Reg. Trib. Milano n. 418 del 02.07.2007
Direttore responsabile: Elisabetta Brunella


 
 
 
  International Edition No. 100 - year 8 - 23 December 2013

***
 

Dear readers,

whilst conveying to you our very best wishes for the festivities and for a happy 2014, I take great pleasure in presenting this DGT Online Informer, which celebrates its one hundredth issue.
This is an important objective for MEDIA Salles which for many years, through its publications and the DigiTraining Plus course, has been tracking the major new developments and more interesting stories connected to digital cinema, dealing systematically with the issues linked to digitalization that are of most concern to international players.
This is the perspective we have chosen for celebrating this one hundredth issue of the newsletter, by inaugurating a new column devoted to those cinemas in Europe that have not yet adopted the digital technology, thus running the risk - as the "switch-off" hour approaches - of seeing their position considerably weakened.
We believe that, now that the digital shift is in its completion phase - data at 30 June 2013 showed that in Europe 75% of screens had converted to the new technology - attention must necessarily shift to the minority of theatres that have been excluded from the transition process, attempting to identify their characteristics and focus on the difficulties that have prevented them from going digital.
We have decided to entitle this new column "Not One Less", using an expression that we adopted some years ago in praise of the intervention that made Norway the first country in the world to have digitalized all its cinemas, in the hope that Europe would be able to achieve the same objective, finding the necessary resources to complete digitalization without losing a single screen. Indeed, perhaps opening new ones in areas that are underscreened. Our special wish for 2014 is that European audiences will be able to enjoy not only more films but more cinemas, as well!

Luigi Grispello,
President of MEDIA Salles

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SAVE THE DATE!

MEDIA Salles at the Berlinale

Saturday 8 February 2014 

In collaboration with AG Kino and CICAE

Digitisation in Latin America: A countdown *
by Roque González

By the end of 2013, Latin America had almost 8,000 digital screens, accounting for 63% of the total screens in the region. But the Latin American markets are varied and diverse: while Mexico, Colombia and Central America and the Caribbean - as a whole - have digitized three-quarters of their screens, Venezuela has only 20% digitization and the giant Brazil a mere 41%.
Effectively, if Mexico, Colombia, Central America and the Caribbean are excluded, the percentage of digitized screens in Latin America falls to 44%.
The influence of 3D on Latin American digital screens is still important, but much less so than it was only two years ago. And there are markets - generally, those with a higher digitization ratio - that have increased their share of non-stereoscopic digital screens (the percentage varies between 25% and 50%). There are also some few attempts at film transmission via satellite to the theatres (Mexico is in the lead in this incipient process).  
The biggest Latin American exhibition chains are already 100% digitized, or about to achieve that goal. This is true for the multinationals (e.g. Cinemark and Cinépolis), as well as most of the national ones. The medium and small exhibition companies - especially those located in small towns, in the interior - still face problems that inhibit digitization. 
The majors will stop distributing 35mm copies by early 2014 on Latin American markets with high percentages of digitization, like Mexico and Colombia. It's important to note that VPF (virtual print fee) agreements were not widely established in Latin America, as they were in the USA or Europe. Hybrid agreements were arranged: the major exhibitors (e.g. Cinemark, Cinépolis or Cine Colombia, among others) negotiated directly with Hollywood, whilst the national exhibitors - especially medium and small ones - and later the national film producers are the main financial supporters of the digitisation. The few companies managing VPFs in Latin America are mainly Arts Alliance Media, GDC and Bardan, among others.

