UNIC assesses 2014 European exhibition

European Update

While not all numbers have been gathered and analyzed, the International Union of Cinemas (www.UNIC-cinemas.org) released its “first wide-ranging assessment of the performance of the European sector over the last year.” The trade group noted that cinemagoing across its 36 member territories “varied significantly in 2014, primarily due to the moderate performance of international films and some very strong local titles in certain countries.”

Based on available data, attendance for EU countries increased by 0.7% compared to 2013. Total admissions for all UNIC countries, including Russia, Turkey and the European Economic Area, increased by 1.6% and resulted in 1.6 cinema visits per capita.

With a strong lineup of local titles, three countries showed exemplary growth. France landed beyond the 200-million-ticket mark, increasing admissions by 7.7%. With a fantastic 29.5% increase in ticket sales and 21.8% in attendance, Turkey took the lead. Together with Poland (box office +9.3%; admissions +11.9%), these two markets “have in recent years developed into resilient growth markets.” UNIC also lauded signs of a turnaround in Spain. “After enduring consolidation for several years,” attendance grew by 13.6% and ticket revenue by 3%.

Berlin at Center of World Cinema

Having celebrated its 10th anniversary last October by securing funding for another three years, the World Cinema Fund (WCF) supported the production or distribution of 124 projects overall that were selected from 2,364 submissions from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia, the Caucasus region, and the countries Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (www.berlinale.de/en/branche/world_cinema_fund/wcf_profil/index.html). All of them received a cinema release and/or screened in the programs of well-known international film festivals, an achievement that organizers said documented the initiative’s international success.

Five films made it into this year’s Festival lineup as the Berlinale, once again, hosted the WCF-Day at Filmmuseum Berlin–Deutsche Kinemathek. “Not only about cinema,” discussions centered on the timely issue of “dealing with fundamentalism, tolerance and freedom of expression,” as well as addressing how to increase “visibility of cultural and geographical diversity in film production” worldwide. To further that end, Antje Glawe introduced ten funded films made available for the new “WCF on Demand” platform.

Originated by the Berlin International Film Festival (www.berlinale.de/en) and Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation), the Goethe-Institut joined the initiative in 2005, with the Auswärtiges Amt (Federal Foreign Office) “increasing its direct commitment” this year by becoming “a main partner of the WCF.”

Technology Makes Global Inroads

Continuing with our theme of global availability, theatrical exhibition software and technology certainly do their share to keep cinemas moving everywhere.

Already installed at over 20,000 cinema screens around the world, the U.K.’s Arts Alliance Media (AAM, www.artsalliancemedia.com) will supply its “Screenwriter” TMS to more than 1,500 Wanda Cinema Line locations across China as well. These sites will be monitored by AAM’s “Lifeguard” Network Operations Center, which is “designed for use by either integrators who require an out-of-the-box solution for digital-cinema monitoring, or by exhibitors who want to bring hardware maintenance in-house,” the company stated.

John Zeng (Zeng Mao Jun), Wanda Cinema Line’s chief executive officer, believes that this installation will “enable us to have better insight and control across our entire circuit, ultimately allowing us to provide our customers with the best possible experience.” Added AAM chief executive officer John Aalbers, “We believe that this agreement is one of the largest-ever cinema software deals and we’re delighted to be making it with such an esteemed partner.”

In a Western European-partnership first, South Korea’s CJ 4DPlex is entering the United Kingdom. Milton Keynes, once home to the first U.S.-style multiplex and first (and last) EasyCinema, opened its first 4DX multisensory auditorium at Cineworld with Kingsman: The Secret Service. Located inside the Xscape center, which also houses the country’s biggest indoor snow slopes, the Cineworld 4DX auditorium will have 140 motion seats in front of a curved screen that measures 5.8 m x 5 m (19 x 16 feet). That’s “bigger than a double-decker bus,” CJ 4DPlex noted.

Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld chief executive officer, anticipates Milton Keynes to be followed by many more installations (www.cineworld.co.uk/blog/4dx-cineworld-milton-keynes). “In 4DX, cinemagoers will become part of the action as motions, sounds, lights, and special effects thrill them in their seats.” With support from the Hollywood studio community, more than 220 movies have been presented in 150 4DX auditoriums of 30 countries. Geneva, Switzerland is next for 4DX this March.

Vue Names Horn Head of CinemaxX

Carsten Horn was named managing director of CinemaxX Holdings GmbH and put in charge of the circuit’s 33 kinos with 285 screens across Germany and Denmark (www.cinemaxx.de). In a move similar to Gerry Lopez, who traded coffee for popcorn when he became head of AMC Entertainment (http://bit.ly/fji0812amcwanda), Horn joins CinemaxX after managing German coffee roaster and retailer Tchibo’s 700 coffee and retail stores and 210 stores owned and operated by flower retailer Blume 2000. 

Tim Richards, founder and CEO of Vue Entertainment International (http://bit.ly/fji0714vuemcnair), welcomed Horn “as we seek to develop new services at our existing cinemas and expand in new markets across Europe” beyond its 1,733 screens at 187 multiplexes in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Taiwan. For Horn, “The right company has to have the right culture, great people, world-class assets and an appetite for the future. Vue Group ticks all these boxes and I can’t wait to meet everyone at CinemaxX in Germany and Denmark and get started.”

Critics Open New Gateway

“To better serve film professionals and cinephiles,” FIPRESCI–the International Federation of Film Critics redesigned their online portal at www.fipresci.org. Honoring the 90th anniversary of the organization, the renewal was headed by Berk Ozler (of Istanbul, Turkey-based www.mingus.co) and envisions “a gateway to cinema through film criticism.” The archive of FIPRESCI honors dates back to 1946, when they were awarded during the first edition of the Festival de Cannes. So far, files on 924 films, 784 festivals, 1,796 reports and 2,070 personality profiles have been uploaded. Future awards and festival reports will be updated continuously, FIPRESCI assures.

In the framework of “Berlinale Talents,” FIPRESCI supports the next generation of film critics. For the 12th year running, experienced professionals take on eight young critics as they write daily on the festival, its films and events (www.fipresci.org/news/berlinale-talents).