All first-run theaters to be digitzed by year-end

EXCLUSIVE– All Paris first-run theaters will be digitized by year-end, Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe announced in Cannes Friday.

He also confirmed a major new exhibition, “Paris Seen by Hollywood,” running April-July 2012 at the Hotel du Ville city hall.

Last October, Delanoe unveiled a €2.1 million ($3.0 million) fund to aid Paris’ the upgrading of 90 arthouse screens. Some 350 have already gone digital.

The city is “backing digital conversion so that this ineluctable change doesn’t entail most precarious theaters closing,” Delanoe said.

Paris’ full switchover puts it in the vanguard of digital conversion, said David Hancock, at IHS Screen Digest.

Paris is the arthouse capital of Europe, with 400 screens, 90 of them in specialty cinemas.

Berlin has one screen per 12,000 inhabitants, London one per 12,600, Paris one per 6,000, and 500 first-run film releases a year.

The key, Delanoe said, is the large variety of exhibition, from multiplexes to district cinemas, such as the repertory Champo, and the big Champs-Elysees and Place Gambetta theaters.

Mayor since 2001, Delanoe, a dapper and cultured Socialist, has subsidized 40 city cinemas, launched an efficient Paris Film Office for shoots, solidified production aid for shorts, launched the Paris Cinema Festival and is refurbishing the 1921 Luxor Egyptian-facade picture palace.

“I’ve tried particularly to favor shoots, production: That produces jobs,” he says.

Paris is also by far the most-seen foreign city in Hollywood movies, Delanoe added. North of 800 American movies have shot in Paris, or mocked it up in sets.

The exhibition will showcase film extracts, photographs, models, costumes; Paris’ Forum des Images will host around 50 films and round table discussions.

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