Euro d-cinema supporters try to stem continental drift

Language barrier among hurdles

Europe-based stakeholders Tuesday exhorted the industry to get the digital cinema transition rolling on the continent, where the switchover is lagging behind that of the U.S.

"There is a great appetite to start digital cinema deployment in Europe," David Monk, CEO of the European Digital Cinema Forum, said during the final day of the International Broadcasting Convention here. "But because it's more complex (than in the U.S.), the ability to set up a deal has been thwarted. It's unbelievably difficult."

There are an estimated 5,000 digital cinema screens deployed worldwide, about 4,000 of which are in the U.S.

"Europe wants an understandable and simple way to engage a virtual print fee model," Monk said. "What made the U.S. market take off is the availability of the VPF model. But in Europe, this is more complex. It's more divided; it's complicated by languages and more complicated relationships.

"Let's get something together that may not be commercially optimal but gets the market started," he added.

Monk identified additional concerns about the rollout in Europe. "The European market is more fragmented. It has the largest population of smaller and remote cinemas," he said, adding that the needs of this market must be examined because some feel that the full Digital Cinema Initiatives specifications are "excessive" for those theaters.

He also said it was important to protect the continued life of smaller theaters used for specialty markets. "A lot of independent films play in these special venues," he said, adding that government intervention might be needed.

Meanwhile, the digital forum announced completion of a study that found the average cinema screen in Europe to be slightly more than 26 feet wide or less, with seating for 180.

"EDCF members represent both large and small operators with an inventory of both large and small cinemas," said EDCF technical support group director Peter Wilson, who is director of U.K. consulting firm High Definition and Digital Cinema.

"It has been felt for a long time that the smaller screens will not be served well by the current generation of projection equipment," he added. "This equipment has been optimized for the larger screen sizes and will not be cost effective for the large number of operators of the smaller screens."

The aim of the report is to assist manufacturers in their product planning, Wilson said.
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