Leading circuit in the Philippines, SM Cinema, owned by retail conglomerate SM Prime, has inked an agreement with Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in order to complete digital roll out of its 240 screens by end September 2012. The wider deal for full conversion is based on the VPF financing mechanism, which will allow the circuit to recoup a portion of costs. It is understood to be the same VPF network, based on signing of four studios, that was set up earlier this year in the territory through a joint venture known as D-Cinema Alliance (DCA). Therefore, DCA will manage VPF collection for SM Cinema in the territory. The VPF deal is currently supported by Warner, Sony, Disney, Fox, Paramount, Universal with two local distributors Viva Films and Regal Films also linked or in the process of signing. The group have targeted a total of 400 screens in the territory.
For FDCP, the agreement will mark support of its Cinematheque project, which aims to bring local and independent films to audiences in more remote parts of the territory, through digital cinema distribution. The commitment from SM Cinema will allow any film that is screened in the capital Metro Manila to also be screened in any other SM Cinema.
The deal allows for the final upgrade of all screens of the leading circuit in the Philippines to digital, following in the footsteps of a growing list of other major exhibitors worldwide. At end of June 2012, SM Cinema had already equipped 115 screens to digital, using mostly Christie projectors coupled with either Doremi or Qube servers. Of that total, around 37 per cent were also 3D converted using MasterImage equipment. The development will bolster levels of d-cinema activity in the Philippines, which has so far been languishing in the second tier of Asia Pacific territories of those with a low d-cinema penetration ratio. The move also highlights how the shift of momentum behind digital cinema is now moving away from W Europe and North America and into emerging regions particularly in Asia and Central and South America. The inclusion of local distributors serves to open up the VPF network wider in terms of recoupment, but more crucially regarding local film industry support.