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Highlights - 05/05/2009
Petr Vítek Digitální Kino takes stock of digital in Central Europe
Petr Vítek is the manager of Digitální Kino, a non-profit organisation, which supports the digitisation of the Czech film industry. Very active with regard to the digitisation of cinemas, it runs seminars and workshops, presents new technologies to the professionals and works with all concerned parties, production companies, distributors, exhibitors and professional organisations.
How is digitisation of cinemas taken into account in the Czech Republic?
The Ministry of Culture has set up a group of experts who are entrusted with working out a national strategy (National digitisation strategy). This strategy might be defined quite quickly and could set out the rules to be implemented for the allocation of financial support to digitisation for the national fund.
In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of digital cinema projection?
Digital projection allows broadcasting of additional content, pop or classical music concerts, sport, 3D material, documentaries or alternative films where dissemination in 35mm format was not acceptable. This is its major asset. And the diversification of content is very much an area of interest to single screen cinemas.
On another point, the cost of technology is very high. Moreover, the digital era continues apace whilst all the technical issues have not yet been resolved. And finally, the VPF financing model (Virtual Print Fee) might have a negative influence on the screening of independent and national films. With regard to VPF, I think it is now necessary to be aware of the European film producers’ point of view.
What is the current state of affairs as regards digital projection in the Czech Republic?
Digitisation in Czech cinemas is right on track. Some small theatres owned by the municipalities are equipped as well as the majority of the multiplexes (with a single screen for 3D projection). The VPF model has not yet been used but several multiplexes are considering this move. The distributors have started to work in digital.
That said, if the VPF model seems to offer a good solution for the multiplex chains, the same cannot be said of single screen cinemas. Equipment is very expensive and the only profitable screenings are, for the time being, due to 3D which only affects the multiplexes. So, most of the single screen cinemas now await the implementation of state support. I think that if we work properly with the independent cinemas many will make the switch to digital.
What do you think of the Hungarian and Polish initiatives?
The picture is similar in the neighbouring countries. The majority of the exhibitors know the challenges posed by digital and analyse the financial and technical aspects. The initiative adopted by Hungary to equip cinemas with 1.3K has been beneficial in that it has allowed cinemas to screen films, which were not available in 35mm format. But the project will not develop further on account of the DCI standards based on 2K. As regards Poland, the discussions that have taken place show that digitisation is also on the right path. The issue here is ultimately the same as everywhere else: what is the financial potential of the market?
What is your view on the discussions that have taken place in France on a possible implementation of a mutual fund?
This initiative will certainly be welcomed in the Czech Republic and more widely among our neighbours since it could force professionals to seek and pursue regional and local funds.
70% of Czech cinemas are in the possession of the municipalities. Their role in digital is crucial and most want to support their cinemas. But they cannot do this on their own. They need an extra contribution however modest. This is why we are working on this national digitisation strategy which might provide the financing that is currently lacking.
Interview led by Jean-Baptiste Selliez
Pictures (from top): Multikino Zlote Tarasy - Warsaw, Cinema City Flora - Prague, Nové Kino Praha - Warsaw