EU digitising European cinemas

24 Sep 2010

A new digitisation objective for European cinemas has been announced by the European Commission today, in the hope of cinemas screening an increased amount of European content.

Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, responsible for education and culture, said that digitisation has irrevocably altered the industries’ output and has the potential to increase diversity and lower distribution costs.

“The digital revolution has transformed the way the film industry produces, distributes and screens films. These changes also create great opportunities for European cinema. Digital technology can reduce distribution costs and potentially increase the number and diversity of European films being screened worldwide. I hope we will soon see the benefits of digital technology in all European cinemas, including the independent and art-house screens that characterise Europe’s unique cinema network.”

Digital equipment costs

The cost of digital equipment and take up can be prohibitive – a new digital projector and server costs around €75,000 – and represents a huge investment for smaller independent cinemas.

The Commission’s strategy sets out options for financial support, including state aid and backing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and EU MEDIA programme, which supports the film industry.

The move to digital will increase the feasibility of converting films made in the first years of cinema to preserve them for future generations, while embracing the opportunities presented by standardisation and offering a wider choice for cinema goers, said the Commission.

Cinema-going continues to be popular in the EU, with 981 million admissions in 2009 on record. Art-house cinemas tend to screen more European-made films than the big chains, many of them belonging to the Europa cinemas network, which has a large network in Ireland – most notably The Irish Film Institute and The Lighthouse Cinema – and has received support from the MEDIA programme since 1995.