Country by Country 
In 2013, Colombia and Central America and the Caribbean - as a whole - joined Mexico at the top of the Latin American digitization rankings. They have digitized around three-quarters of their screens. Until 2012, Mexico was the only country to be included in the top ratings.
Other countries in the region saw an important increase in the number of digital screens in 2013: Argentina, Ecuador, Chile and smaller markets like Bolivia and Paraguay. But the origins of these increases are different.
In fact, the constant growth in Colombian digitization is consistent with the rise of the whole Colombian film market: in the first decade of the 2000s, the total number of screens doubled and admissions and box office increased significantly, while national films and their market share increased after the launch of the Colombian Cinema Law in 2003.
The three main exhibitors in Colombia (national Cine Colombia, Cinemark and Cinépolis) have already digitized all their screens. A similar situation has occurred in Ecuador, although this market is smaller than Colombia's. 
The case of Argentina is different: although this country doubled the number of digital screens in 2013, its exhibition market has been stagnant for about 15 years, at around 800 (plus or minus 100). Admissions and box-office numbers were also stagnant until 2009, although since then these two variables have been increasing - but not at the same significant levels as other countries like Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Peru.
In Argentina's case, the increase in the number of digital screens in 2013 (which account for about 45% of the total) was the unplanned consequence of the factors that explain the current economic crisis: a very high inflation rate, the blocking of imports to protect a national industry that, in any case, barely exists, and restrictions on currency exchange for Argentinians meant to stem the flow of money out of the country.
The Argentine government created an undervalued official dollar rate (around 50% cheaper than the dollar market value). Argentinians can import and spend abroad through electronic transactions based on a "cheap dollar": this is an indirect subsidy to the richest sector of the society, which stimulates the importation of foreign products and puts national manufactures at a disadvantage. 
This was the case for the importation of digital projectors and cinema equipment to Argentina in the last year: despite the government restrictions on imports, the goods eventually arrived on the market, a move strengthened by the fact that Argentina does not produce this equipment. 
Despite the fact that Argentina is one of the few Latin American countries that has public policies to support digitization in exhibition (the other is Brazil), by December 2013 not one screen had been digitized with state support. Soft loans to encourage digitization were announced in 2011, and launched in 2012. Nevertheless, because of Argentina`s very high country risk rate, and the subsequent very high interest rates, the loans in this country are not very "soft." Another reason for exhibitors' resistance to these policies perhaps resides in the unwieldiness of the Argentine bureaucracy and the poor implementation of policies.
Something similar happened with the Southern Cone (Mercosur) regional film institution called RECAM. They signed an agreement with the European Union, starting in 2009 and ending in 2012. Europeans provided around two million U.S. dollars; Argentines were in charge of the implementation. One of the main objectives was to build a network of 30 screens in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay to show films from these countries. The project launch was announced at the end of 2008, but to this date nothing has materialized.
Venezuela has similar economic problems: one of the world's highest inflation rates and the prohibition of currency exchange for nationals. Nevertheless, local business people cannot benefit from a "cheap" official dollar, as happens in Argentina: the Venezuelan import system is more tightly locked than the Argentine one. This is the main reason why the Venezuelan exhibition market has the lowest Latin American digitization percentage (just 20%): they virtually cannot buy the projectors and equipment for their theatres.
Brazil is the world's tenth most important cinema market (in terms of admissions). However, by December 2013, the South American giant still had a low digitization percentage (around 41% of their 2,700 screens) despite public policies to support exhibition, including digitization. 
Nevertheless, around 1,200 screens were registered in the Recine - a special regimen based on import-tax exemptions for projectors and exhibition equipment run by the main state fund for cinema, Fundo Setorial. The government estimates that these screens will be soon digitized. 
At the same time, the Ancine (the Brazilian agency for cinema) is still carrying out the "Cinema perto de voçê" ("Cinema near you") plan, which supports the building of theatres in suburbs and small villages in the interior. All of these screens must be digital and DCI-compliant.
Mexico is the fourth-biggest cinema market in the world in terms of admissions and the fifth for screens. It is by far the leading Latin American cinema market. As was mentioned, by December 2013, Mexico had digitized more than three-quarters of its screens.
Cinépolis, the most important exhibition company in Mexico and the fourth biggest in the world, has screens through all Latin America and also has locations in the United States and India. This Mexican exhibitor has already digitized all of its screens in its mother country. 
Cinemex is the second-largest exhibitor in Mexico and the sixth in the world. This Mexican company has digitized around 70% of its screens.
Cinemark has digitized around half its Mexican screens, and this year the American company sold all of its Mexican cinemas to Cinemex. Cinemark aim to expand their position in Latin America and in many of these countries, the company is included in the top rankings; in December, it opened its first screens in Bolivia.
Canacine - the trade association of distribution companies in Mexico - estimates that these three exhibitors have invested around 530 million dollars in the digitization of cinemas in recent years.
Around 11% of Mexican medium and small theatres will be out of digitization, and the business, if there is no state support. That is the conclusion of the Mexican Association of Independent Theatres, an organization consisting of 50 company exhibitors (totaling 300 screens, almost the same number of screens as Cinemark in Mexico). These screens are 27% percentage digitized - remember that the total Mexican percentage is around 75%. The Association is asking Mexican state agencies for soft loans, and they estimate their cost at 21 million dollars.
Meanwhile, in late 2013, Central America and the Caribbean (as a whole) will be digitized at nearly 80%. Puerto Rico and its top exhibition company, Caribbean Cinemas, are leading the digitization process. Cinépolis, for its part, had digitized all of its screens in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama by early 2013. Cinemark have also digitised all their screens, not only in this region, but all their Latin American screens (except Mexico).
In general, Latin America has cinema markets showing strong growth. There is also constant and intense construction of shopping malls - with their respective theatres - especially in Peru, Colombia and Chile. Many of these new shopping centers are being built in the interior for populations that have not enjoyed any movie theatres for decades.
In other countries with smaller markets (with just a few dozen screens), the percentage of digitization is higher than the Latin American average. 

