London tops digital-cinema survey


In a recent survey, Screen Digest set out to count the number of digital-cinema screens and locations across the European continent. Befitting our Cinema Expo edition, our summary of the information graciously shared by the experts at the Global Media Intelligence begins with Amsterdam: With nine digitally equipped screens in four theatres, your friendly host city has some catching up to do.

Not surprisingly, given the strong support from the U.K. Film Council programs and the fact that more than one-fifth of British screens are located in London, the title of top city remains across the Channel. “With about 45% of its movie theatres counting at least one digital screen,” noted report writer Marion Maisonobe, “the British capital is by far the leading Western European city for the digital transition of cinema sites.” Forty-four screens in more than 30 sites created within the Council’s Digital Screen Network alone, the ongoing digital transitions of the Apollo and Odeon chains, plus the 3D effect of 2009, have all helped London to remain the first digital cinema city with 112 screens, she noted.

Other capitals are catching up, with Parisian cinemas doubling their d-count during 2009 for a total 51 at year-end. Outside of the Ilse de France, the country marched ahead so that a national 959 screens is taking the lead over 691 across the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, with 40% of the country’s Lichtspieltheater, Austria has become the country leader in Europe. Vienna capitalizes on the fact that the majority 59 d-screens of its 169 screens are located in multiplexes, resulting in one-third having been converted in only a quarter of cinema sites.

By contrast, Berlin and Rome count a high number of digital sites (15 and 13, respectively) but very few d-screens (23, 17). “The digital progression in those cities is due to the 3D effect, but wider digitization remains slow,” Screen Digest’s analysts reason. While both Germany and Italy—alongside numerous other European markets—are waiting on some form of governmental support and/or subsidy, numerous privately financing pioneers make it to the list: Nuremberg, Germany (Cinecittà); Lisbon, Portugal (Lusomundo); Madrid, Spain (Kinepolis, Yelmo); Tours, France (CGR); Salzburg, Austria (Cineplexx); Budapest, Hungary (Palace Cinemas); Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium (Kinepolis).

Harkness Lights Up Carmarthen
Opening on April 30, the six-screen, 1,000-seat Apollo Carmarthen Cinema in Southwest Wales “has become the first 100% digital, 3D-ready multiplex in Europe,” reports Harkness Screens about the latest installation of its polarized-light, “silver” specialty screen.

“As Sony 4K digital projectors are introduced into our cinemas,” stated Rob Arthur, managing director for Apollo Cinemas, “it is essential that we have a projection surface capable of providing breathtaking images. Harkness’ Spectral 240 3D screen allows us to give cinema patrons an enhanced viewing experience never before seen.” Carmarthen is the ninth of Apollo’s 14 U.K. sites (83 screens total welcoming some 2.5 million annual visitors) to introduce digital projection, bringing the 3D portion to 27% of its business.

CineWorld Revs Up
Recording a bump in total revenue of 13.9% in the 18 weeks leading up to May 6, the United Kingdom’s CineWorld Group plc “delivered steady performance in its retail activities given the continuing challenges in the consumer environment.” While the circuit also noted that screen advertising “remained broadly flat against the previous year,” other income “was supplemented by the sales of 3D glasses and by fees associated with higher booking volumes.”

Digital and 3D remain a key part of its strategy; the circuit explained that over 33% of its 790 screens (at 77 locations) are digital. “The ongoing rollout of 102 additional digital screens enabled us to capitalize further on the continuing success of 3D films. Further to reports prior to the annual general meeting, they contributed over 30% to our total box office for the year to date (vs. approximately 5% in the equivalent period in 2009).”

MEDIA Salles Debuts New Publication
Following its premier presentation during the Digital Cinema Tango! workshop of the European Audiovisual Observatory, MEDIA Salles placed the latest European Cinema Journal (no. 1/2010) on its website. Available in Amsterdam, “the data presented in Cannes and contained in the newsletter will also be included in a new MEDIA Salles publication,” promises Elisabetta Brunella, the organization’s general secretary. Better yet, this “streamlined and easy-to-consult volume—containing figures, ideas and success stories in the field of digital projection—will be available at Cinema Expo.” The information was collected during MEDIA Salles’ last DigiTraining Plus course (“European Cinemas Experiencing New Technologies” in Helsinki, Finland) and has been further augmented “by a section rich in tables and graphs” about the d-development.

Prime Focus Expands 3D Offer
Using a “worldsourcing” model, Prime Focus operates in 16 countries in a digitally linked network that combines “global cost advantages, resources and talent pool with strong relationships and a deep understanding of the local markets,” according to the visual entertainment services provider. To further its stereoscopic 3D reach, the company implemented major changes from Hollywood to London and Mumbai, where its world headquarters will house seven S3D theatres and over 600 artist seats, “along with a complete slate of visual effects, post and production services.” Prime Focus London installed a 2D-to-3D conversion pipeline as the company plans to expand into a new space for an additional 200 visual-effects artists.

Italia Celebrates in New York
May and June brought both Italian documentaries and other cinematic delicacies to New York City. From May 26 to 30, Manhattan’s Anthology Film Archives hosted the third annual Festival dei Popoli/New York Documentary Film Festival. From June 3 to 10, the Film Society of Lincoln Center opened roads to Italy at its Walter Reade Theater. The tenth anniversary of New Italian Cinema featured “an incredible slate of filmmakers,” mused program director Richard Peña, “a tribute, perhaps, to the series’ success in becoming Italy’s leading showcase in the U.S.”

Founded in 1959 by a group of humanities scholars, anthropologists, sociologists, ethnologists and experts in mass media, the Festival dei Popoli (Istituto Italiano Per Il Film Di Documentazione Soziale) organizes one of the most important international documentary festivals in Italy as it continues to conserve its 10,000-title archives.

Albania Joins European Film Promotion
The Albanian National Center of Cinematography (ANCC) is the latest organization and the 32nd country to become a member of Hamburg, Germany-based European Film Promotion. “The wealth of Albanian cinematography is, unfortunately, widely unknown so far to most of the world,” stated Artan Minarolli, chairman of ANCC and EFP representative.

Since its foundation in 1997, the Film Center has supported 167 different projects, including 37 feature-length films and eight film festivals. “We believe that our EFP membership and the concentrated experience of the network will help us promote our talented directors, producers, actors and actresses on an international level, and also will widen the possibilities for European co-production and distribution of our films,” Minarolli declared. “At the same time, we also believe that we can make our own contribution to this European organization.”

E-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to