Cinema Digitaal is a unique public-private digitisation project initiated by the Nederlandse Vereniging van Bioscoopexploitanten (NVB – the Dutch Cinema Exhibitors' Association), the Nederlandse Vereniging van Filmdistributeurs (NVF – the Dutch Film Distributors' Association) and EYE Film Institute Netherlands.
The collaborative Cinema Digitaal project made a collective transition possible all throughout the Netherlands and prevented the compulsory closing of small film theatres and cinemas. This technological conversion in the cinema business demanded a high investment that would have been financially unfeasible for many exhibitors without the support of Cinema Digitaal. The large-scale digitisation project is based on the principle of solidarity: commercial cinemas cooperated together with film theatres and, by doing so, the existing culturally diverse and close-knit exhibition network was able to be maintained and film continues to be accessible in all of the Netherlands. The coordinated transition from analogue to digital was realised over a very short time, which meant the costs of running a dual system (distributing analogue and digital film) were limited. The first installation took place on 20 July 2011, and the transition was completed in just 14 months.
In total, the Cinema Digitaal project cost €39 million. The biggest share of the project (70%) was paid for by the film distribution companies that are active in the Netherlands: 20 independents and 6 major American studios, under a Virtual Print Fee (VPF) model, implemented by Arts Alliance Media. Distributors were willing to invest in the one–time replacement of 35mm projectors, because of the savings that will be made now the production of celluloid film prints will disappear. Cinema Digitaal was co-financed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation (€3 million from the Implementation Programme Agenda ICT Policy /PRIMA) and the Netherlands Film Fund (€2 million). As a whole, the film sector in the Netherlands invested around €55 million in the digitisation. With the digitisation of the Dutch cinema exhibition business, celluloid film (35mm film) has nearly disappeared from the cinemas.
There are innumerable advantages to digital projection: wider distribution of films, more flexible programming, and improved image and sound quality. Films can be screened more quickly throughout the entire country. Digitisation also creates new possibilities for distribution via satellite and fibre optics. Additionally, every exhibitor now has the option to expand what they offer to include (live) concerts, opera, theatre productions or sporting events.
Ron Sterk of the NVB and a driving force behind Cinema Digitaal: ‘The year 2012 will bring the end of more than 100 years of screening analogue film. With the digitisation of cinemas, our business is undergoing tremendous innovation. Digitisation provides better quality, more efficiency, offers countless new possibilities for exhibitors and a wider availability of films for Dutch audiences’.