According to MEDIA Salles, who collected the information, there were 4,693 screens equipped with DLP Cinema or SXRD technology at the end of 2009, a rise of 207% over 2008.Digital screens accounted for 13% of all European screens in 2009, up from 4% in 2008 (Table 1). The average number of screens in digital sites has also risen, from 1.6 screens per site at the end of 2007 to 2.0 screens per site in 2009.
Table 1: Digital cinema sites and screens in Europe 2003 - 2009 (courtesy of European Audiovisual Observatory- click to enlarge)
According to MEDIA Salles, most digital theatres are found in Western Europe (Table 2). The five leading European markets in terms of admissions also have the highest number of digital screens. France accounts for 19% of the digital total, followed by the UK (14%), Germany (13%), Italy (9%) and Spain (5%).
Meanwhile, Russia has witnessed strong growth since 2008, and now accounts for 7.5% of Europe’s digital screens (352 in total).
The Observatory’s press release picks up on the fact that a handful of companies account for a large share of all digital screens. ‘In Europe’, the release explains, ‘the development of digital screens seems to be highly concentrated in terms of exhibition companies, in view of the fact that, at June 2009, 5% of exhibitors were responsible for 33.6% of the overall number of digital screens.' Further evidence, perhaps, that smaller operators are being left behind in the switch to digital.
The press release goes on:
'The top five players are the French company CGR (with 13.1% of digital screens), Kinepolis (6.8%), operating in Belgium, France and Spain; Cineworld Group (5.6%), present in the United Kingdom and Ireland; Odeon and UCI Cinemas Group (4.8%), operating as Odeon Cinemas in the United Kingdom, as UCI in Austria, Germany, Italy and Portugal and as Cinesa in Spain; Cineplexx (3.4%), present in Austria and in Italy.’
3D has proven to be a significant catalyst for digital screen growth. One indication of this is the fact that 69% of all European digital screens were 3D-ready by December 2009 (in time for Avatar in most European markets), up from 54% only six months earlier in June 2009.
Table 2: Digital cinema sites and screens in Europe by country 2007 - 2009 (courtesy of European Audiovisual Observatory- click to enlarge)