Europe: after experimentation
Editorial by Elisabetta Brunella, Secretary General of MEDIA Salles

At the Berlin Film Festival, MEDIA Salles kept its appointment with the cinema community that pays the closest attention to economic and technological developments in the sector, presenting the 2005 final edition of the “European Cinema Yearbook”.
As well as the first previews of the overall results of cinema-going in Europe in 2005, the prominent data in the Yearbook includes the situation of screens equipped with DLP CinemaTM projectors, described at the end of 2005, from which it can be seen that there has been a significant increase in digital installations.  In this new, online publication, we shall release, issue by issue, the figures for the various European countries, that are essential for an understanding of the present evolution of digital screening in Europe and the world.  We begin, in this issue, with the situation in Italy up to December 2005 (click to see the table).
Today digital screens worldwide number 600, with a considerable rise – touching on 150 units – compared to last June.  A fair amount of this growth can be attributed to Europe itself, which seems, over the past 12 months, to have set a faster pace than other continents.

The figures for Europe also seem to reveal the shift from an “experimental” phase to one in which the digital offer tends to become part of the exhibition company’s business strategy.  From this point of view, what is significant is the presence of more than one digital projector in some cinemas, with a consequent increase in the average number of digital screens per complex.  A case in point is that of the Cinecity in Padua, Italy, where, in December 2005, as many as 5 digital projectors were installed at the same time.  Following the same trend, the three digital theatres in the Utopolis complex in Luxembourg and an equivalent number of installations in the Utopolis Almere in the Netherlands.  All this means that for a steadily increasing number of exhibitors, it is no longer a question of proving that a new piece of equipment works satisfactorily, but that the new technology constitutes an important part of the cinema’s competitive edge.

Of undoubted importance in this situation was the publication, in mid-2005, of the DCI specifications and the reaction they met with from professional figures in the cinema  industry, particularly the exhibitors.  In fact, whilst some of the latter, particularly those who have already faced a huge outlay to equip themselves with state-of-the-art equipment, expressed satisfaction with the DCI indications, there are others who fear that these specifications and the standards that the SMPTE is drawing up in the their wake, may represent an obstacle for developing the distribution of European films or, more generally, of low-budget productions.
To gain a better understanding of the present debate on this matter, we have asked Angelo D’Alessio, International Director of SMPTE, a few questions.  In the next issue, we shall host an interview with Kees Ryninks, Managing Director of CinemaNet Europe, the largest international digital network with content being delivered on a weekly basis, who will also give voice to the doubts about the high demands made in the specifications drawn up by the American majors.
In this precise climate of keen interest in digital projection in Europe, which is also confirmed by the release of European films in digital format during 2005, as in the case of Deep Blue and March of The Penguins, comes the training initiative offered by MEDIA Salles with the third edition of “DigiTraining Plus: New Technologies for European Cinemas”, to be held at the headquarters of Barco in Kuurne, Belgium, from 5 to 9 April 2006. In this issue we publish an outline of the programme, which is extremely rich in content. With the invitation to come and experience it directly in Kuurne.