Concern about falling attendances, piracy, release windows and new classification rules have led to the formation of the firstnational organisation of Australian exhibitors.

"Forthe first time in what is a notoriously aggressive industry, the issues thatdraw us together are greater than the issues that force us apart," head ofDendy Cinemas Mark Sarfaty told

He has beenvoted inaugural co-chair of the organisation alongside Jim Collier, managerdirector of Greater Union/Birch, Carroll & Coyle.

"Arange of issues required a response from exhibitors and there was no vehiclefor that," Collier added.

"Everyother industry sector has an association of some kind except us. It alsomeans we can speak with one voice to Government."

Onpiracy, the Australian Cinema Exhibitors Coalition (ACEC) has already decidedit wants to see the laws strengthened and better enforced, rather than millionsof dollars spent on further advertising campaigns that could feed into thenotion that it is cool to download movies illegally.

It wil also lobby for the current four-month DVD release window to be retained.

"Weare less concerned about the Harry Potters that people want to see instate-of-the-art digital cinemas with 400 other people than the smaller filmsthat do not have the must-see component - and that includes all Australianfilms," said Collier.

Duringthe planning meetings leading up to its establishment ACEC has also been one ofmany organisations feeding into an upcoming industry-wide promotion ofcinema-going based around 17 summer blockbuster titles.

"Digitalcinema is another debate we want to inject some rationality into," saidSarfaty.

"We could shoot ourselves in the foot if our high presentationstandards are not maintained or if the financial models don't make sense."

Sarfatybelieves the make-up of ACEC's seven-member committee represents 98% of exhibitors.It comprises the heads of any circuits with over 120 screens - currentlyGreater Union, Village, Hoyts andReading - the cinema councillor on the Australian EntertainmentIndustry Association, and the heads of the Independent Cinemas Association of Australiaand the Motion Picture Exhibitors Association of Queensland (MPEAQ). Thestate-based MPEAQ organises the high-profile Australian International MovieConvention.

Sarfaty and Collier are tight-lipped on details butare also in negotiations over the percentage of the box office that cinemaowners have to pay to the copyright owners of the music used in films.