Memorandum by Lord Puttnam
Over the next five to 10 years,
digital distribution will increase very significantly in the UK
and around the world. Currently 10% of UK cinema screens are equipped
for digital presentation, succeeding the long-established industry
standard of 35mm projection. Digital enables much greater flexibility
of programming as well as an image on screen that does not deteriorate
due to wear and tear.
Currently it costs around £1,000
to strike a conventional film print; digital upload from a portable
hard drive onto the cinema's projector costs considerably less,
even allowing for bandwidth and/or technology licensing fees (which
would be driven down over time in any event). Even on small releases
(10-20 screens) this represents a significant saving. On large-scale
releases (200+), even more so.
However, while the UK's modern
multiplex infrastructure has developed entirely over the last
20 years (the first multiplex opened in 1985), the town centre/independent
cinema infrastructure dates back many decadesin some cases
converted theatres built in the 19th century. These cinema buildings,
well established parts of their local community, have not faced
such a complete upheaval/change in technology since the 1920s.
Most vulnerable are the smaller
sites in rural/coastal locationsserving smaller communities
which cannot afford the transition to digital. The industry's
transitional modelthe virtual print feeis most effective
for larger circuits.
If there were to be Government
support for covering or accelerating the cost and mechanics of
switchover for these smaller cinemas there's the potential for
a civic trade off" by way of using cinemas either
out of hours, or at specific times of the year, for more obviously
In particular, it would be possible
to make imaginative use of 3D for community purposesfor
example, showing the London Olympic 2012 events live in 3D.
The demonstrations that I have
seen of 3D, especially sport, have been extremely impressive and
I think its popularity for certain kinds of films and for certain
kinds of events, including sport, will very rapidly become apparent.
One of the great successes of the
present Government in recognising and promoting the UK's Creative
Industries, has been the attention paid to maintaining and strengthening
our talent and skill base, though enhanced education and training
at just about every level.
If I've one disappointment, it's
that there appears to have been little in the way of a matching
commitment from so many private sector employers across the Creative
One of the very first acts of ITV,
on being released from a slew of PSB obligations, was to all but
walk away from its long and very honourable commitment to training.
Presumably believing that in its newly found freedom it will have
no need of programmes made possible by the combined talents and
skills emerging annually from The National Film and Television
School or the industry training body, Skillset.
It could be that ITV has come to
the conclusion that it won't be around long enough to require
the services of the next generation of talent.
That's bad enough for the talent,
but it's a catastrophic indictment of the company's future from
the perspective of its shareholders.
An abundance of talent of every
kind is the only certain way of ensuring a bright future for the
whole of the sector; combine that with a consistent supply of
world class skills, and you've held down costs whilst creating
what would seem to me, an unbeatable combination.
The National Film and Television
School is one of the cornerstones of our training sector. We would
be extraordinarily myopic and foolhardy were we to do anything
which imperils its ability to be fit for purpose in a digital
Maybe it's because all of this
is so self-evident that it gets remarkably little attention; but
I get the sense that many employers, who honestly should know
better, seek to evade or avoid their very obvious responsibilities
in this area.
28 May 2009