U.K.'s Cineworld doubles its digital estate


Cineworld, the United Kingdom’s second-largest cinema operator with 75 sites and 775 screens, announced a comprehensive deal with Munich, Germany-based NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH for an additional 74 digital projectors. The total cost for outfitting one in five of its screens by next month is estimated at £4 million (€4.46 and US$5.71 mil.). And 144 of the 148 total digital screens will also have digital 3D capabilities through RealD, ultimately providing some 40,000 cinemagoers for any given show with a deeper experience.

Steve Wiener, chief executive officer of Cineworld Group plc, is “proud to be the U.K.’s leading digital operator, and the deal with NEC further reinforces our market-leading position.”

The Odeon and UCI group, meanwhile, is adding another 30 3D screens in time for Monsters vs. Aliens, bringing its total to 54, according to Drew Kaza, executive VP of digital development at the circuit.

In 2008, Cineworld reported an increase of 4.4% in overall revenue and of 6.4% at the box office. Kingdom-wide, attendance grew 1.1% to 164.2 million and ticket sales by about 5% to £949.5 mil.(€1.057, US$1.355 billion), including “the highest summer admissions to U.K. cinemas since 1969,” reported James Bird, policy executive at the Cinema Exhibitors Association.

Kinopolis Counts 21.9 Mil. Tickets
Last year, pan-European exhibitor Kinepolis Group welcomed 21.9 million moviegoers, or some 0.8% less than in 2007. During the fourth quarter alone, growth was 8.3% thanks to Quantum of Solace, Madagascar 2 and French and Flemish hits Mesrine-diptiek and Loft, respectively. Other highlights included one million Kinepolis guests for Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis and 7,000 opera lovers in Belgium and France. Kinepolis Spain recently had an “opera taster” with a live performance from Teatro alla Scalla, Milano.

In Germany, meanwhile, Kinepolis Group NV has begun selling its 12.61% minority share in CinemaxX AG to H+Z Beteiligungs GmbH. The three-step transaction should be completed at the end of July.

Goyas Salute Cruz, Camino
Madrid proved the city to be in for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, as Penélope Cruz was honored by the Academia de las Ciencias y las Artes Cinematográficas de España for her part in Woody Allen’s comedy. Benicio Del Toro received the Goya Award for his portrayal of Guevara in the two Che films. Javier Fesser’s “emotional love story” Camino won best film plus five other Goyas. With 15 and 11 nominations, respectively, top contenders Los girasoles ciegos and Sólo quiero caminar (Just Walking) received one Goya each at the 23rd annual affair. The latter, directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes (Alatriste, Don’t Tempt Me), subsequently had its international debut at the Berlin Film Festival, with a spring release booked for Mexico.

Benjamin, Valkyrie Debut in Berlin
On Jan. 19, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walked the red carpet along Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, followed by Tom Cruise and team just 24 hours later. While Benjamin Button celebrated its European premiere on three screens of the CineStar at Sony Center (with Warner Bros. hosting) and Fox’s Operation Walküre took over the Musiktheater across the street (better known as the Berlinale Palast during February’s film festival), each had digital projection in common.

“In order to ensure immaculate picture quality at these premiere shows,” Kinoton says, the German subsidiaries of these two majors “banked on Kinoton DCP digital-cinema projectors and the renowned technical service of our Berlin branch.”

Back in December, Kinoton outfitted the world and German premieres of Inkheart, Australia and German knighthood-comedy 1 ½ Ritter. Kinoton’s projector series features 2K DLP Cinema components in license from Barco.

IMAX Rises at Mega KinoStar
Rising Star Media, the Russian joint venture between National Amusements and Soquel Ventures, will add a digital-projection IMAX auditorium at KinoStar City in Moscow’s Mega Belyadacha super mall. After St. Petersburg, this will be the circuit’s second in the country.
“The IMAX theatre business has proven to be very effective for both Rising Star Media and National Amusements,” states NA chief Shari Redstone. Rising Star director Paul Heth added that the IMAX partnership has “cemented” the circuit’s “position as a high-tech leader in the Russian exhibition business.”

No Crisis at European Film Market
During the Berlin Film Festival, the EFM hosted three consecutive nights of economic debate and cocktails as part of the market’s industry outreach and education. Proposing “Innovations, Opportunities and Strategies” instead of cries of “Crisis,” the panel discussions focused on—what else—the global financial and economic crisis: “Thinking Global, Acting Local” (co-productions with U.S. majors), “Aftermath: How to Finance Films in the Credit Crunch” (fewer companies with less cash competing for films, reduced willingness to take risks) and “Distribution Revolution” (innovative business models in a global crisis).

Specialists from Germany’s Commerzbank talked with international film and financing experts such as Peter Buckingham (U.K. Film Council), Simon Fawcett (Aramid Capital Partners), David Hancock (Screen Digest), Jens Meurer (Egoli Tossell Film), Helge Sasse (Senator Entertainment), Bengt Toll (Swedish Film Institute, Audience Department) and Ben Waisbren (Continental Entertainment Capital).

Paris 36 Meets Manhattan 09
The Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC) and Unifrance are kicking off the 14th edition of their “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” in high style. The U.S. premiere of Christophe (The Chorus) Barratier’s musical comedy Paris 36 (Faubourg 36) not only opens the annual showcase on March 5, but is also one of the key debut events for the completely renovated Alice Tully Hall. “The breathtaking new grand foyer and theatrical space will be an incomparable home for our community of film lovers for years to come,” promises FSLC executive director Mara Manus. The series continues until March 15 and Sony Pictures Classics will selectively release the French/German/Czech co-production throughout North America beginning April 3.

Across town, French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) will welcome filmmaker Jacques Doillon in person on March 3 with a screening of his not-yet-released Le Premier Venu (Just Anybody). The screening is part of the first-ever U.S. retrospective of Doillon's work, which began on Feb. 3. After showings on FIAF’s popular “CinémaTuesdays,” the series will travel to other key cities across the United States.

Please e-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally@nielsen.com.