European Commission calls on cinemas to go digital

The European Commission (EC) has called on European cinemas to go digital and to showcase more European films.

Many cinemas throughout Europe are still using old-fashioned technology, cutting and taping together film from movie reels, which makes the job much more difficult, mistakes more likely, and the film quality considerably poorer overall.

However, the move to digital can be extremely expensive, with a single digital projector and server costing as much as €75,000, which is well out of the means of small and independant cinemas.

To encourage the switch to digital the EC is providing funding through its MEDIA programme and the European Regional Development Fund, which will help offset some of the costs involved.

The EC was also not happy with the fact that US-produced films are dominating the market, holding a bigger share than European-based productions, even though there are more films made and distributed in the European Union. The EC is encouraging European cinemas to show more European films in efforts to support and stimulate the European film industry.

An example from the European Audiovisual Observatory shows how undervalued European films really are. In 2008, 726 films were produced and distributed in the EU, while 167 US-produced films were released in the region. Despite making a substantially higher volume of films, Europe only nabbed 35 percent of the market share, with a whopping 65 percent going to those 167 American films.

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

The EC is also working on ways to combat piracy, which is a growing phenonenon in an increasingly digital world.

With more cinemas going digital we may see more films being illegally copied and uploaded to the internet, but the spread of piracy is clearly not a reason to keep cinemas in the Dark Ages when digital offers a much better experience for both staff and moviegoers. Rips and leaks will be better.