To sum up, Latin America is preparing for full digitization, matching the pace set by the Hollywood rhythm.



* Article based on the one published by Film Journal on October 14, 2013: "Countdown to digital: Conversion in Latin America varies by country"
Tables and graphs have been added by MEDIA Salles on the basis of data provided by Roque González (RoqueGonzalezConsulting.com).

Roque González is a Unesco consultant and the Latin American reporter for the European Audiovisual Observatory. He has worked with Octavio Getino in Incaa, Recam, and Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano. He is a PhD candidate at Universidad Nacional de La Plata and the author of Cine latinoamericano y nuevas tecnolog√≠as audiovisuales (Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano, La Habana, 2011). 

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NOT ONE LESS
by Francesca Mesiano

The process of digitalization in cinemas, albeit with considerable differences from territory to territory, is reaching its final phase and the so-called "switch-off" for traditional film appears to be imminent. But which cinemas have not yet converted to the new technology? And why? This column has been opened to find answers to these questions, presenting portraits of cinemas in Europe that have not yet digitalized or that are still looking for a way to deal with the shift.
 

Country
Site
Town
No. of screens
No. of seats
Italy
Cinema Le Grazie
Bobbio (PC)
1
196

 

Cinema Le Grazie, Bobbio (IT)
The cinema Le Grazie is a single-screen theatre (seating 196) in Bobbio (Val Trebbia in the Appenine mountains of Piacenza), housed in an old building annexed to the abbey of San Colombano.
The municipality of Bobbio has a population of fewer than 4,000 inhabitants and often its inhabitants consist mainly of passing tourists (one reason why the cinema's work is concentrated at the weekends) but Stefano Bernardi, exhibitor and projectionist, and his wife, the cashier, are proud to keep their cinema open 52 weeks a year.
The two exhibitors' passion for their cinema also results in a series of initiatives directed at improving audience offer, ranging from double programming, with afternoon screenings for younger audiences, to the organization of meetings with directors and thematic film marathons with pizza served in the interval. Not to mention the fact that Le Grazie appears amongst the cinemas involved in the Bobbio Film Festival, directed by Marco Bellocchio, which celebrated its seventeenth year in 2013.
Yet, despite all this, Le Grazie, which reached its centenary in 2010, finds itself in serious difficulties, being unable to come up with the resources necessary for digitalizing the theatre, a step which is crucial for its survival. "Even if - Bernardi says - I'm very sorry that I'll have to get rid of a 35mm Victoria 8 projector by Cinemeccanica which is still working very well. I understand that the digital projector is essential to screen 3D movies and that producers try to boost this type of movies in order to keep a competitive edge with regard to downloading, especially illegal downloading. This is in fact a widely spread practice whose collateral effects hinder the economy of a small cinema struggling for its survival."
The cost of conversion is in fact too high and not even public support is sufficient (Le Grazie has won a regional call for applications as well as a European one). This is why the cinema is trying to find funds by means of a crowd funding campaign launched over the internet, which will last throughout 2014 and in which a brooding Marilyn asks for help in order to "survive" the end of traditional film.
In other words, Stefano Bernardi has no intention of giving up, continuing to believe in a job he does with passion, as he declares in an interview with the Corriere della Sera: "We're hanging on, hanging on, hanging on. But if you give us a hand ... we'll hang on better!"

For further information: www.cinemalegrazie.it

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ALL DIFFERENT ALL DIGITAL

by Francesca Mesiano

This column hosts portraits of cinemas in Europe and the rest of the world which are quite different from one another but have in common the fact that they have all adopted digital projection.
Country
Site
Town
Company
Number of digital
projectors
Projector
Resolution
No. of
3D screens
Supplier of 3D technology
Italy
IMG Piazza Candiani
Mestre
IMG Cinemas - Gruppo Furlan
6
Barco
 
