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27/05/2005

Welsh cinemas share in £11.7 million digital revolution

Cinema-goers across Wales will have a greater choice of films at the cinema thanks to the creation of the world’s first ‘Digital Screen Network’.
Five cinemas in Wales have been chosen to be part of the network, the UK Film Council has announced.
A total of £11.7 million from the UK Film Council’s share of National Lottery funding is to be used to install state-of-the-art digital film projectors and related equipment in 209 cinemas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the first cinemas in the network programming screenings later this year.
In return for the new equipment, the cinemas, which range from smaller local and ‘art-house’ cinemas to multiplexes, have committed to providing more screening time to showing a greater selection of more specialised (i.e. non-Hollywood), classic, and foreign language movies. As a result more people will be able to see critically acclaimed films such as British multiple award winners 'Touching the Void' and 'Vera Drake', 'House of Flying Daggers', 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', 'Downfall', 'Motorcycle Diaries' and 'Dear Frankie'.
The introduction of digital distribution will mean that films such as these will reach around 30 million people throughout the UK with an increase in specialised film screenings of up to 75,000 in the first year alone, rising to 165,000 in four years from now.
The overall number of cinema visits in the UK could be raised by up to 4 million, thanks to the more diverse range of films available to audiences.
The Digital Screen Network will also offer audiences and local communities in Wales a range of other benefits.
Cinemas will be encouraged to use the equipment to show, for example, films made by local filmmakers, film clubs and schools.
Announcing details of the network John Woodward, the UK Film Council’s Chief Executive Officer said that the Digital Screen Network will change the face of cinema-going right across the UK.
“This initiative is a world first for the UK and is a hugely exciting and significant development for Welsh cinema and cinema-goers in Wales. Nearly 20 years ago the introduction of multiplexes transformed the choice of mainstream films on offer to cinema-goers at any one time. We believe that the Digital Screen Network could increase the opportunities on offer for people to see more specialised films in the same way.”
Welcoming the move, James Purnell MP, Minister for Film said: "Many cinema goers often only get the pick of a crop of big budget blockbuster films, particularly outside London. That is going to change.
"The groundbreaking digital network will give film fans more choice - they'll get to see more British, critically acclaimed and small budget films, alongside classics on the big screen, where they belong.”
Sgrin Cymru Wales' Chief Executive, Berwyn Rowlands, greeted the news as a positive way forward: “Digital technology is set to enhance the experience of seeing films in the cinema in many ways. I am pleased that five cinemas from Wales have been successful in securing financial support as part of the UK Film Council's Digital Screen Network. This important step was identified as a priority in Sgrin's recent publication 'The Cultural and Economic Trends of Cinema in Ireland and Wales'.”
(GB)
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