According to a new report from Screen Digest the use of digital technology for pre-film advertising far outstrips full-on electronic cinema.

Eight different exhibition chains, operating in five continents have digitised more than 2,750 cinema screens with low-cost networked projector solutions. This number is set to double by year-end 2003, says the report.

That compares with 160 cinema screens worldwide converted to high-end digital cinema presentation capability. This represents just one-eighth of one percent of total first-run cinema screens worldwide.

However, Screen Digest still maintains that "the comprehensive roll-out of high-end digital projection in cinemas could begin as early as 2004."

A full scale roll-out of digital cinema installations will be primarily driven by changing release patterns and pressures from piracy and DVD.

"The opportunity cost of film releases, rather than the $1.36bn annual print cost, is what will drive digital cinema deployment," says Patrick von Sychowski, author of the report.

"It is only in the context of ultra-wide releases, piracy resulting from long international windows, distributors adopting a 'take-the-opening-weekend-box-office-money-and-run' approach and DVD earning more than cinemas that switching to digital cinema makes sense."