Cinemeccanica Cinecloud LuX
2K
 
4K
3
RealD

IMG Cinemas, Mestre (IT)
Brand new - inaugurated on 12 December - and certainly an ambitious project, IMG Cinemas' new cityplex, an initiative of the Furlan Group, is located right at the centre of Mestre (the part of Venice on the mainland) inside the Candiani Cultural Centre.
The cinema is part of a wide-ranging renovation project involving the whole area of Piazza Candiani and launched with the idea of creating or re-creating meeting places at the centre of the town's life - a counter-trend to expansion towards "outside".
But the real star of the project is the cinema itself, a new building integrated into the pre-existing Cultural Centre belonging to the municipality which has, in turn, been completely restructured. Giovanni Caprioglio, the architect from Mestre, states that he took his inspiration for the building from the world of cinema and reveals that the huge sheet (10 metres wide and 18 metres high) covering the outside of it - onto which coloured lights will be projected - "is a metaphor for the cinema expanding outwards and towards the city".
Starting from the architecture, the objective is thus to amaze, but IMG's real challenge - 6 auditoriums seating a total of 1,200 spectators - lies in the use of avant-garde technology and in the idea of "immersive cinema", where the audience is involved and surrounded by sound and images in an entirely new way.
IMG Piazza Candiani is the first cinema in Italy to have installed a Barco 4K laser-illuminated projector (Cinecloud Lux, produced by Cinemeccanica), technology that yields a brighter picture and 30% more luminosity compared to the most advanced digital projectors available.
But the leading role in giving the cinema its "multidimensional" feature is certainly played by the innovative Dolby Atmos audio system, installed in 3 auditoriums, which, thanks to an elaborate system of speakers, even mounted above the audience (up to 64 independent speaker outputs) makes it possible to obtain a natural sound effect with voices and sounds that pan across the theatre as well as up and down, surrounding the spectator.
In a context where the multi-screen complex represents a mainly suburban phenomenon, IMG Piazza Candiani, at the heart of Venice-Mestre, stands as a new counter-trend, which focuses on bringing new life not only to cinema-going in the city but also - by making the most of the potential offered by new technology - to the movie theatre as the place for a unique and all-involving experience.

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WOMEN IN DIGITAL CINEMA
Laura Sipos,
Cine-Mis Nonprofit (HU)

The cinema has always been a passion of mine: I was already a regular visitor at the single arthouse cinema in Miskolc even before taking my job.
When I finished my studies at the University of Miskolc, this passion became my regular profession, as I started to work for Cine-Mis Nonprofit Kft. from the beginning of 2013.
The experience went far beyond my expectations. When I sent my curriculum to an email address ending in cinefest.hu, I didn't realize then that I would soon become part of the group responsible for organizing CineFest, which is one of the most prestigious festivals in Hungary.
It seemed a great experience because I was already a faithful visitor to CineFest and looked forward to the Festival every year as a superb event. Now I was able to see it from the other side, from the organizer's side. As a jury-coordinator I met successful international actors, directors and film industry professionals, even making friends with some of them. Organizational tasks suit me and it was a chance to try myself. This side is just as exciting as being a guest at the Festival.
The routine work, too, is very similar to festival organization: in fact Cine-Mis also runs a two-screen movie theatre.
The smallest, Béke Art Screen (70 seats), was digitalized in 2011, whilst the other, the Urània Art Screen (140 seats) in 2012. At the Urània we have also installed a 3D projector.
Our policy of offering 3D screenings at a limited price has been very successful with spectators and has increased our audiences.
I was personally involved in the digitalization of the Urania and the installation of the 3D, which was made possible by funds coming partly from the town council of Miskolc and partly from the European Union.
This plunge into the area of new technology came on top of my normal work, which is mostly connected to programming, content management and the organization of events for different types of audiences, including schools. We organize thematic film series like French Film Weeks, Polish Film Day or European Panorama.
I had the chance to go to DigiTraining Plus after a tight year working here and this helped me expand my knowledge of the technical side of cinema. I was also able to become familiar with the operation of cinemas in other countries. At this course I collected ideas whose realization increases the number of our spectators. For example, in Hungary it is not typical to do live satellite streaming of events. In Budapest, our capital, there are several interesting theaters, operas, dance performances which a lot of people can't go to but with this satellite system they can see the performances at the theatre much more cheaply. This is a new possibility for us.
Summarizing, the world of cinema is a mission for me which is directed at keeping the charm of cinema alive in our city Miskolc and creating the arthouse cinema atmosphere which contributes to making cinemagoing a rich and fulfilling experience.

