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

International Edition No. 61 - year 5 - 29 April 2010


Dear readers,

in presenting this issue, I take great pleasure in drawing your attention to two important initiatives addressing digital projection, which will be held by MEDIA Salles in the near future.

The first is the now traditional appointment at the Cannes Film Festival during which, on Sunday 16 May, we shall be presenting the figures on digital cinemas and screens updated at first January 2010.

Whoever may be evaluating or experiencing the transition to digital knows that this is essential information for a correct interpretation of the present scenario. Policies on the distribution of films and, in all probability, also the economic models for supporting theatres, will in fact be linked to confirmation or else a momentary halt in the huge increase in digital cinemas reported by MEDIA Salles in the first six months of 2009 – when growth stood at 70%.

In order to facilitate orientation in this constantly changing transformation and in answer to requests from many of you, we have started to transform the numbers, ideas, successful experiences in the field of digital projection – collected during the seventh “DigiTraining Plus: European Cinemas Experiencing New Technologies” course – into a practical booklet with a wealth of information, to be published next June. We are certain that it will be a useful guide for all exhibitors and professional players in the field of the cinema who wish to get their ideas clear and make the best choices in this area.

Hoping to see you soon,

Jens Rykaer
President of MEDIA Salles

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Cara Jones, Apollo Cinemas Ltd, UK

My name is Cara Jones and I work for Apollo Cinemas Ltd, based in the UK.
It is a very exciting time to be part of the Apollo group as we are in the process of converting the whole of our thirteen existing sites with a total of seventy-seven screens to Sony 4k projectors and Real-D 3D technology.
At the moment we are about midway through the conversion process and for the sites that have already received their projectors the results have been staggering. Admissions to these cinemas have risen substantially, dramatically improving their market share in their specific catchment area, and the market share performance of the company as a whole, across the UK territory.
My role in the Apollo organisation is as an assistant manager at their cinema in Rhyl on the North Wales coast. We are a small site with five screens and a total seating capacity of seven hundred and forty-three. My site is one of those still waiting for its digital make-over.
My main role within the management team (which incidentally is all female) is in the development of marketing strategies which will increase our customer base. With the rise of digital and in particular the increased popularity of 3D films the focus has shifted from increasing the flow of customers to purely trying to maintain current admission levels and persuade the local population that we are still relevant at a time when patrons are becoming more sophisticated and increasingly expect more from their cinema experience.
Rather than paint a gloomy picture of how we are struggling to compete with our competitors whilst waiting for our shiny new Sony 4k and Real-D equipment, I thought it would be more interesting to focus on the plans that we have for development so that when the changeover takes place, we can begin life as a fully digital cinema with a bang, living up to the expectations that have been placed on us by the company and by our local population.
So my current project is to prepare for the installation by developing a programming policy, rather than spending the time twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the digital projectors to be installed. We are therefore taking a pro-active approach to the digital conversion, planning and researching within the local community in order to ensure that, when we are digital, our programming policy will be attractive to the local population.
To do this effectively we have surveyed our current customers and, more importantly, potential customers as to what they would like to see showing at their new and improved local cinema. The results from the surveys were very enlightening, we saw that customers are most anxious for the installation of 3D so that they don’t have to travel to see the latest blockbusters that are showing in 3D and can return to using their local cinema again.
There is a great deal of excitement regarding the variety of films that we will be able to show and we have had requests for Bollywood nights as well as independent films and foreign language films.
The ability to show classic movies has also created a stir within some sectors of the local community.
To cope with the variety of local interest we are planning to form film societies where the members can decide the programming by voting for the film selection that they want to see. This will work for us on two levels, by providing art-house films for a currently under-represented group of film fans and by guaranteeing that we have an audience for these movies. If the pilot film society works well then we can form other genre clubs, increasing our admissions and further widening our range of film programming.
Alternative content also seems to have captured the imagination of the local population and the prospect of live opera, theatre and ballet again appeal to customers who currently have to travel out of town to experience these productions on the big screen. For our alternative content customers we are planning to make it a night to remember, as close to the real thing as possible, with an opening reception, wine and canapés. I am currently speaking to local luxury food producers to try to secure their support and sponsorship of these events.
Digital will also enable us to show amateur films and we are lucky enough to have an extremely creative community with local groups who make films that highlight local issues and some that make films purely for enjoyment and to develop creative talent. We are excitedly talking to these groups and when we are fully digital one of the first things we want to do is to host a local film festival where these groups can showcase their talents and we can have our very own awards ceremony. This will then become an annual event and one that we hope will be an important part of the local community calendar.
As a town we are also trying to redefine tourism in the area and one of the ways we are looking to do this is by developing international links and holding cultural exchanges and festivals. Here again we are looking to play our part by hosting film festivals that coincide with these tourism initiatives and also provide our regular cinema-goers with the opportunity to see something a little different. I would like to use this opportunity to make a request both to the new friends that I met while in Helsinki and indeed anyone else reading this column; please can you take some time out to recommend films from your respective countries that could feature in possible film festivals.
I can be contacted by email at the following address: Please mark all correspondence for the attention of Cara Jones. May I thank you in advance, for your suggestions.
My belief is that if we strongly involve the local community, they will reward us with their continued patronage and bring friends, because we can employ all the marketing tricks in the book but word of mouth is still perhaps one of the most effective marketing tools there is.
I would like to thank you for taking the time out to read this column and hope to see you next year at DigiTraining Plus to discuss how successful these strategies were for us and how we are coping in the brave new world of digital cinema.

