Bright future forecast for European cinemas

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European Update

The Union Internationale des Cinémas/International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) and Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art et d’Essai/International Confederation of Art Cinemas (CICAE) have prepared a statement on “the health of the sector and key trends and challenges.”

The two European trade associations collected their thoughts in view of the European Commission’s very first “European Film Forum,” designed to explore the future of cinemas. The panel discussion was scheduled for a whopping two hours and 15 minutes during the Venice International Film Festival.

Not surprisingly, given that short window, UNIC and CICAE decided to release the statement during their own panel. Describing the “central role” that moviegoing plays in Europe with nearly one billion visits annually, the trade groups reminded everyone that, whatever their size or location, the 30,000 cinema screens “make significant contributions to cultural diversity, are essential to the commercial and cultural success of the European film industry and have a powerful social influence. Cinemas are creative meeting places that help stimulate dialogue on a range of important issues essential to Europe. Outside of the screening room, our members contribute to the well-being of local communities and facilitate urban regeneration and social cohesion.”

Lauding “strong innovation capacity and creativity” by cinema operators, who spent more than €1.5 billion (US$1.675 bil.) on the digital conversion alone, the organizations noted how cinema-going “has become an ever more engaging, diverse and immersive experience.”

In view of the Construction & Design focus of this issue, we also want to mention their thoughts on how “the experience inside the auditorium continues to be transformed.” According to UNIC and CICAE, investments in “groundbreaking technologies…provide an ever more immersive experience. Others have invested in new theatre designs, service concepts and seating upgrades to provide more comfort.” Acknowledging that “these efforts help the sector to confidently compete with the myriad of online entertainment that is on offer today,” there are also risks. “Smaller and rural cinemas in particular lack the resources to invest in further upgrades and risk being left behind. There is an urgent need for increased information-sharing around technological standards between all stakeholders in the cinema ecosystem to ensure that in the future all films can be screened in all types of theatres.”

This requires a “Cinema-Centered Agenda for European Film,” UNIC and CICAE assert. In order “to help ensure that the sector continues to thrive,” the groups “strongly call upon the European Commission and on film agencies in all member states… There are a wide variety of opportunities for collaboration and film agencies and the Commission can help cinema operators—especially smaller theatres and single-screen cinemas—to further develop their capacity, to the benefit of all.”

Kinepolis Ramps Up Revenues

As the number of admissions rose 14.6% during the first half of 2016, “mainly due to the addition of acquired and new cinemas in the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg,” Kinepolis Group also noted that “the number of visitors was virtually stable,” setting aside that expansion. The pan-European operator added that economic recovery across Spain made a positive contribution to the rise to 11.2 million tickets sold across all seven countries.

Back in June, Kinepolis had given credence to that resurgence by announcing an eight-plex with some 1,700 seats in the Nevada shopping mall in Armilla, Grenada, for a late-2016 opening. Kinepolis has operated 15 auditoriums with 4,600 seats in Granada since 2004. The second location “will allow Kinepolis to reinforce its position in the area and to offer Kinepolis’ unique cinema experience to an even wider audience,” the company stated. With the opening of Armilla and purchase and subsequent refurbishment/rebranding of the former Abaco Alcobendas in Madrid and Abaco Cinebox in Alicante, Kinepolis will operate six complexes in Spain.

With their current 46 cinema locations, “we have performed solidly,” said Eddy Duquenne, chief executive officer of Kinepolis Group. Success during the first half of 2016 is “also due to successful product innovation and further improved operational efficiency,” he added. Revenue from sale of tickets, beverages and snacks increased by 15.9%, outpacing the rise in attendance. Total revenue increased by 13.9% to €148.3 million (US$165.57 mil.). Box office per person increased “due to more 3D films and price adjustments at renovated complexes.” In-theatre sales also increased, Kinepolis explained, except in the Netherlands, where the acquisition of Utopolis impacted average sales numbers.

EFA Selects 50 Features

“It is with great pleasure” that the European Film Academy and EFA Prods. announced the 50 feature-length fiction films recommended for a nomination for the European Film Awards 2016. (Another 15 made the official documentary list.) With 33 European countries represented, organizers noted that “the list once again illustrates the great diversity in European cinema.”

In the 20 countries with the most Academy members, these very members voted one national film directly to the list. A selection committee that included the EFA board and five invited experts from as many countries complemented the list with additional titles.

In the coming weeks, all 3,000+ members of the European Film Academy will nominate the categories European Film, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenwriter to be announced on Nov. 5 at the Seville (Spain) European Film Festival. The awards for European Cinematographer, Editor, Production Designer, Costume Designer, Hair & Make-up Artist, Composer and Sound Designer will be determined by a seven-member jury.

The 29th European Film Awards presentation will take place on Dec. 10 in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016.

Toni Travels from Germany to Beverly Hills

It is safe to assume that several of the 50 titles that are deemed eligible for nominations for the European Film Awards will go on to represent their home countries at the 2017 Academy Awards as well. One case in point is Germany. The selection committee is sending Toni Erdmann to Beverly Hills for Oscar’s consideration, with help from U.S. distributor Sony Pictures Classics.

This father-daughter story has already sold to more than 100 countries and was written and directed by Maren Ade, who was just invited by the board of governors to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The nine-person jury, including Christoph Preßmar representing the German cinema owners association, HDF Kino, noted that this “bold and stylistically confident cinematic display of character on the pulse of the times” stood out among the eight films submitted: “Touching, evocative, implementing societal questions, and an unswerving artistic clarity. Just as modern international cinema should be.” The 2016 International Federation of Film Critics agreed, bestowing its Grand Prix for best film of the year at the San Sebastian Film Festival.