ROME – Almost 90 percent of theatrical movie screens around the world have now been converted to digital, in what can only be good news for the U.S. majors and other distributors.

According to a report by London-based IHS Cinema Intelligence, the global digital cinema penetration in 2014 stands at 89.8 per cent of the total screen footprint, reaching 127,688 screens. This marked a 14.7 per cent increase from a total 111,328 at end of 2013.

Approximately 16,360 screens were converted to digital in 2014. Of these, 11,902 were 3D screens, or 72.3 percent of total.

This high percentage is partly driven by China’s continuing love of 3D. Asia Pacific recorded the largest digital screen increase, followed by South and Central America. Both these areas were lagging behind in 2013, but responded quickly to fill the gap and “have actually benefitted from the longer learning curves in other parts of the world,” the report said.

In 2014 digital cinema penetration in Western Europe reached 96 percent, achieving the same level as North America for the first time.

The IHS report underlines the difficulty in converting the last several thousand US screens, despite a number of manufacturer-led initiatives aimed at getting past persistent stumbling blocks.

“The move to full digitisation is an advantage for US majors and other distributors in that it creates a single inventory distribution environment,” said David Hancock, head of IHS Film and Cinema department.

However “the cost savings of moving to digital – a primary motivation behind the conversion – are there, but will not kick in fully until the VPF system had ended,” he noted.
South and Central America in 2014 expedited their digital deployment process, reaching 86.4 percent of screens digitised by the end of the year.

Central and Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific (not including lower grade E-cinema screens in India) have the same digital cinema penetration of 83.3 percent in 2014. They are followed by 79.5 percent in the Middle East and Africa. For the MENA region, the lag is mainly due to parts of North Africa.

“The world’s digital conversion is now one step closer to the finish line,” the report concluded.

Territories with the highest digital screen growth in 2014 were China, the US, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, Italy, and Turkey.

A total of 11,902 3D screens were installed in 2014, representing 72.7 per cent of the total digital screens converted. Territories with the highest number of 3D screens installed were China, USA, Mexico, Russia and Brazil.