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MEDIA Salles latest data
on digital cinemas and screens in Europe
as at 1st January 2010

will be presented in Cannes during the
European Audiovisual Observatory’s Afternoon Workshop:

“Digital Cinema Tango!
Getting the right rhythm for the digitisation
of European cinemas.”

Marché du Film 2010, Sunday 16 May 2010,
from 3.00 pm to 4.30 pm
at the Salle Buñuel, Fifth Floor, Palais des Festivals, Cannes

Interested in knowing how many digital cinemas operate in Europe?
How many multiplexes?

Visit the MEDIA Salles website

European Cinema Yearbook 2009 final edition

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The European cinema experts meet in Barcelona to discuss the challenge of digitalisation

At the course organized by MEDIA Salles in Helsinki last February, Michael Karagosian – the expert who assisted the U.S. exhibitors’ association (NATO) in their approach to digital – chose the following title for his talk: “Year 11 and Still Talking about the Roll-out.” In fact what is considered the first commercial digital screening dates back to 1999: a decade later the screens that have adopted the new technology have grown to around 9,000*. We might ask whether this is a lot or a little but what is quite undeniable is that today the digital transition is the burning issue for the cinema industry. It is the subject of the conference decided by the Spanish Government, at present at its term of office in the EU Presidency.

From left: Antonie Drzymala, Legal and Business Affairs, XDC Cinema, Belgium
David Hancock, Senior Analyst and Head of Film and Cinema, Screen Digest
Steve Perrin, CEO, UK Digital Funding Group
Rickard Gramfors, Project Manager of Digital House, Folkets Hus och Parker

