Europe behind in d-cinema prep

Report: Only 20% of screens expected to be digital by 2011

Market fragmentation across the European exhibition circuit is likely to mean that just 20% of screens will be digital by 2011, lagging behind the U.S., according to new research (HR 10/25).

The report by U.K. exhibition analysts Dodona Research says that while only 20% of screens will be equipped with digital systems meeting Digital Cinema Initiative specifications by 2011, there are big variations across Europe.

Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg are expected to lead the digital conversion charge with more than half of all screens converted over the next five years, the report says, while in other European territories, "the process may barely have begun."

The report, titled "Digital Cinema," also predicts that half of all U.S. screens will be digitally equipped at that point.

Dodona said the publication of the DCI Digital Cinema Systems specification kick-started the transition to digital in the U.S.

As of June, there were 841 2K digital screens in the U.S., compared with 112 at the end of 2005, according to Dodona. There were 334 2K digital cinema screens in Europe, with the U.K. having the largest number at 71.

But adoption of digital cinema is happening far more slowly than in the U.S. because of multiple languages, the large number of distributors active in the market and differing regulations and industry practices, according to Dodona.

In a report that followed Thursday, research specialist Screen Digest said it has come up with what it is calling the Digital Cinema Conversion Index (HR 10/27).

The index aims to provide a clear indication of which countries are suited to a relatively simple conversion to digital cinema as well as those territories where market conditions are more complicated.

The drivers behind the DCCI are 10 statistical measurements from each territory including screens per site, U.S. boxoffice domination, U.S. share of the market and print market values. The index also takes into account exhibitor concentration, distributor concentration, multiplex penetration, distributor level revenue, proportion of single-screen sites and the number of first-run films.

The average DCCI across all countries is 53.9, with the U.S. clearly the most suited for digital conversion with a DCCI of 86.7.

In Europe, the territory with a market structure most suited to a transition to digital cinema is the U.K. The least suited to conversion is Finland.