Paolo Protti has been reappointed president of Italy's exhibitor organisation ANEC or the National Association of Cinema Exhibitors for a second three-year term.

Protti, who oversees the concerns of the nation's some 3,000 screens, says his aims include restructuring ANEC by merging ANEM (National Association of Multiplex Exhibitors) into ANEC.

FICE (Art House Cinema Association) already works within ANEC's structure. He also intends to reinforce ANEC's ties with Italy's production and distribution sector represented by ANICA (ANICA's president is Paolo Ferrari of Warner Bros Italia).

'Only by working together can we affront our common issues with strength,' Protti told ScreenDaily.

Those challenges include budget cuts and the introduction of new multi-sector tax incentives (that have been passed in Italy but are pending EU approval).

But the switch to digital cinema is causing particular concern. He shares fears across Europe that smaller cinemas may not be able to meet costs.

'Everyone has to be able to access (a digital switch) or else we will create a Series-A and Series-B market,' he says borrowing the term from Italian football.

'If not, we'll create differences [in the market] and the burden will fall on the small and medium cinemas.'

Nonetheless he is confident that large steps forward will be taken in the next two-to-three years.

While there are currently only about 50 digital screens in here (according to a July 2008 study by Mediasalles) Italy spends about $80m (Euros 60m) to print films annually and the switch will save $30-40m (Euros 40-50m) to distribution, he estimates.

'The digital issue is complex and has a lot of facets. We are favourable to digital (switchover), which represents a savings to distribution and production however in this (installation) phase it falls as an economic burden to exhibitors. Technology does not have to be an obstacle and can help us work better but we need to find agreements that don't create problems to exhibitors in the initial phase.'