Europe could have a network of several thousand "Cyber-cinemas" screening digital movies distributed by satellite in the next century. The cinemas could double as electronic town halls linking communities for political and social debates with video, audio and simultaneous translation.
The scheme is being promoted by Wieland Schultz-Keil, German producer of films such as Under the Volcano, from his European Film and Audio Centre, Babelsberg (EFB) in Potsdam. With a consortium of companies and universities he has won Ecu 950,000 (Pounds 630,000) from the European Commission for a feasibility study beginning this spring.
EFB along with Aerospatiale, Barco, Deutsche Telekom, Ente-Cinema, FERA, Hewlett-Packard, Media Salles, Pathe, Philips, Sony and the technical universities of Berlin and Delft will transmit ten children's films to five European cinemas for simultaneous screening. A commercial version of the system would allow cinemas to download movies at night to screen later.
The group is seeking further funding to equip 16 European cities of culture in time for an interactive millennium celebration, and to establish 1,000 networked venues in European towns and suburbs. The consortium believes that the digital distribution channel will challenge Hollywood's domination and help European films to reach European screens, while the forums will strengthen democracy.