Transition to digital: deputies ratify Virtual Print Fee
by Fabien Lemercier
17/06/2010 - Yesterday, the digitisation of movie theatres reached the Chamber of Deputies where a bill was adopted, introducing the compulsory contribution by distributors to support exhibitors (directly or through a third-party investor) during the first two weeks on release of a new film in digital. This VPF (Virtual Print Fee) system is planned for a maximum of ten years after the installation of digital equipment in the theatre concerned, with the cost of digital equipment estimated at €80,000 per screen.
The amount and terms of payment of this contribution will be determined by negotiations that the law requires to be "fair, transparent and objective" (recourse to a cinema mediator is possible in the case of a dispute). Theatrical screenings of non-cinematic digital content will also be subject to the VPF and the law forbids that the payment of the contribution be tied to any conditions of programming and distribution so that exhibitors keep control over their selection of films and distributors over their release schedule.
For theatres in small towns and rural areas, Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand has announced that the National Film and Moving Image Centre (CNC) will, in the coming months, introduce financial support for digitisation, which could cover 90% of their investment in digital equipment.
By the end of April, 1,038 of the 5,470 screens in French movie theatres were already digitally-equipped.
(Translated from French)