The UK FilmCouncil-backed Digital Screen Network is cleared to go into phase two of itsinstallations.
During phaseone, the Film Council's partner Arts Alliance Media set up the first 50 systemsstarting in autumn 2005. The 50th screen was installed on February 24, ahead ofschedule.
After a formalreview of that process, the Film Council board has approved plans to proceedwith phase two, which will continue with 190 additional screens being installedfrom May 2006 through spring 2007.
"It's been a bigteam effort between us, the Film Council, exhibitors and distributors. Theresult has been a very successful phase one, which is great," says Fiona Deans,director of digital cinema for UK-based Arts Alliance Media, which is alsocontracted to work on digital cinema rollout in
Pete Buckingham,head of exhibition and distribution for the Film Council, agrees that phase onewent well. "In general there is a fairly high level of satisfaction," he says."I don't think that one show has failed to go on. So does it work' Yes. Therehave been some minor issues in other bits and pieces."
The 50 screensinstalled so far aren't all compliant with the major studios' Digital CinemaInitiative standards announced in July 2005 - but Buckingham says that theywill be made compliant with an upgrade to JPEG2000, and that phase two screens willbe compliant from installation.
Deans said thatif the partners did learn anything from phase one, it would be how challengingit can be to work with cinemas on logistics and scheduling of installations.But she notes, "We haven't had any major problems."
Deans continues,"To start off, installations took a bit longer, but now installers are up tospeed. We know where the potential pitfalls are. It's been a gradualimprovement from phase one."
The burgeoningnetwork has shown 25 films thus far, and each member cinema is required todevote a percentage of screen time to "specialised programming." Films shownduring phase one include Black Narcissus, March Of ThePenguins, Good Night, And Good Luck, A Cock and Bull Story, Hidden, and The Proposition.
Buckingham saidit "was too early to figure out" what types of films were working best on thenetwork.
Exhibitors stillhave transitional issues because they are working with both film and digitalformats. And distributors are still having to make35mm prints alongside digital copies until digital becomes the industry standard.
Thelandscape-changing potential will come in the future, Buckingham says: "Phaseone was more technical than strategic. After there is critical mass, we can getused to what it means to our business and how it changes that 35mm paradigmthat's been going for 100 years."
Cinemas withdigital screens installed thus far include CurzonSoho, Cornerhouse Manchester, CineworldLiverpool,
When completed,the network's 240 screens will be in about 200 cinemas across the UK. Thenetwork is said to cost about $21m (£12M) and Buckingham said they were stillon track to meet that budget.