The UK-based Cinema Exhibitor Association announced its intent to form a digital cinema funding group for its independent members. Stating support of 450 of some 1050 independent members, CEA is still in the exploratory stage. Its next step is to hire a chief executive to evaluate the group’s opportunities and assemble a business plan. This next step is advertised as a six-month effort, with the option to continue employment of the executive.
While CEA’s effort is promoted in the US as a mirror of NATO’s own Cinema Buying Group (CBG), CEA has shown deference to an advisory council that does not necessarily recognize CBG as a successful effort. It appears to be learning from the mistakes. The job description for its chief executive requires distribution experience, which should benefit the group’s discussions with studios.
Key to this group’s success is its ability to put together a business plan that accurately models the film print usage of its members. What it is likely to find is that the VPFs that can be generated are not sufficient to pay off an 80% loan for digital cinema equipment. As with CBG, it is likely to find that deployment entities will have a difficult time incorporating its members into their existing agreements. But unlike CBG, CEA has a rabbit in its hat. If it can make the case for additional funds to fill in the shortfall when recouping costs through VPFs, it may be able to stimulate financial support from the British government.
The UK Film Council has already demonstrated an ability to pull in government-run lottery funds for digital cinema equipment. The catch, however, is that the UK government is likely to change in the coming year, after which whatever political will that now exists to support cinemas will be different. Whether different for the better, or different for the worse, remains to be seen.