Estonia plans cinema reopenings and digitalisation


    The Estonian draft state budget for 2008 includes 5 million kroons (€320,000) for reopening and equipping the long-derelict cinema network outside the capital city of Tallinn. The appropriation, now under discussion by Parliament, is a response to the drastic closing of cinemas in the 1990s that cut their number from around 650 to a dismal dozen or so today

    The budget line, labeled Cinema comes back, was first introduced in 2003 to help local governments reopen their defunct cinemas by supporting the procurement of projection and cinema hall equipment. The initiative was widely regarded as long overdue but was derided by some film circles for its meager initial size of €64,000. It has undergone a steady growth, although small in absolute terms, to the point where the money may provide for renovation of a handful of regional cinemas each year, starting with regional centres.

    Coupled with the mission to reopen closed cinemas is an effort to introduce digital projection in order to boost circulation of local and European films, now expensive due to high print costs. Many of the smaller appropriations so far have gone for the purchase of digital projection equipment, although of the cheaper, mass-market variety rather than the expected new standard of 2K.

    The budget line will be administered by the Estonian Ministry of Culture (www.kul.ee). The funding decisions are made by a three-person committee based on applications received from local governments and cinema operators.

    Although the number of cinemas has seen a nearly 50-fold drop over the last two decades, the number of cinema admissions this year is likely to increase, based mainly on the record admissions to Estonian films. They are having their best year since independence and could hold a 20% overall market share by year-end.