Screen Digest analyzes top 250 circuits

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The always analytical exhibition experts at Screen Digest have taken a detailed look at the top 250 cinema operators in the world. Together, they account for over 60,000 screens and include all major exhibitors with over 30 screens across 50 international territories—with the exception of North America, where Screen Digest included only those above 100 screens.
We have the pleasure to introduce our column readers to some tantalizing highlights from a wealth of survey data presented by analyst Charlotte Jones:

* With over 6,800 screens and as the world’s largest by far, Regal Entertainment accounts for over 11.2% of the total owned and/or operated by the top 250.
* The top five global circuits account for over 31% of total screens and on average house 12.2 screens per site; the top ten account for 40%, the top 20 for 50% and the top 100 for 82.5% of surveyed screens.
* North American exhibitors represent 16% of circuits, but in combination have 48.6% of all screens.
* Western Europe features the largest number of individual circuits (96 of them, 37.8%), though with a much smaller 22.6% of screen count, albeit the second largest of any world region.
* Each exhibitor in the top 250 has a site average of 8.4 screens. Three world regions fall below this threshold: Western Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Central and Eastern Europe, the latter having the lowest average (just 5.9 screens per site). In contrast, North American and South American circuits have noticeably larger complexes with an average of 11.6 and 8.2 screens per site, respectively.
* The average top 250 exhibitor has 238 screens. Broken down, North American groups have an average of 745 screens per operator; Western Europe 145 screens; Central and Eastern Europe some 72 screens.

For more information and to get a full copy of the report, visit www.screendigest.com.

Kinoton Tunes Tech Center

The Germering, Germany-based equipment professionals at Kinoton recently opened a state-of-the-art testing, training, meeting and showroom facility. “The new Technology Center is our response to the ever-increasing demand for information and training brought about by the introduction of digital cinema,” the company explains. Not only does this include technical seminars for Kinoton’s staff, sales and service partners worldwide, but also workshops for interested customers.

A cinema fully equipped with the latest in sight and sound equipment “adds to the practical relevance of the seminars,” Kinoton says. “Acting as a test and demo center for E- and D-Cinema,” including all 3D systems, allows “even complex issues like the interaction of analog and digital technology” to be explored.

The Center also houses the showroom for Kinoton’s Litefast 360° LED Displays and incorporates the new premises of DVC Digitalvideo Computing GmbH. Kinoton has long been a shareholder in this developer of integrated systems for the digital video, presentation, HDTV and streaming media markets and now hopes for “noticeable synergy effects” and “further cooperation in digital signage, audiovisual and presentation technology.”

Brussels Kinepolis Turns 21

“To help steer the Brussels film fan into the future,” pan-European Kinepolis Group gave “a total makeover” to the Kinepolis Heizel Park. “The whole building was thoroughly restyled,” the press notes assert. With a new main entrance, 16 “hi-tech booking counters,” 19 of its 24 auditoria already fully digitized with Barco (three including Dolby Digital 3D) and three areas for some 1,500 business people, the 6,827 all-reserved-seat granddaddy—or grand dame, perhaps—of the modern megaplex is now looking “even more spacious and harmonious.”

For more information about the changes in its retail operations, please refer to FJI’s concession trends article in this issue. The renovation work started on April 20 and was completed on June 15.

Cineworld Updates Results
“Cineworld enjoyed healthy trading in the first half of 2009,” the latest update from the U.K.-based circuit of 75 cinemas and 775 screens summarized (www.cineworld.co.uk). Total estimated revenues were up 16.5%, with pluses in box office and retail (22.5% and 14.8%) counterpointed by other income declining 23.4%, mainly because of changes in screen advertising. “Whilst trading in our core business is ahead of expectations, resulting in strong growth in total revenues,” investor relations further reported, “this has been offset in part by cost pressures, such as increased utility prices.”

On the horizon for the second half of the year are launches of a ten-screen cinema in Aberdeen and a five-plex in Witney. Also of note, Cineworld Group’s “recent investment in its digital estate and rollout of 3D facilities has shown very encouraging results” with high market shares for Coraline (39%), Bolt (48%) and Monsters vs. Aliens (45%).

U.K. Digital Goes Rural
The ever-supportive U.K. Film Council launched a £1.2 million ($1.95 mil.) pilot program that will bring “the latest digital-cinema equipment” and enable current releases and “extra features” such as 3D and live satellite events in three more remote parts of the United Kingdom. North Yorkshire, Shropshire, Wiltshire and the neighboring Test Valley authority have been invited to apply for funds “so that people can enjoy the wide range of films on offer in urban areas, right on their doorstep.” Pete Buckingham, head of the Council’s Distribution and Exhibition Fund, further adds, “We know there are rural regions where large numbers of people are unable to enjoy films in a communal environment without travelling long distances to towns or cities.”

The application deadline is August 10, 2009, and guidelines can be found at www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/rural.

German Board Grants Digital Funds

The Federal Film Board (FFA) has set aside €40 million ($55.5 million) to help launch d-cinema across the country. As with all good things, it’s not enough and it comes with a string attached. Exhibitors have to drop their opposition against the mandatory levy system that feeds the FFA’s $90 million annual budget. In a recent ruling, the federal administrative court decreed that these payments are unconstitutional as they are mandatory for theatres and home-entertainment businesses, whereas broadcasters and cablers make their contributions to film industry funding voluntarily.

So far, responses have been positive, although further state and federal funding is necessary. The latest endorsement comes from HDF Kino to accept the structural aid for nationwide digitization. During the July 8 annual meeting, the vast majority membership of the German exhibitor association voted in favor of dropping their legal opposition and conditional payments to the levy "as long as open issues will be solved mutually." HDF Kino named some ten remaining questions ranging from timing and amount of contributions to potential competition issues on the European front. FFA has set up a working group and hopes to reach consensus in time for its October board meeting. (updated on July 9)

Europalaces Goes on SmartJog
With a presence in 65 countries for radio, television and data communications, the digital delivery experts at SmartJog (www.smartjog.com) secured additional sites from Europalaces (Gaumont, Pathé) in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Currently more than 65 theatres with 400 digital screens are connected to the SmartJog delivery platform, which includes a 12-terabyte central library server, management software and a pan-European network of satellite and fiber delivery services. SmartJog expects the network will grow to over 200 theatres by year’s end.

E-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to Kevin.lally@nielsen.com.