Cinema 21:9 (2.40:1 aspect ratio) LCD TV, a product also sold by Vizio and other brands. The TV originally had a resolution of 2560×1080 pixels and was available in one size – 56 inches.

The Cinema 21:9 made its debut in 2009.


The 56PFL9954H was introduced in 2009 and got everyone buzzing about its unique shape, which matches the Cinemascope format. Problem was; there isn’t a whole lot of content to watch in this format aside from feature films.


Conventional HDTV programs showed up as pillar-boxed images, with black bars to either side. And the odd 4:3 program looked like a tiny square in a sea of black.


Now, apparently the last manufacturing run of Cinema LCD sets has been completed, and no more will be made for sale.  Not surprising, as that decision was driven mostly by the cut-throat pricing of LCD TVs in general and a sluggish market for TV sales.


The truth is; 16:9 TVs are hard enough to sell these days. But they can accommodate any TV format nicely without leaving too much of the screen area unused, and let’s be honest: Was it really all that uncomfortable to watch Cinemascope films on a 50” LCD or plasma TV anyway? Betcha most people didn’t even notice the top and bottom black bars if the movie was halfway interesting.


Projector manufacturers have also tried to sell Cinemascope systems with slide-on anamorphic lens attachments into the home theater market, but haven’t experienced a whole lot of success other than with true cinephiles who are also loaded with cash. Besides, projection screen manufacturers already offered multi-format image masking systems for existing 16:9 screens that made a lot more sense.


Sometimes marketers find a niche only to discover that it is simply too small to bother with. And Cinemascope TVs clearly fell into that category. C’est la vie…