U.K.’s Film Council to roll out digital

Investment offers wider selection of movies

LONDON — The Film Council is hatching an ambitious plan to lead a digital revolution in the U.K.’s specialized exhibition and distribution business by investing £14 million ($22 million) to install digital projectors for 250 screens, including arthouses and multiplexes.

Idea is being championed by the publicly funded org’s head of exhibition and distribution, Peter Buckingham, as the best way to broaden the range of movies available to U.K. audiences. If adopted, it would replace the org’s plan to create a “virtual” specialized circuit by leasing around 150 screens and programming them centrally with arthouse pics.

That policy was announced a year ago but has yet to be enacted. Buckingham, who was appointed in August, is believed to share the view of many in the distrib and exhib sector that the virtual circuit would be an ineffective use of public coin.

The Film Council has $22 million set aside over four years for capital investment in exhibition, to promote the wider distribution of specialized movies.

Supporters of the digital plan argue that it would remove the financial and logistical barriers that prevent exhibs from booking a more diverse selection of pics. The Film Council would offer exhibs matching financing to install digital projection equipment. In return, exhibs would make some kind of minimum guarantee to program specialized movies on those digital screens.

Details are still under discussion. The final plan will be presented to the Film Council’s board in June, with a view to rolling out the technology early next year.

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