Spain invites Europe to a reflection on the new technologies and the independence of the cinemas
For two days digitization was discussed in Barcelona, from a specific perspective: the impact that it may have on the sector of independent exhibition. The approximately 200 guests – officials from public organizations responsible for the cinema and experts from the professional sphere – dealt mainly with questions regarding economic models – those that have already been experimented or those that are being studied – which might finance the transition, overcoming the paradox behind this revolution: the promise of savings on the distribution front, the need for investment by the exhibitor.
Will VPF be sufficient to finance digitization in Europe’s cinemas?
VPF in the limelight then, considered as it is in the preparatory document, drawn up by the “Think Tank on European Film and Film Policy”, the only feasible mechanism from a purely commercial point of view for transferring resources from distribution to exhibition, unless the exhibitors opt for converting the equipment at their own cost. What is more, it is a mechanism that is not without “harmful side effects”, particularly in a context like Europe, characterized by a multitude of exhibition companies, many of which small or small-medium sized, that are sometimes unwilling to accept a third party in the traditional dynamics between distributor/exhibitor in the form of a financial intermediary who, on the one hand, anticipates the funds for buying the equipment and, on the other, recovers it through VPF, i.e. the contribution of the distributors.
Yet even if objections to the intermediary should be overcome – and this is figure that has become necessary since the studios, whilst ready to co-finance the transition, have laid down the condition that this contribution, for special purposes and for a fixed duration, should not be confused with or superimposed in any way on the rental fee - another crucial issue remains open in Europe: how many screens would be excluded from the “classic” VPF? The Think Tank estimates a fairly large slice of them: from 6,000 to 14,000 screens (out of a total of around 30,000). Calculating, moreover, that the VPF model, the extent of which is reckoned on the basis of the established distribution dynamics of 35mm films, would perpetrate the market logics of film, denying or at least delaying considerably the benefits that digitization promises. On the one hand, the distributors will not see any savings until they have finished paying the VPF, and on the other the exhibitors will not gain the full benefits of programming flexibility until they have become owners of their equipment (which, for the duration of the VPF agreement, belongs to the financing organism).
The intermediaries operating in Europe claim they can digitize over 80% of screens
The validity of VPF is – obviously – sustained by the companies that have put themselves forward as intermediaries in Europe: XDC (which has, up to now, signed agreements for the digitization of over 700 screens), AAM (a little over 500), Ymagis (almost 200). Jean Mizrahi, CEO of Ymagis, believes that with VPF 80% or even 90% of the Old Continent’s screens can be digitized.
“Consequently,” he stated, “there is no need for the State to substitute private players. I hope that the European Union will make this situation clear.”
For the intermediaries to play their part, it is, in fact, essential that credit from the banks should be accessible. In the present financial crisis, it seems that the European Investment Bank is willing to lend a hand: “We can assist those who come to us with an economic plan. But it’s not our job to identify the models,” stated Patrick Vanhoudt.

From left: Primitivo Rodriguez, President of SECIES
Elisabetta Brunella, Secretary General of MEDIA Salles
Antonio Carballo, Chief Editor of CineInforme

What are the prospects from the public sector?
That the mere transposition of VPF, particularly if applied “American style”, is not a feasible solution – and not even to be hoped for – is an opinion shared by many in Europe. For objective reasons on the one hand: just as exhibition is fragmented, so – perhaps to an even greater extent – is European distribution. And the more screens and content VPF includes, the better it works. It is no coincidence that standard agreements in the USA require that all the screens in a complex be digitized and regard films by the majors, which control over 90% of the market.
What is more, there is widespread concern that the more oriented cinemas are towards Hollywood movies, the more compatible they are with VPF, to the detriment of domestic and European productions.
If we add that in Europe cinemas are considered important not only because of their economic weight but also because of the social and cultural role they play in society and on their territory, it can be seen why there are many institutions that declare that digital projection, instead of being an added opportunity for the world of the cinema, becomes a technological divide that will separate those who can afford the new technology from those who cannot.
Coming soon, the first scheme by the MEDIA Programme for the financing of digital equipment
In Barcelona the European Commission, co-promoters of the Conference, confirmed that the MEDIA Programme will be intervening in support of digitization as a means of safeguarding cultural diversity and in defence of theatres that would be “at risk” from a purely commercial perspective. This was announced by Odile Quentin, on behalf of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Culture, under whose wing the MEDIA Programme has just returned after a lengthy period with the Information Society. It was confirmed by Aviva Silver, Head of the MEDIA Programme, who illustrated the results of the public consultation launched on 16 October 2009, and explained by Hughes Becquart who outlined the time-frame of community action. A study will shortly be initiated making it possible to establish the lump sums that the theatres will be able to obtain from Brussels if they are selected on the basis of a call for proposals, the launch of which is foreseen for summer 2010. Four million euros are allotted for the first year: some may find this too little if we consider that the cost of digitizing a screen is estimated at around 70,000/100,000 euros, but it should be noted that it should be noted that for the first time the MEDIA Programme’s support for the circulation of European films also includes financing for equipment, with the aim of ensuring the presence of films produced by the Old Continent on digital screens, too.

