The UK government will not bail out cinemas left behind in the switch to digital cinema, Stewart Till, chairman of the UK Film Council has warned.

Speaking at Screen International's annual digital cinema summit, Till said public money could not and would not pay for the installation of digital equipment at cinemas which could not afford to make the switch.

'There's a slight sense that the public sector will come galloping to the rescue. In part that might be because we made a start with capital expenditure (the digital screen network),' he told delegates to the event at Vue Cinema in London's West End.

'So I'm sure there's people thinking that if they got it going then they're bound to mop up the people who can't afford it.

'I can categorically tell you now that that's not the case. We have no money for more digitalisation and that's the same for the rest of Europe,' he said.

The issue of the numbers left behind in the change is a growing issue that is beginning to attract serious attention in the UK and beyond.

Also speaking at the conference, the UK Film Council's head of distribution and exhibition Peter Buckingham warned that a significant number of exhibitors would not be able to make the current financial arrangements for d-cinema installation work for them and were in danger of going out of business.

He said there was a crisis that mightrequire some newform of 'mutuality' based on cooperation between all parties involved including exhibitors and distributors.

Given the slow take-up of the existing 'virtual print fee' based solutions, the search for a solution that can take along all parties is growing - though both Arts Alliance Media and XDC, which have deals on the table for exhibitors, said they believed that a breakthrough was coming even though the waters had become somewhat muddied.

Yet Till warned 'there's not much more resolution than when someone came up with the idea of the virtual print fee five years ago.'

And meanwhile the development of D-cinema is driving a wedge between the big players who could afford it and the smaller ones who cannot.

'My fear is that there is going to be a resolution that is all about big chains, big filns and big distributors,' said Till.

'But we cannot have one size fits all and it's not in anyone's interest that we will lose consumers because we have reduced choice.'

For a full report on the conference, see next week's Screen International magazine. Click here to subscribe.