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Industry Report: Digital

European digital screen base grows by 70% in 2008


European digital screen base grows by 70% in 2008

- Digital cinema is gaining ground in Europe. According to recent figures provided by MEDIA Salles, the number of digital screens equipped with DLP Cinema or Sony 4K technology increased during 2008 by 70% to 1 529 digital screens as of 1 January 2009. The European Audiovisual Observatory estimates that between 4 and 5% of all European screens had been converted to digital by the end of 2008. The number of theatres equipped with at least one digital screen grew to 815 sites, up 48% from 2007.

By the end of 2008 each European digital theatre operated on average 1.9 digital screens, compared to 1.6 in the previous year. This indicates that exhibitors are increasingly opting to convert more than one screen to digital in their theatres in order to enable digital screening along a film's commercial life cycle and to guarantee the flexibility to react to changes in demand. MEDIA Salles also reports 3D as a major driver stimulating conversion to digital. This would appear to be particularly true for Italy where, according to the local trade press, Journey to the Centre of the Earth opened on just 42 3D screens in January while Monsters and Aliens was released on a total of 102 3D screens in April 2009.

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Table 1: Digital cinema sites and screens in Europe 2003 - 2008 (as of year end)

Based on an early roll-out in the framework of its Digital Screen Network - the first public initiative to support digitalisation of cinemas in Europe which began roll-out in autumn 2005 - the United Kingdom still leads the European digital cinema market with 303 digital screens operational at the end of 2008. However, with no further public funding available, screen growth has slowed down, with only 19 new digital screen installations throughout 2008. In contrast, France is rapidly catching up on the UK, with digital screens almost quadrupling to 253 units in 2008, up from only 66 in the previous year.
This growth is chiefly due to the decision by CGR, the third largest French exhibitor, to start conversion of its approx. 400 screens. While awaiting the outcome of negotiations over a funding scheme to support the digitalisation of German cinemas - the so-called 100 model - German exhibitors were hesitant to invest heavily in conversion, transforming only an additional 10 screens throughout the year. This brought the German total digital screen base to 161, now the third largest base in Europe. Relative to their size, Luxemburg and Belgium show the highest density of digital cinema installations, with 21 and 98 digital screens respectively in operation by the end of 2008.

While many countries are still developing schemes to support the transition to digital, the Polish Filmmakers Association scheme to support the installation of up to 300 digital projectors in smaller cinemas contributed to increasing Poland's digital screen base to 53, up from only 8 in 2007.
In other countries larger exhibitors such as Cineplexx Kinobetriebe in Austria or ZON Lusomondo in Portugal followed CGR's example and decided to go ahead with the conversion of their screens, often in response to the perceived attraction of 3D screenings. As a result of these initiatives a significant increase in digital projection systems could be observed in Russia (+59), Austria (+49), Italy (+42) and Portugal (+30) throughout 2008.

Table 2 : Digital cinema sites and screens in Europe 2007 - 2008 (as of year end)

Notes for Editors:

• Data have been collected in collaboration with MEDIA Salles.
• Europe is defined as the 30 countries covered by MEDIA Salles with regard to digital cinema data.


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