Thursday, 29 April 2010

Digital Screen Network Catch Up

The Digital Screen Network was an £12 million scheme to install digital projectors in over 200 cinemas in the UK back in 2006-2007, in an effort by the UK Film Council to promote 'specialised' cinema (foreign language, documentaries, classic, cult, British, independent, etc). The scheme was controversial at the time, as it included many multiplexes (over half of the recipients were one of the three big chains) which used the taxpayer-funded projectors to show 3D rather than arthouse cinema, giving them yet another advantage on the independents.

The money for the DSN is all gone, and now over 300 cinemas have no money to buy digital equipment, while multiplexes are swimming in 3D-generated cash. Arthouse distributors have often complained to the UKFC about the lack of bookings they are getting from the DSN sites, which are contractually obliged to show a higher percentage of specialised cinema (it varies from site to site). The UKFC have just extended the timetable by 16 months for the DSN to hit their targets before they start removing equipment. Nobody really believes they will actually remove anything - which makes the contracts completely useless and undermines the very purpose of the network.

The real effect of the DSN has been a purely industrial one, giving the UK a huge advantage over its European counterparts when it comes to the digital conversion, which isn't a bad thing, but will be a tragedy if it comes at the cost of hundreds of indie cinemas closing over the next few years.

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