Europe: digital screens more than double in 2010
by Paola Bensi



According to the statistics provided by MEDIA Salles the number of European screens equipped with DLP™ Cinema or SXRD™ technology at 1st January 2011 came to 10,335 with a 120.6% rise as against the previous year.
Compared to the total number of screens in Europe, at January 2011 digital screens had achieved a market penetration of about 29%, as against 13.4% the previous year.
The rate of market penetration for digital screens, where the highest figures are to be seen in Luxembourg (72.7%) and in Belgium (64.3%), also experiences considerable changes on the biggest markets, reaching to beyond the European average in the United Kingdom (38.1%), in Russia (38.9%) and in France (34.5%) and instead remaining below the overall rate for Europe in Germany (26.3%), Italy (24%) and Spain (18.9%).
The number of digital sites in Europe at January 2011 was 4,107, with a 73.6% rise over the previous year. The total market penetration of digital sites amounts to around 35% as against 20% in January 2010. Also on the increase is the average number of screens in digital sites which has risen in Europe from the 1.6 screens per site registered in January 2008, to 2.5 in January 2011.

In terms of venues, the digitalization of multiplexes reveals a lower rate of growth than the overall rate for all cinemas, recording at 1st January 2011 an increase of only 38% compared to the previous year. It must, nevertheless, be remembered that on the main European markets almost all the multiplexes have now installed at least one digital screen, with the sole exception of Spain which has the lowest percentage of market penetration (81.3%).

The average number of digital screens per cinema varies a good deal in individual European countries. In January 2011 the highest figures were recorded in Belgium (7.0 screens per cinema), Luxembourg (4.8), Portugal (4.8), Austria (4.3), Latvia (3.7), Romania (3.6), Estonia (3.5) and France (3.5).
Of the largest markets the lowest figures are to be seen in Italy (1.9 screens per cinema), lower than the United Kingdom (3.1), Spain (2.6) and Germany (2.2).

The biggest markets in terms of ticket sales also have the largest percentage of digital screens out of the overall total for Europe, so that France comes in first place with 18.2% of Europe’s digital screens, followed by the United Kingdom (13.5%), Germany (12.0%), Russia (9.1%), Italy (8.8%) and Spain (7.5%).
As regards a comparison with the 2011 growth rates, the greatest development, in terms of digital screens, has been seen in the Scandinavian countries, i.e. Denmark (+444% compared to January 2010), Norway (+339%) and Sweden (+303%). Instead, if we consider the five-year period between 2006 and 2011 the compound annual growth rate is greatest in Russia (+293%), in Portugal (+216%) and in Finland (+205%), countries where the number of digital screens has increased considerably, especially up to 2010.

In Europe the development of digital screens seems to be highly concentrated in terms of exhibition companies in view of the fact that at January 2011 the top ten exhibitors were responsible for 32.5% of the overall number of digital screens. The top five players are Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group (with 7.9% of digital screens), operating as Odeon Cinemas in the United Kingdom, as UCI in Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and as Cinesa in Spain; the French company Europalaces (4.9%), operating in Switzerland, France and the Netherlands; Cineworld Group (3.9%), present in the United Kingdom and Ireland; CGR (3.7%) operating in France, and Kinepolis (2.3%), present in Belgium, France, Spain and Switzerland.

As in 2009 3D cinema was the motor for growth in 2010 too: the penetration of screens equipped with 3D technology with respect to the overall number of digital screens has continued to increase, throughout Europe, rising from 74.0% in January 2010 to 81.4% in January 2011.

In some countries in Central and Eastern Europe, such as Croatia, Lithuania, Serbia and Slovenia, where the number of digital cinemas is still modest, as well as in Iceland, 3D screens represent 100% of total digital screens.
In many countries the penetration of 3D digital screens compared to the total number of digital screens is over 90%: Russia (99.6%), Turkey (98.5%), Hungary (98.2%), Sweden (95.4%), Poland (95.7%), Denmark (95.6%), Switzerland (92.8%), Bulgaria (93%), Italy (92.2%), Finland (91.9%), the Netherlands (91.7%), Greece (91.5%), the Czech Republic (91%) and Latvia (90.9%). The percentage is, however, lower in the United Kingdom, where it grew from 71.1% in January 2010 to 78.4% in January 2011, and in France, where it rose from 69.4% to 73.6%.