Romania approaches cinema digitalisation tipping point


    BUCHAREST: Romanian cinema operators have passed the half-way mark in the country’s transition to digitalization with 137 of Romania’s 205 screens already  digital by the end of 2012.

    It is a milestone for the Romanian cinema industry which joins the growing list of countries in the EU approaching a “tipping point” in 2013 when 35mm will be withdrawn as there are no longer enough screens to make it viable.

    "There were 137 digital screens in Romania in 2012, approximately 70% operated by Cinema City," says Mioara Serigeanu from the Statistics department of the National Centre for Cinema.

    Romanian distributors are still providing both 35mm and digital copies but no one knows for how long. "We still use 35mm for bigger films, not only blockbusters. Then there are films we don't show on 35mm at all," Andreea Comănici, the General Manager of InterComFilm told FNE.

    InterComFilm which distributed the first movie in 3D, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Comănici in Romania says that InterComFilm will probably continue showing films on 35mm for approximately one more year.  “Overall the costs for digital are cheaper than the costs for the 35mm, even if there might be bigger costs for 3D and for subtitling the master.” 

    Movieplex Bucureşti will finish the transition to digital this year.  The company was the first to make the move to digital with the first digitalised screen in Romania in May 2008. "The investment was quite large at that time," Daniel Ungureanu, the General Manager of Movieplex told FNE.  Movieplex digitalised four screens between May and June 2008, and had nine screens digitalised by the end of 2009. The last two screens will be digitalised by June 2013.

    The switch to digital brings more advantages than disadvantages to Independenta Film,  a leader in art house and independent film distribution in Romania. Most of all because it is cheaper. "We haven’t distributed 35mm copies for six months now already", Antoine Bagnaninchi, the manager of Independenta Film told FNE.

    Some companies like the British company The Light Cinema are entering the Romanina market by going straight to digital. The Light Cinema launched its operations in Bucharest with seven digital screens in October 2008 avoiding any transition from 35mm to digital.

    RADEF RomaniaFilm, which inherited the former pre-1990 state cinema networkoperates 32 screens in 21 towns but has digitalised only four of its screens. 

    RADEF RomaniaFilm opened its first digitalised screen, the restored Cinema Republica renamed Cinema Florin Piersic (the main venue of Transylvania IFF) in Cluj-Napoca in January 2011. RADEF RomaniaFilm also operates a fifth screen, Cinema Arta from Târgu Mureş, which was digitalised by the local municipality.  As RADEF relies on state and local subsidies for digitalization it is not clear if it will be able to secure the necessary funding for the conversion to digital.

    "There are plans for digitalising other screens in 2013, including a main cinema in Bucharest, but nothing is certain yet," Emanuel Lăzărescu who is collaborating with RADEF RomaniaFilm in programme the digital screens.