Some staff at French cinema circuit UGC went on strike in July over plans by the circuit's management to cut 95 projectionist jobs out of a total of 215 (44.2 per cent) as it converts to digital technology. In the end, 10 out of 40 UGC sites were affected by the strike. The UGC management is offering retraining for those affected, and voluntary redundancy for any staff that declined this offer. The issue of projectionists is very much a live one on France, with institutional players waking up to potential impact on jobs. For example, the French region of Aquitaine has established a digital conversion fund for its smaller exhibitors, and made keeping and developing permanent staff a condition of the support.
UGC believe that digital cinema will mean a profound change in the role of projectionist, but not its disappearance, which is backed up by Screen Digest's own research and observation of this field. The new projectionist will still need the ability to create a film schedule, and in fact this side will become more challenging as digital cinema creates greater flexibility of film programming, as well the appearance of alternative forms of (live and recorded) content. However, in a digital world, this role is also more technical in nature, needing to understand the machines and carry out some maintenance tasks. It is clear that fewer projectionists will be needed in a digital world but that doesn't mean that there are no new jobs in cinemas. The area of 3D creates a range of tasks linked to glasses, and the rise of technology in general in cinemas also requires monitoring and management. Cinemas are also in need of greater marketing expertise to sell new forms of content (such as opera, sport, gaming, theatre, comedy) to consumers, where before the majority of marketing was undertaken by the film distributor.
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