At national level a variety of situations and intervention policies
The Barcelona Conference provided a place for exchanging views on the initiatives adopted in different European countries on the issue of digitizing cinemas.
After the pioneering intervention of the United Kingdom, where the money from the National Lottery and the project by the UK Film Council, aiming at increasing the offer of “non-mainstream” products throughout British territory, led to the digitization of 240 screens – well differentiated in terms of type and position - known as the Digital Screen Network, the Norwegian plan proves to be the most organic, though less apt for transfer to other territories. Norway – where the vast majority of theatres are municipally owned – has chosen a route to digital that includes all of its screens. For this reason an original formula of mixed VPF has been elaborated, which sees participation not only by the distributors (negotiations have been carried out directly with the majors) and exhibitors, but also by a public institution, largely based on the levy applied to the area of the cinema.
“Not one less” was the principle inspiring Finland, too, where the intervention of the Ministry of Culture was directed to digitizing both screens (around fifty, or about 15% of the country’s total, in the initial phase already completed) and the whole of the cinema chain. Practically all the country’s domestic productions are regularly available in digital format in a country that sees the combination of culture and technology as an engine of economic and social growth.
An overall plan – based on the concept of mutual aid – was conceived by the CNC in France. Turned down by the National Authority on competition, the programme will probably be converted into a selective scheme, targeting the cinemas that would find it more difficult to gain access to purely commercial models. “It is obvious that rapid action must be taken at this point. After sitting on the wall, everyone has been in a rush since the release of Avatar,” said Lionel Bertinet of the CNC, “We, too, will try to act quickly in two ways: one with direct aid to the cinemas and also through legislation. The objective is to involve distribution in the financing of digital conversion, as well as to guarantee transparency in the sector and free access to products.”
In Barcelona particular interest was aroused by the plan created in Italy – one of the European countries with the largest total of cinemas – in order to facilitate the digitization of screens through tax credit measures.

The dynamism of the regions can take advantage of community aid
A happy example of regional intervention was brought to the Conference by Marta Materska-Samek who presented the network of digital cinemas in Małopolska, the area stretching from Cracovia south towards Slovakia. This project won the support of the European Regional Development Fund, a decidedly rich source of savings, to which an extremely wide variety of projects aspire. As explained by Pierre Godin, on behalf of the European Commission’s Directorate General of Regional Policy, the Fund cannot simply finance the purchase of digital projectors.However, it can support projects for area development – for example urban regeneration – which revolve around the cinema.

Information and formation to accompany the digital transition
Faced with the complexity of the challenges posed by digitization – emerging both from the talks given and from the questions and observations that participants made on PCs, thus enabling a “virtual” debate – the need for training initiatives is particularly strongly perceived. In fact, if there is one thing that is clear to everyone, it is that digitization is a far more complex phenomenon than the mere substitution of equipment. Rather than purely technical competences, a new mentality is needed and a new way of making and offering cinema.

Elisabetta Brunella

* MEDIA Salles statistics as at 1.01.2009 report 8,728 screens fitted with DLP Cinema or SXRD technology worldwide.

This article was published in Italian in the “Giornale dello Spettacolo” no. 8, 23 April 2010

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News on the development of digitalisation in the world
by Alessia Grandi

USA: Starplex Cinemas to install 99 Barco projectors with GDC servers

The US chain Starplex Cinemas, based in Dallas, Texas, 21 theatres for a total of 208 screens, has announced a shift to digital in 99 screens to be fitted with Barco Series 2 projectors and GDC servers.
The installation, which comes after an extensive period of technical trials with the equipment, will begin in Q2 of this year and affect 9 venues. Starplex has placed the transition in the hands of Cinedigm, a company operating in collaboration with several Hollywood studios and independent distributors for the supply of services, technology and digital content, with the objective of transforming the cinemas into entertainment centres inter-connected with one another thanks to the new technology.
On announcing the decision, Steve Holmes, CEO of Starplex Cinemas, emphasized the fact that this is part of the company’s plan for facing the challenges of the future that also foresees the opening of new complexes.With two venues in Texas, Starplex will in fact increase its screens to 236 by the end of 2010.
Man-Nang Chong, founder and CEO of GDC Technology – the main supplier of servers in Asia’s cinemas – stated: “The agreement with Starplex Cinemas represents an extremely important step for boosting GDC’s presence on the American market.”