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News on digitalization worldwide
by Francesca Mesiano

ITALY: regional support for digitalization*

LOMBARDY
The Region of Lombardy has published a new call for applications regarding the digitalization of cinemas, with an overall allocation of 3 million euros, divided between three main areas: 1.5 million for refurbishment, technological upgrading, security and fitting out of theatres destined for presenting entertainment", 1.3 million for the "purchase and installation of digital equipment for projection in cinemas" and 200,000 euros for the purchase of the equipment necessary for digital projection in arenas or open-air cinemas.
The publication - the fifth implemented by the Region to promote the conversion of screens in the territory - addresses public and private bodies and subjects but also parishes and ecclesiastical organizations, any of whom may present a single application for one only of the three categories indicated, by 17 March 2014.
The contribution will cover up to a maximum of 70% of total outlay and the projects will cost an overall sum of between 30,000 and 300,000 euros.
Of particular interest amongst the objectives of the publication is the attention given to "improving audience experience and accessibility in entertainment venues, also with a view to acquiring equipment for the subtitling of live performances."

CALABRIA
As the so-called "switch-off" hour for traditional film approaches, some Regions that had not previously implemented any support mechanisms for the digitalization of cinemas are now taking steps in this direction.
One example is Calabria, where the Regional Councillors Emilio De Masi and Domenico Talarico have filed questions to the Head of Culture Mario Caligiuri, pressing for intervention in favour of the Calabrian cinemas' transition to the new technology.
The Councillors emphasize that, of the 50 cinemas present throughout the territory, at least 20 run the risk of closure if they cannot find the means to convert their screens.

* This text updates the articles published in DGT Online Informer nos. 99, 98, 91, 89, 88, 82

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GERMANY: the Lichtburg cinema in Essen digitalized
Last October the Lichtburg in Essen celebrated its 85th birthday, thus surviving a whole period of German history. Inaugurated in 1928, the cinema was forced to close during the Second World War, only to re-open in 1950. During the '90s, partly because the building was in need of large-scale restoration work, the complex was more than once on the brink of bankruptcy.
The turning point came when the cinemas was purchased by the Essener Filmkunsttheater and placed under the management of Marianne Menze, who focused on renovation and restored the Lichtburg to its past glory.
The Lichtburg has now been equipped with avant-garde digital technology on both its screens.
The larger theatre - which, seating 1,250, is the largest in Germany - has been fitted with a 4K Kinoton DCP 30 LX II projector and is also equipped for 3D and for screening with High Frame Rates.
The smaller auditorium (150 seats), called "Sabu" in honour of the first Indian actor to achieve success in Hollywood in the 'Thirties, is instead equipped with 2K digital technology with a DCP 30 SX II projector, designed especially for small screens and art-house theatres.

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EGYPT: multiplexes in big cities go for digitalization
Thanks to an agreement with Kinoton, last October some of the leading multiplexes in Cairo and Alexandria installed digital projectors in their cinemas.
Amongst the sites that were digitalized are the Golden Stars and the City Stars cinemas belonging to the Stars Cinema Co. chain.
With its 16 auditoriums and bigger screens than average, the Cairo City Stars is the city's largest complex. All the auditoriums are equipped with avant-garde, digital technology.
In Alexandria, the Cineplex Green Plaza - 1,500 seats, inside the Green Plaza Mall - has digitalized all 6 of its screens, also installing 3 Kinoton DCP30 LX projectors, especially designed for particularly big screens, and has an extra digital projector available, destined for open-air events.

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ASIA PACIFIC: the success of immersive sound
The 3D Auro 11.1 audio system, created by Barco, has been adopted by over fifty screens in the Asia Pacific region.
In 2014 five Asian based mixing studios are upgrading their equipment to the new technology and ten Asian feature films will be released in Auro 11.1.
Up to the present, the Auro 3D system has been installed in around a hundred screens in the rest of the world but agreements with large chains such as Regal Entertainment and Cinemark USA will lead to another 250 installations.

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PHILIPPINES AND MALAYSIA: digitalization of the leading chains
The leading exhibitors in the Philippines - Ayala Cinemas, Megaworld, Greenhills, Gaisano Group and Sta. Lucia - have launched digitalization of their theatres by means of a VPF agreement with the Bangkok-based company Goldenduck Group which, thanks to collaboration with Arts Alliance Media, will also provide digital management software for the screens.
This collaboration between Arts Alliance Media and Goldenduck Group, which began in mid-2012, will also lead to the installation of the system TMS by AAM, Screenwriter, on over 400 digital screens in the area, belonging to the two leading chains on the Malaysian market. Golden Screen Cinemas will be installing the system in two multiplexes, whilst MBO Cinemas will use Screenwriter in all its cinemas (26 cinemas and 185 screens).

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