UNIC reaffirms value of theatrical exhibition

European Update

On opening day of the San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain (Sept. 18-26), the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) took another step in “reaffirming the cultural and economic value that exclusive theatrical film releases bring to audiences and the entire European film system.” Issued by the trade body that represents cinemas and their professional associations in 36 countries and partner of CineEurope, “the statement underlines exhibitors’ commitment to a culturally diverse and competitive European cinema landscape.”

A few days later, representatives from the European Commission met with cinema professionals to further “discuss how EU policy can help promote audience engagement across the film sector.” UNIC asked these leaders to “revisit the current direction of EU audiovisual policy, placing cinemas at the center of Europe’s strategy for film. Only in this way,” UNIC noted, “will it be ensured that the strategy benefits the entire cinema ecosystem.”

Backup research provided by consultancy IHS continues to confirm that the success of a film in theatres remains as critical as ever to its success throughout the entire value chain. While UNIC made it clear that “cinema operators welcome the development of a legitimate online market for films” in order to help offset the losses in home distribution, the Video-on-Demand industry “needs to be developed on the strong shoulders of theatrical exhibition and not at its cost.”

UNIC further reminded policy-makers how cinemas across Europe offer “unparalleled cultural and social experiences” through investment, by continuously upgrading their theatres and by “securing exclusive rights to show films and event cinema before consumers can access these offers on their computers or mobile phones.” Theatre owners and operators embrace “continuous innovation with a view to attract ever more film fans to the big screen.”

The full statement can be read here.

FIPRESCI Favors Mad Max

Also in San Sebastian, the 493 members of the International Federation of Film Critics bestowed their Grand Prix 2015 upon George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. “You could have knocked me over with a feather,” Miller responded to the announcement. “It’s lovely to have this great cohort of critics acknowledge our collective labors in this way.”

In an open poll, the critics first nominated any feature-length work premiered since July of last year, leading to an addition three finalists: Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin, László Nemes’ Son of Saul and Jafar Panahi’s Taxi.

At the Oldenburg International Film Festival in the German city of the same name (Sept. 16-20), the European Film Academy announced the nominations for European Discovery honors. During the 2015 ceremony on Dec. 12 in Berlin, the Prix FIPRESCI will be awarded to a young and upcoming director for a first full-length feature film: Goodnight Mommy (Austria; written and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala), Limbo (Germany and Denmark; Anna Sofie Hartmann), Mustang (France, Germany and Turkey; written by Deniz Gamze Ergüven and Alice Winocour; directed by Ergüven), Slow West (New Zealand and U.K.; John Maclean) and Summers Downstairs (Germany and France; Tom Sommerlatte).

Next, the nominated films are submitted to the more than 3,000 EFA members to elect their winner. For more information, check out www.europeanfilmawards.eu.

Avanti Solutions for Motion Pictures

Leading satellite provider Avanti Communications signed a multi-year distribution contract with Motion Picture Solutions (MPS), the London-based service provider that offers end-to-end solutions from post-production and mastering through to distribution, KDMs and screenings.

According to chief executive David Williams, Avanti Communications’ technology “represents the fastest way to deliver film content, with the highest security and pioneering levels of flexibility.” Howard Kiedaisch, chief executive officer at MPS, explains that Avanti’s Ka-band satellites were integrated seamlessly with their LANsat service and fiber network. The MPS system facilitates playback for live events over satellite, Internet library management and 18TB of storage, he noted, “giving cinemas the facility to store up to 80 features on one device.” MPS’ DCP distribution receiver offers “guaranteed delivery and active monitoring of sent files coupled with free automated key delivery and management to exhibitors direct to their theatre management system.”

Through their HYLAS satellite fleet and more than 160 partners in 118 countries, the $1.2 billion Avanti network provides ubiquitous Internet service to 27 percent of the world’s population. It has rights to orbital slots and Ka-band spectrum that cover over 1.5 billion people.

All You Need is BFI Love

For three months starting in mid-October, the British Film Institute is all about "Love." About one thousand events will take place all over the United Kingdom, presenting “Films to Fall in Love With…Films to Break Your Heart.” The program includes books and education. All in all, more than 600 “bespoke film screenings and experiences” are planned at over 300 locations.

The series compasses three key themes–“The Power of Love,” “Fools for Love” and “Fatal Attractions”–and includes film screenings and Q&As with special guests at BFI Southbank. There will be screenings of epic romances on Britain’s biggest screen, the BFI IMAX, such as Gone With the Wind (1939), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Cleopatra (1963) and Titanic (1997). In celebration of its 50th anniversary, David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago will receive a U.K.-wide theatrical release “in a beautiful new 4K digital restoration.”

In a uniquely British touch, the 70th-anniversary screenings of Brief Encounter will be commemorated with nationwide tea dances. Uniquely Berlin, even though taking place at Paisley Abbey, which apparently dates back to the 12th century, is the experimental music-and-performance take on Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. The Glasgow Film Festival has also solicited more than 15 partner cinemas (at press time) to simultaneously screen the film, preceded by a specially recorded audio piece from musician Tut Vu Vu and artist Kathryn Elkin.

At the “Love” launch event at BFI Southbank, talking about his global rom-com hit Four Weddings and a Funeral, director Mike Newell lauded Hugh Grant as “the first of the commitment-phobics…he’s good looking, has wonderful hair, and he’s immensely deft with words–he could speak Richard Curtis’s wonderful script as it was supposed to be.”