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Odeon signs a new contract with NEC

At the end of March, following an initial agreement stipulated in 2009 for the supply of NEC digital projectors in Odeon’s cinemas, the partnership between the two companies has been renewed with a view to developing the offer of 3D.The contract provides for the installation of NC2000S and NC3200S projectors.
The need to increase the number of digital screens arises in the wake of the success achieved by Avatar, to satisfy a visibly increasing demand for entertainment in 3D.
Drew Kaza, Vice President for Digital Development at Odeon, states: “We are already obtaining a large return on our initial investments in 3D technology. Our present development plans are based on the expectation of greater benefits in terms both of box-office and audiences, since even more 3D productions are expected in 2010.”
The Odeon group is at present the largest cinema chain outside the United States. With its 202 cinemas in Europe, for a total of 1,802 screens, it is the leading operator in the sector in the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain, the second most important in Ireland and the third in Germany, Austria and Portugal.

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Italy: Ligabue Day launches Nexo Live in the alternative content sector

On 15 April Nexo Digital launched Nexo Live, the first of its new editorial initiatives, with the Ligabue Day: 108 movie theatres connected by satellite for the first-ever viewing ofthe “Live from the Olympic Stadium 2008” concert, the penultimate in the 2008 tour by the rockstar from Emilia-Romagna.
Presented live by Luciano Ligabue himself and preceded by the previously unpublished song “Un colpo all’anima”, the evening set up a record in terms of the number of cinemas taking part in a satellite event in a single country within European borders.
Audience response was considerable and tickets were sold out in over 90 cinemas.
With this initiative, Nexo Digital made its appearance on the scenario of suppliers of alternative content with a series of offers:as well as Nexo Live, focusing on great events, a second line, Nexo Legend, offers the greatest films of all times, digitized in 2K with the aim ofallowing the cinema to be experienced in a new key: according to the programme the spectators will enter a movie theatre or a stadium, a sports hall or an opera house. The cinema-going experience can be enjoyed according to the classical rules of the cinema – silence and composure in the theatre – but also according to the language of great live music events in which the audience, too, is a protagonist.

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Kieft signs a VPF agreement with XDC

According to a VPF agreement signed with XDC, 150 digital systems are to be installed in Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic in cinemas belonging to the Kieft & Kieft + Partner circuit.
Installation will be handled by the German company FTT, which has already fitted several digital screens, also equipped with 3D, in various venues belonging to the group from Lubeck. Heiner Kieft, CEO of the Kieft company, declared: “The success obtained in the trial phase and positive cooperation with FTT were decisive for our choice of FTT/XDC.”
Installation will begin in the last quarter of 2010 and include Christie projectors from the new Solaria series with XDC Solo G3 servers.

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All different, all digital
by Elisabetta Brunella

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.

Number of projectors
No. of
3D screens
  Supplier of 3D technology
Electric Cinema Theatre
Electric Cinema Theatre

