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U.S. leads way in digital cinema

Progress in Europe is slower and more fragmented

BERLIN -— While up to 50% of U.S. theaters will likely be equipped with DCI specification digital systems by 2011, theaters in Europe are lagging behind considerably, according to a report on the future of digital cinema published by Dodona Research.

The fragmented and complex nature of the European industry has resulted in slow progress, the report said, adding that only 20% of screens are expected to be converted by 2011.

The study, entitled “Digital Cinema,” shows dramatic variations throughout the continent: Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg are expected to have well over half of all screens converted in five years, while in some other territories the process may barely have begun.

In Asia the picture is similar. While only 10% of screens overall will have DCI specification digital capability by 2011, Singapore and South Korea will see more than 50% of screens con-verted.

Recent figures in the U.S. has underlined the dramatic lead held by American-based exhibs. As of June 2006 there were 841 2K digital screens compared with 112 at the end of 2005. The cost of digital cinema systems is falling and leading circuits are committing to conversion, or are at least plotting their strategy for conversion.

In addition, Hollywood majors are moving towards making all their major releases available in a DCI compliant package. Up to September 2006, 49 films had been released in digital format by the studios compared with 23 for the whole of 2005.

In the U.S., Carmike Cinemas leads the digital cinema charge with more than 350 screens already converted — the largest 2K digital network worldwide.

In Europe, the Kinepolis Group is set to become the region’s largest private investor in digital cinema with its 132 screen Belgian circuit due to be 100% converted by the end of the year.

As of June 2006, there were 334 2K digital cinema screens in Europe. The U.K. had the biggest number with 71, boosted by the rollout of the U.K. Film Council’s Digital Screen Network.

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