Taxpayers Give UK Cinemas 3D Leg-Up

EXCLUSIVE From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: Cinema chains including Cineworld, Odeon and Vue have all upgraded digital equipment provided free of charge by the UK government to 3D. uk cinemaWhereas other exhibitors have had to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds installing 3D digital projectors and screens, the big chains have received a massive leg-up on 3D courtesy of the public purse. It costs between £70,000 and £100,000 to convert each screen to digital. No wonder rivals to the Big Three think this is unfair competition.

The UK Film Council has invested £12 million ($18 million) in equipping 240 screens in 213 cinemas across the UK, or what’s called its Digital Screen Network. The DSN covers approximately 8% of screens in 1/3 of UK cinemas. Of those, half are controlled by Cineworld, Odeon, and Vue. Cineworld was apparently the first chain to begin upgrading its 73 DSN screens. Then Odeon and Vue followed. Cineworld has just posted a £40 million profit for 2009, boasting how it’s led the way in 3D.

The idea behind the DSN was to enable multiplexes to show a certain percentage of officially approved films across all screens. Otherwise, the UKFC could take their equipment away. But the rush to screen 3D Hollywood blockbusters like Alice In Wonderland and Avatar have elbowed these official movies out of the way. So there’s a question whether the multiplexes will hit the quota targets for officially approved films they agreed to. A review of the DSN is due to be published in May.

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