Merel Gilsing
The Netherlands Film Research Foundation
Secretary General/Researcher
The Netherlands

The NFRF was founded in 1993 as a subsidiary of The Netherlands Cinematographic Federation (producers, distributors and exhibitors). It is the only research institute in The Netherlands that is specialized in research in the film sector. Since 1st January 2004, the NFRF has been an independent organization, associated with Utrecht University. Since February 2004, I have collaborated on projects for the Netherlands Film Fund, The Netherlands Association of Exhibitors and The Netherlands Association of Distributors, amongst others. My most recent project was a national survey on cinema going and the effect of discount actions on this behavior.

As a researcher I am very interested in new developments in European cinema exhibition. In this article I will address some of the recent developments and discussions in the Netherlands on digital cinema. As a recent inventory (1) made clear, The Netherlands so far has been lacking research regarding digital cinema. It seemed the subject had not seriously touched ground. Recently, as in many European countries, new initiatives have been coming up and innovators and early adopters have been looking into the new possibilities. A Dutch Think Tank was founded to facilitate discussion between the different parties in the market and the industry has been pushing to get this subject on the political agenda.

What’s interesting in this matter is that one of the first Dutch exhibitors that went digital has recently decided to put its five projectors aside and go back to 100% 35mm projection. Jan van Dommelen of Jogchem’s theatres comments: “We bought these projectors to test the technology. The projectors are fine, but we refuse to pay for the hardware all by ourselves, especially since there is a lack of content. We will wait until there is a virtual print fee” (2) . Because of this last downfall, the total number of Dutch digital projectors is at the moment insufficient for distributors to print digital, which is of course worrying for further developments.

In April 2007, the national film industry gathered several times to discuss the status quo of digital in the country and mainly to continue the discussion on who will pay. One initiative by the name of Cinemanet was getting quite a lot of attention. Their aim is to get all film theatres, art-houses and at least 60% of the mainstream cinemas organized in one digital network in a public limited company. Of course, they are not the only party that is offering to facilitate the digital process. The most important issues for Dutch exhibitors and distributors in this matter are not to lose control over the content and to keep the interoperability of the different systems in mind.

Another meeting, organized by the Dutch Organization of Feature Film Producers, concluded that consumers would benefit most from digital, since screening films will become a lot more flexible. The question remains, if this consumer would want to pay 20% more for a digital screening, as in surrounding countries. Research has always shown that the price of the ticket is one of the most important reasons why Dutch people do not go to cinemas or don’t go more often. A recent study shows however, that in the last year the price of the ticket has become less of an issue for Dutch audiences. There is a growing appreciation for the superb quality of image and sound in cinemas, mainly by the male audience (3). Hopefully, this recent information will give digitalization in The Netherlands the boost it needs.

1) The Netherlands Film Research Foundation by Floor de Vos, January-March 2007.
2) As stated in Holland Film Nieuws no. 75, April 2007, page 15.
3) Bioscoopmonitor 2006, Market Response, April 2007.