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

International Edition No. 138 - year 12 - 27 September 2017

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Digital technology in Italy's independent cinemas: an investigation that will be the result of co-operation between "Giro dei cinema" (a Tour of Cinemas) and MEDIA Salles

It's been on the cards for some months and now the time has come: on 15th September the first Italian Tour of independent cinemas set off from Milan, more precisely from the Beltrade cinema, a champion of screensharing, and from the legendary Mexico*. Conceived by Nicola Curtoni, who has just concluded his work programming a French multi-screen complex, the Tour sets itself the objective of investigating the most innovative management practices in Italian cinemas.
Following in the tracks of the experience gained by two young French cinephiles - Agnès Salson and Mikael Arnal - who explored the world of French and other European theatres, the Italian version of the Tour will visit 33 towns and 17 regions.
MEDIA Salles will not only bring visibility to the theatres included in the Tour, but will also elaborate the data that Nicola and his companion of adventure, Emilia Desantis, will be collecting on the technological solutions adopted by the forty cinemas on the route, from Milan to Sciacca, via Rome and Naples but also smaller places such as San Giovanni Rotondo.
The objective is to provide a picture of the ways digitization has entered independent theatres and of the prospects for the development of technology at the service of projection on big-screens.

* A documentary on Cinema Mexico has recently been released in Italy. See DGT oi no.137.

The leading figures in the "Tour of cinemas"

Nicola Curtoni, born in Sondrio, aged 27.
After a three-year degree at the DAMS of Bologna, he moved to France, where he was responsible for programming and animation in an independent, 5-screen cinema. Parallel to this experience he created and curated the blog
His dream? To work in a small, dynamic Italian cinema.

Emilia Desantis is 24 years old and comes from Perugia. A graduate in advertising communication from Perugia university, she is now studying for a master's degree in cinema and television at the IULM in Milan. She worked for a multi-screen cinema in Perugia during the Triennale and it was there she realized that the cinema is capable of giving people the gift of continuing to journey into new worlds.
Her dream? To work for a production company.


To keep up with "Giro dei cinema"


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How much has it cost to digitize Europe's 38,000 screens?

With the addition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 38 countries are now monitored by MEDIA Salles

Europe opened 2017 with 37,954 digital screens. With the addition of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its 22 digital theatres out of a total 34, MEDIA Salles now reports the technological development of 38 European cinemamarkets.
Launched in 2003/4, the years that the first thirty or so digital
projectors in Europe date back to, the transition to the new projection technologies has now affected 97% of the Continent's screens, despite there still being countries where the penetration degree is below average*.
How much did the investment needed for this transformation amount to? Whilst awaiting the results of a deeper and more systematic study, it is nevertheless possible to estimate the entity of it. Taking an average cost - perhaps slightly conservative - of around fifty thousand euros for the projector and the server, it comes to approximately 2 billion euros. To this figure the cost of any work on adapting the projecting booths has to be added - in particular for air conditioning - as well as the extra equipment that makes it possible to broaden the offer to audiences, such as 3D and the satellite connection for live events. Not to mention the inevitable maintenance and service contracts or the higher electricity bills.
But even considering the basic cost "only", how many tickets correspond to
the figure necessary for replacing the Old Continent's 35mm projectors? The average ticket price is 6.50 euros, with even marked differences, not only between Western and Central-Eastern Europe, but also within each macro-region. The price ranges from around 14 euros in Switzerland to a little over 5 in Portugal, with the 8.50/9 of the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and Austria in between. In Belarus, instead, you can go to the cinema for less than 2 euros, whilst in Malta it costs you 6 or in Cyprus over 7.
Instead, equipment costs are basically the same everywhere. Returning to our estimate this means that the cost of digitization is equivalent to over 300 million tickets. It must be borne in mind, however, that the 6.50 euros are a gross figure, from which taxes must be deducted, and these vary quite considerably in the various different countries. The net price must then be divided between distributor and exhibitor. Considering, then, the part of the ticket that goes to the cinema itself, it can be estimated that the basic cost of digitization corresponds to over 700 million tickets. In other words, more or less 55/60 per cent of the total number of tickets sold in one year in Europe.
If we then take into account the fact that the life-span of a digital projector is around 8/10 years, the result is that on average at least 6 or 7% of a European cinema's annual box office serves exclusively to cover the cost of the projector.
Whilst it is true that in the first phase of digitization a considerable part of the cost of basic equipment was covered by private resources coming from distribution or by public financing, we must now reckon that most of these facilitations are no longer available for the phase - already taking place - when the first generation of equipment calls for replacement. If we add that maintaining a competitive edge in terms of technology requires increasingly large investments - suffice it to consider immersive sound or laser projection - or the constant erosion of the average number of ticket sales per screen (at least in Western Europe), one cannot help wondering whether, in the medium-term, the technological challenge is really sustainable for the European cinema industry as a whole. Or whether we are not running the risk of cinemagoing becoming concentrated in large catchment areas only, leaving areas with less commercial potential unprovided for. And what would be the sense of a huge investment in technology, if it did not mean greater access to the big screen for the public?

*On this topic see DGT oi no. 137.


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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.

No. of screens
No. of digital screens
Palazzo del Cinema Anteo
11 Cinemeccanica

Palazzo del Cinema (Milano)

"New energy courses through cosmopolitan Milan." With these words the New York Times explains why in 2015 Milan became "the place to be", beating 51 other competitors to the title. Well, the flow hasn't ceased. In fact it has taken in the world of entertainment, too: on 8 September the Palazzo del Cinema came into being in the heart of Milan's most internationally appealing area, at the centre of an imaginary circle embracing Brera, Corso Como and the Porta Nuova buildings symbolizing the new Milanese skyline - the Vertical Wood and the Unicredit Tower. Art and culture, fashion and contemporary architecture. To speak of the Palazzo as an extension of the historical Anteo would be saying too little. Not only has the number of screens grown from 4 to 11 but the project includes a whole range of spaces and services which, as its "patron" Lionello Cerri says, intend to make the Palazzo "a place for social life, hospitality, encounters, entertainment, that experiments with all disciplines." Its multi-functional structure, designed by Riccardo Rocco, includes 9 auditoriums but also a cine-restaurant, a multi-media area for screenings on-demand and a cinema bookshop with a literary café, right up to the Public Library of Entertainment.
Food is another aspect the Palazzo is placing its bets on. Where the Anteo had introduced the Osteria del Cinema - the new version of which will extend its offer by adding a garden and a brasserie - new collaboration is now starting with Eataly, which will take advantage of the nearby megastore that Farinetti inaugurated in 2014 in the ex- Teatro Smeraldo. Continuity with the spirit of the Anteo is guaranteed by quality films and innovative services with a nostalgic homage to the past - each screen bears the name of one of the cinemas that have been closed in the City - and technological solutions that ensure the best possible conditions for cinema-going.
All the auditoriums in the Palazzo del Cinema have stadium seating, with exclusively designed armchair seats and mini-divans, and have adopted Cinemeccanica 2K and 4K digital projectors. The Palazzo has also brought immersive sound to the city centre with Dolby Atmos technology installed in one of the theatres ("Sala Astra").
The Palazzo del Cinema can be reached by underground but also by car-sharing at special prices, thanks to an agreement with Share'ngo, becoming what the French would term a cinema "de proximité". But why not a zero-kilometre multiplex? A formula that wouldn't work everywhere perhaps, but is certainly suited to big cities.

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