With the 1 July deadline looming, the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association has urged all UK exhibitors to consider expressing interest in proposals to establish a joint funding group for digital cinema.

Since the CEA launched its exercise to explore the feasibility of establishing some form of shared arrangements for the funding of digital cinema at the end of March, companies representing over 400 screens have expressed interest.

The proposal recognises that for a significant number of operators, the costs of purchase and installation of such equipment are likely to remain prohibitively high. The aim therefore is to explore whether a grouping of companies could drive a better deal, with this initial exercise intended to give a better idea of the potential size and nature of those who might be interested..

The invitation, which is not limited to CEA members but open to all UK cinema operators, is without commitment on either side, it being recognised that shared negotiation will not be able to benefit all who are interested and that some companies may wish after consideration to complete their own deals.

Commenting on the current position, CEA Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

“To date over 80 companies and organisations representing over 400 screens have expressed interest in the proposal. While that it encouraging, it still means that – outside of the main circuits – companies representing as many as 800 screens either believe they can strike their own deals or have no interest in converting to digital cinema projection.

For those in the first camp, I would say that we believe it highly unlikely that any but the largest of the cinema chains will be able to strike individual deals. For those who believe they can continue to exist in a 35mm world, while that may be true in the short and even medium-term, few analysts believe that 35mm prints will still be freely available in the longer term.

The deal announced this week between Apollo Cinemas and Sony is I think just the first of a number we are likely to hear involving the key UK circuits over the coming months. That makes it all the more important that smaller operators seek to involve themselves in shared negotiations.

The initial deadline to express interest is just a week away so I would strongly urge all operators to sign up now.”

Download further information on the expression of interest exercise, and details of how to register interest.