$5.4 million to go to screen conversion

BRUSSELS — The European Commission has set aside E4 million ($5.4 million) over the next two years to help European cinemas go digital.

Priority will go to arthouse cinemas screening “a substantial share” of European films, said culture chief Androulla Vassiliou, announcing the funds Friday.

Details will be available when the scheme opens to bids at the end of 2010.

With installation of a digital projector costing on average $100,000, Vassiliou conceded the coin was a drop in the ocean.

“This is the money that we have available for the time being. We hope to have more funds in the future,” Vassiliou said.

The commission’s strategy foresees national governments pitching in with public money. Several schemes have already been approved, with France announcing this week that it expects to pour $167 million into digital conversion over the next three years.

EU regional development funds can also be used to support conversion, with projects already approved in Poland, Portugal and Germany.

Vassiliou also revealed that the EC is considering co-financing virtual print fees, the payments distributors make to the intermediary companies who frequently oversee digital conversion.

“This support will enable distributors to increase the number of European films available in a digital format and enable small cinemas that have already gone digital to have access to a larger catalog of European films,” she said.

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