Italy is finally getting on the digital bandwagon. Nationalexhibitors association ANEC has announced that 50 Italian cinemas will investin digital projectors by the beginning of 2006.

There are currently 11 digital projectors in Italy.Digitally-equipped cinemas include the avant-garde Arcadia multiplex nearMilan, which has two digital projectors, and Rome's Casa del Cinema, a newcultural complex partly sponsored by film laboratory Deluxe and Kodak.

Angelo D'Alessio, international director of the New York-basedSociety of Motion Pictures & Television (SMPTE) says the cost of a digitalprojector in Italy is currently around Euros 90,000 to Euros 100,000. However,D'Alessio expects prices to drop to Euros 70,000 - Euros 80,000, in line withother territories, as the number of digitally-equipped cinemas in the countryincreases.

National distributors union UNIDIM will be involved in talkson the digital transition, and distributors will be expected to contributetowards the costs - along with private exhibitors.

The Italian government has also agreed to invest in digitalexhibition through a public competition, although no concrete details areavailable yet.

"Digital technology is the future of cinema, and thegovernment wants to support this transition. It is our duty to create efficientrules that can be adapted to technological innovations," says GaetanoBlandini, general director of the Italian government's film department.

"We will also offer economic support that is within ourmeans, avoiding any strain on the market," he added.

Fifty Italian cinemas are expected to upgrade to digitaltechnology between November and January 2006. These include the 10-screen OZBrescia Multisala in the north of Italy.

"At the moment, Italy is very behind other territoriesin terms of digital acquisition, distribution and exhibition," D'Alessiosaid, pointing to the US, UK, Singapore and India as leaders.

D'Alessio says he expects a digital roll-out to begin aroundthe world from mid-2006.