The vast majority of UK cinemas will be fully digital by Q1, 2013, according to industry experts; Vue CEO suggests digital upgrade could lead to more UK films in cinemas.

Speaking at the Westminster Forum Projects seminar in London on Wednesday, Phil Clapp CEO of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association said he expected “near-total digital conversion of the UK cinema industry by Q1, 2013.”

This estimate was echoed by Vue Entertainment CEO Tim Richards: “There is a very real chance we won’t see 35mm film in the UK after Q1, 2013…The Cinema Paradiso days are over.”

The UK is currently around 72% digitised and Clapp warned that those exhibitors who do not upgrade to digital “could find themselves in a cold and chilly place.”

Richards and Clapp both cited a number of practical, logistical and financial improvements afforded by the digital upgrade.

Richards also said that the cheaper distribution and exhibition costs afforded by the conversion could lead to an increase in the number of UK films [which often go out on smaller print runs than many US titles] playing at major circuits.

A recent report from the European Audiovisual Observatory estimated that over 52% of European screens are now capable of digital projection. However, at the end of 2010 only 11% of single-screen cinemas had installed a digital screen.

Norway was the first country worldwide to become fully digital in mid-2011 and distributors in Belgium and Luxembourg are expected to end 35mm distribution soon.

According to International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), North America and China are both close to 70% digitisation.