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Lights, camera, action... EU helps cinemas go digital

Bridging the gap between culture and science is one of the EU's top priorities. The European Commission is supporting this effort by green-lighting a new strategy that will help digitise European cinemas and promote the screening of European-made films. It's a win-win situatio...

Bridging the gap between culture and science is one of the EU's top priorities. The European Commission is supporting this effort by green-lighting a new strategy that will help digitise European cinemas and promote the screening of European-made films. It's a win-win situation for everyone: cinema aficionados will have access to more films and small cinemas can embrace state-of-the-art technology without burning huge holes in their pockets. This novel scheme details options for financial support, such as state-aid and backing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), a key supporter of innovation, and the EU Media Programme, which supports the European audiovisual industry by fostering the development and distribution of myriad films and training activities. MEDIA is contributing EUR 755 million to the European film industry for the period 2007-2013. The money will help strengthen the competitiveness of the sector. The European Commission says digitising cinemas across Europe will increase the feasibility of converting films made in the first years of cinema to preserve them for future generations. 'The digital revolution has transformed the way the film industry produces, distributes and screens films,' explains European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Androulla Vassiliou. '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.' Experts note that cost and the diverse needs of cinemas are what hold back digital take-up. For example, cinema operators must shell out some EUR 75,000 if they want to acquire a new digital projector and server. This is a lot of money for the smaller cinemas. The European Commission has in the last 3 years earmarked EUR 25 million in backing through the MEDIA Programme for digital cinema initiatives and other innovative projects. The new scheme, due to kick off by December 2010, will boost the digitisation investment by another EUR 4 million. Art-house cinemas that have already received ERDF support to go digital include the German Land of Niedersachsen, the Polish region of Malopolska, and the North, Centre and Alentejo regions of Portugal. A number of regions in France have also expressed an interest in receiving financial support. The European Commission strategy also addresses ways to clinch opportunities offered by standardisation: make the digital transition faster, thus keeping production and distribution costs to a minimum; preserve and enhance the diversity of European programming in digitised cinemas; and invest in research, equipment and professional training to better preserve Europe's film heritage. Europeans love going to the cinema. Data from the European Audiovisual Observatory show that the number of cinema admissions increased to 981 million in 2009, up by more than 6% year-on-year. European box office receipts rose by 12% year-on-year to EUR 6.3 billion. The European industry's market share represented 27% of total European box office receipts, the figures reveal.

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Germany, France, Poland, Portugal

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