Electric Cinema

Take London on a Saturday afternoon and a classic tourist destination: Portobello Road. Take the easily imaginable rain which, after a while, will discourage even the keenest market-goer and shopper. Why not let oneself be drawn to the blue sign and elegant, classical-style façade of the Electric? What’s more, even the most expert guides and important websites from to, will tell you that this cinema – a single screen, a hundred years old in February 2011, seating for 102 – is an objective of tourists from every continent and one of the British capital’s real ‘musts’.
Starting from the packaging: a Regency building with sober stuccoes and gilding, built as a cinema – which makes it the oldest surviving “purpose-built” cinema in Great Britain, with the advantage of great olden-day charm (there are even the fire-precaution buckets full of sand hanging on the walls) and with the practical disadvantage of it being impossible to install air-conditioning. But the most interesting feature is the formula chosen by its latest owner to breathe new life into a cinema that had suffered the crisis of the ‘80s and which is the exact opposite of the multiplex model: an exclusive cinema-going site distinguished by its luxury. Very British luxury, reminiscent of the style and atmosphere of the London clubs: the seats are in burgundy-coloured leather, comfortable but simple, accompanied by a cube-shaped footrest zipped to the carpeting. Taking into account the fact that after sinking into his seat and stretching his feet out on the footrest, the spectator also has room to place his overcoat and shopping before the next row, we have another essential ingredient of this discreet luxury: the space.
Between the seats are little built-in wooden tables, fitted with wine coolers.An indispensable facility is the bar, situated in the theatre itself, which is a distinctive feature of the Electric and not only offers a list of international labels and spirits but also boasts one of the City’s best barmen. His version of the Bellini is a bestseller, especially during the summer months.
A bar but also a restaurant: the Electric offers its clients “real” food, cooked in the adjacent restaurant. Half an hour before screening the waiters pass by with the dishes on show at the bar: the choice ranges from sausage rolls or a selection of British cheeses to more exotic tastes, from guacamole to hummus. And if this should not suffice, no problem: by giving your seat number, an efficient and equally discreet waiter will have a piping-hot plate of food brought for you.
Considering that these delicacies are prepared by the same chef who cooks for the happy few at the exclusive Soho House club, of which the Electric is a part – it can be agreed that in the end the five pounds are well spent.
It is true that by adding the cost of the ticket (from 12.50 to 14.50 pounds) and a glass of wine (4 pounds) your visit to the Electric is not exactly cheap but you can always boast of having been in a special place for many reasons. Last but not least the fact that when Notting Hill was being shot, the cinema – which was not then in operation – was rented as a place for the cast to relax in.
After having enjoyed the architectural quality of the building – protected by Her Majesty’s Government – and the thought of having trod the same ground trodden by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, the spectator will be offered one of the most successful films of the moment.
John Nathan, both actor and director of the cinema – clear proof of the fact that at the Electric they like their staff creative and original – tells us: “At present programming at the Electric tends to be mainstream, after a launch devoted more to art-house cinema”. Since February a digital projector has not been lacking with the main objective of screening films in 3D. “But here at the Electric, we have more specific offers,” continues Nathan. “The early afternoons on Saturdays are devoted to children, whilst on Sunday there are the previews reserved for members of the Soho House.”
With a view to the celebrations for the Electric’s centenary, the “Vintage Screenings” have begun, with themost significant titles in a century of film, including screenings from the age of silent cinema accompanied by an orchestra.
That the formula, supported by clever marketing strategy – there are 40,000 addresses in the Electric’s mailing list - is successful is demonstrated by the “sold-out” screenings.
Given that you have managed to acquire the much sought-after burgundy-coloured armchair seat and escape from the rainy afternoon, prepare for another of the Electric’s marvels: thanks to an efficient mechanical device, the cinema screen will appear before you from behind a red velvet curtain. Sit back and relax!

This article was published in Italian in the “Giornale dello Spettacolo” no. 8, 23 April 2010

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From the training offer of the
MEDIA Programme
Venezia, 30/08 à 08/09/2010
Application Deadline: 30/05/2010
CICAE, the International Confederation of Art Cinemas, is organizing the 7th edition of its training Course “ART CINEMA = ACTION + MANAGEMENT” (Venice, 30 August – 8 September 2010, during the Festival), open to young European art cinema exhibitors.
The ambition of the "Art Cinema = Action + Management" training is to hand-on to professionals the specific know-how (methods, tools, ideas, contacts) for programming, animating and managing a cinema theatre dedicated to the distribution of quality cinema and European films.

The application form is active on and all information is available on the website: contents, synthesis of previous editions, rates & scholarships.

For further information and enrolment, please log on to the CICAE website at: (in English) (in French) (in Italian)

MEDIA Salles’ contacts and address

MEDIA Salles
Piazza Luigi di Savoia, 24 - 20124 Milano - Italy
Tel.: +39.02.6739781 - Fax: +39.02.6690410
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