THE NEW DIGITAL PROSPECTS AND STRATEGIES
Interview with John Wilkinson
President of EDCF – European Digital Cinema Forum
Wilkinson, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Cinema Exhibitors’ Association
since 1990, was elected President of EDCF – European Digital Cinema Forum
– in June 2006.
Mr Wilkinson, EDCF was founded in 2000
mainly on the initiative of public institutions, particularly in Northern
Europe, and in fact its first President was Åse Kleveland, then
Head of the Swedish Film Institute. Today the President of EDCF is a representative
of one of the Continent’s leading cinema exhibitors’ associations. From
the public sector to that of business: would you like to comment on this
EDCF has realized that the technical aspects concerning digital transition
are pretty much settled.
If digitalisation is to progress, EDCF will have to direct its support
towards enabling cinema operators to take fully informed decisions about
digitalisation in cinemas.
The Guide for Beginners, published at the end of 2005, is a clear indication
of this trend by EDCF, emphasizing that the main focus must shift from
technical aspects to application.
I think my nomination as President comes in this perspective.
Placing the emphasis on the implementation
of digital roll-out necessarily means facing the critical issue of the
business model. What does EDCF suggest here?
EDCF doesn’t have a business model because one model may not be applicable
in all countries. EDCF has to act as a one-stop shop for information about
all business models, if and when they emerge.
What can you tell us about one of the
models that we hear most about, the so-called Virtual Print Fee, launched
in the United States?
We cannot say that the American VPF model – as
far as we understand it – (only the companies involved really know exactly
how it is structured) is the “solution”. Probably it is the solution for
the USA, but it may not be for Europe. Even in the USA, each VPF model
is different for each cinema chain or financier.
Other ideas should be explored, particularly in Europe.
The VPF model works in the USA where 95% of products are home-produced.
It is thus inconceivable for a lightening transposition to be made from
North America to Europe, a market – or a larger group of markets – with
very different characteristics, starting from their structure, from the
number of national productions and those of other European countries,
and the wide range of players both in terms of distribution and in terms
What are EDCF’s commitments for the immediate future?
EDCF must persuade European producers and distributors to contribute to
the digitalisation of cinemas. They must realize that they are part of
the process and that this costs money.
In Europe we cannot imagine that the studios alone will contribute. (They
have already said that they will not do this. Even if they did, the usage
fee for those who did not contribute to creating this business model might
be so high as to exclude them). We believe that to launch business models
that suit Europe the role of the European Commission is important, in
terms of encouraging and providing incentives for the involvement of European
producers and distributors.
VPF is not the only model.