The Cinema Exhibitors’ Association has today confirmed plans to establish a funding group to secure finance to allow small and medium-sized UK cinema operators to purchase digital cinema equipment.

The announcement follows an earlier exercise to identify the potential size and nature of such a grouping.

Commenting on the announcement CEA Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

“The ‘expressions of interest’ exercise we have run over the last few months, together with feedback received during the recent programme of digital roadshow events delivered jointly with the UK Film Council, confirm that there is an absolute desire on the part of UK cinema operators to embrace digital technology.

But many also recognise that they are extremely unlikely to be able to secure funding deals to allow them to convert on their own. We strongly believe that the proposed funding group may be the only option to achieve this for a significant majority of small and medium-sized cinema operators.

Preparation for the digital transition is now well underway and it seems inevitable that 35mm prints will become increasingly difficult and expensive to source in the medium term, and certainly at the point at which the major circuits – digital plans for all of whom are well-advanced – have converted.

So far companies and organisations representing over 450 screens have indicated a willingness to be involved in the funding group. But that still leaves another 600 or more screens outside of the major circuits which stand little or no chance of finding financial support without additional help.

We have shown the seriousness of our intent with today’s announcement. I am grateful in particular for the larger companies represented on the CEA Executive Board and to colleagues at the UK Film Council for their support in this.

I urge all of those small and medium-sized cinema operators who have not yet done so to show similar commitment and to join us in this hugely important endeavour.

Over the coming weeks, we will be looking to appoint someone to put in place the foundations for establishing the group and to begin looking at what might be possible. While we cannot guarantee that we will be able to help everyone who wishes to convert, I am very optimistic that this is a significant further step towards securing a digital future for a large number of UK cinema operators.”

Welcoming the announcement, Peter Buckingham, Head of Distribution and Exhibition at the UK Film Council, said:

“Securing film’s successful transition to digital is the UK Film Council’s top strategic priority for the years ahead – it is vital if we are to meet the needs of film-makers and the demands of audiences. As far as possible no existing 35mm cinema should be left behind in this transition. We therefore congratulate the CEA on its vision and offer our whole-hearted support in backing this new organisation, which will be of enormous help to smaller operators as well as the wider UK cinema sector.”

A further announcement regarding the establishment of the funding group will be made in due course.