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UK cinemas offered £13m digital screen network scheme

Cinemas across the UK are being given the chance to lead the world by taking part in a National Lottery funded scheme to increase the breadth and range of films available to UK audiences, the UK Film Council has announced.
Under the Digital Screen Network plan which will see an investment of up to £13 million, the UK Film Council will equip around 200 screens in around 150 cinemas across the UK (approximately one in four of the total) with state-of-the-art digital projection equipment. In return, cinemas will be asked to commit to using the new technology to show a broader range of films on a regular basis, giving many more people the chance to see specialised (non-blockbuster) films such as British multiple award winner Touching the Void, recent New Zealand classic Whale Rider and the internationally acclaimed comedy Goodbye Lenin!
The move is a key part of the UK Film Council's strategy to boost audience choice by improving the distribution of specialised films which often have potentially wide appeal but receive a more limited cinema release. The UK is one of the most expensive countries in the world in which to release a film. While blockbusters such as Harry Potter are released widely with up to 1,000 copies/prints most of the specialised (non-blockbuster) films are issued with less than 20 prints due to the relatively high 35mm print costs.
Traditional 35mm film prints can cost around £1,000 each and in contrast digital copies can be duplicated at a substantially lower cost allowing film companies to increase the number of film prints available to cinemas around the country.
The introduction of the new network will put the UK at the forefront of digital cinema. As of March 2004 there were approximately 190 screens worldwide offering high level digital projection with just nine located in the UK.
The Digital Screen Network will also offer audiences a range of other opportunities. Cinemas will be encouraged to use the equipment to benefit the local community, for example by showing films made by local filmmakers, film clubs and schools.
The digital system will also boost the ability of cinemas to project subtitles to benefit the hearing impaired and the system can also have a descriptive audio track to enable the visually-impaired to enjoy the films being shown.
All types of full-time licensed cinemas from all parts of the UK are eligible to apply to become part of the new network which will be up and running early next year. Cinemas have until 8 October to apply for funding from the Digital Screen Network Fund.
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