21 October, 2009

Dutch collective digitalization plan widely supported

In the Netherlands, a serious lobby for a national digitalization plan to help the industry towards a fast digital transition has finally started. The digitalization process in the Netherlands has experienced a slow start.

Dutch exhibitors are reluctant to make the transition because of the lack of a viable business model to get a return on their investment. But now the tide seems to have changed mainly because the Dutch exhibitors’ organization (N.V.B.) has made digitalization of the Dutch cinema industry one of its priorities.In the last couple of years there has been practically no involvement of the N.V.B. in the digitalization process. The opinion of the organization was that digitalization was a business decision that every cinema owner would have to make on his own.

Since January 2009 however, the attitude of the N.V.B. has changed. Supporting and informing exhibitors in the challenges that lie ahead has become one of the pillars of the organization, driven by the belief that without adequate action a significant number of Dutch exhibitors would have trouble recouping the investment costs. Under this financial pressure a large number of cinemas, consisting mainly of smaller theaters and art cinemas, might disappear.

Inspired by the successful Digital Roadshows held in the UK earlier this year by the C.E.A. and the UK Film Council, the N.V.B. is organizing its own Digital Seminars to inform exhibitors objectively about the impact digitalization has on their cinema business. These seminars, held in October 2009, will clarify and illustrate different options for financing digital equipment.

But the involvement of the N.V.B. goes beyond spreading information about digital cinema. The N.V.B. has translated the German FFA model for the Dutch market. This model entails a collective transition for all Dutch cinemas with the financial contribution of exhibitors and distributors, combined with commercial and public funding. The Dutch version interacts with a pilot of the Dutch Media Hub.

The ambition of the Dutch Media Hub program is to establish a strong media content hub in the Netherlands that can compete with London and Paris. A national digitized cinema network can help establish this ambition.The plans proposed by the N.V.B are widely supported by the Dutch Film industry.

Distributors, film producers and the Dutch Film Institute all agree that a fast national transition will benefit the Dutch film industry. Branch partners N.V.F. (film distributors) and N.V.S. (film producers) together with the N.V.B. have started talks with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Economic Affairs to find ground for public funding to back up this plan. If these talks succeed, Dutch cinemas will be able to make a coordinated transition to digital projection, securing the diverse offer of films and the future of all (including smaller) cinemas.

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