France's MK2 circuit plans conversion to digital

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Caption: The Kinepolis in Ghent

By 2010, French art-house chain MK2 will outfit all 58 of its screens with digital-cinema equipment. Paris-based Ymagis will pay most of the $5 million investment, Variety reported. With financing by European investment funds and deals in place with Disney, Fox, Paramount and Universal, Ymagis signed agreements with some 15 exhibitors and 90 screens for France and also has digital deployment deals for Belgium.

In Le Figaro, MK2’s director general Nathanael Karmitz lauded the increased cost savings to independent distributors of five to ten percent on even a small number of prints. “That is a guarantee for more diversity,” he declared. With digital, MK2 could not only reinvent what’s “on” the screen but also what’s “around” it, he further stated, such as concerts, events and even more short films as well.

Kinepolis in Ghent Gets Facelift
Twenty-eight years after it opened as Decascoop and after eight-and-a-half months of renovations, the Belgian city of Ghent now has its very own Kinepolis of 3,470 seats. To make way for the new name and look, “with the latest gadgets, innovations and facilities,” the entrance hall was demolished, reports Miriam Dassonville from the pan-European circuit’s communications department. The “immense” and “thoroughly restyled” lobby, designed by architects ESTE, makes everything “even more glamorous, spacious and harmonious.” There are 18 “high-tech automatic booking counters” alongside large self-service shops, where “visitors can enjoy a wide range of snacks, including a healthy assortment.”

Kinepolis Ghent also offers 336 square meters (3,617 sq. ft.) of business meeting space for some 600 people. Ten of its 12 auditoriums feature Barco digital projection, two with Dolby 3D add-ons. No wonder the company states the multiplex “is being promoted more strongly than ever as a B2B location…via the specially adapted conference infrastructure and service, intensive media campaigns and successful partnerships.”

One example of the latter is the current initiative of showcasing “broad, social and world-friendly motives” across the entire circuit, in a series of “films, documentaries and/or total events.” Sample titles under the “World” label are The Age of Stupid (in association with Greenpeace), Climbing Spielberg, Antarctica Challenge and local production, Recht in de Ogen.

EFA Gets Animated

At the next European Film Awards, the European Film Academy, in association with Cartoon (European Association of Animation Film), will introduce an award to honor the art form of animation. A committee of experts will select three nominees to submit to EFA members, who will vote for the best animated film in time for the Dec. 20 ceremony in Bochum, Germany.

Admiral Admits Dogs
Tail-wagging good news from Vienna, Austria: On the first Thursday of every month, the Admiral Kino opens its doors for dogs and their owners. Prompted by her pooches, Harald and Odin, owner-operator Michaela Englert, who took over the venerable 1912 Lichtspielhaus when it was set to close a year and a half ago, came up with the idea for “Doggy Day.” Initial concerns about dog fights in the aisle and cat calls to the screen proved needless, as the four-legged guests have been enjoying special pillows and cuddle blankets, a petting corner, bowls of fresh water and, of course, Hundepopcorn.

Deutsche Dream Kinos
“Finally, after a three-year break, here’s the new calendar for next year,” e-mails Sylvia Ballhause from Leipzig, Germany. In conjunction with Edition Panorama, the photographer selected 12 images plus a cover from her “longtime project, KINO(T)RÄUME, the finest German movie theatre architecture from the 1950s to 1970s.” The title is a play on words in which leaving out the “T” turns “dreams” into “rooms.”

The year-long line of Lichtspieltheater goes from Astra (Essen) and Blumenlichtspiele (Kandern) to Theatiner Filmkunst (Munich) and Zoo Palast (Berlin). A full selection of Ballhause’s cult kinos can be seen at www.sylviaballhause.de/kinotraeume-bilder. The award-winning calendar comes with an English/German introduction, an international calendar and spiral binding. It measures approximately 60 x 50 cm (18 x 15 inches).

Europa Cinemas Go Latin
Europa Cinemas (www.europa-cinemas.org/en/index.php), the MEDIA program that supports the showing of European films in theatres, is now extending its network to Asia and Latin America. In addition to 1,945 screens of 758 movie theatres in 439 European cities, the global reach covers 144 cinemas in 19 countries, program director Fatima Djoumer noted. The program allocated €1.35 million (US$1.95 mil.) as part of the recently formed MEDIA International to support Asian and Latin American distributors and exhibitors.

Balmy Skies in Germany
According to the German Federal Film Board FFA, the Open Air Freiluft-Kino season during the summer of 2008 was the best in five years. With the publication of the latest edition analyzing “special types” of movie theatres, the funding body counted one million admissions or 120,000 more tickets (13.4%) than during the prior summer.

Overall, the number of special moviegoing venues—defined as locations that are neither multiplexes nor regular theatres—declined for the first time since 2003 to 562 screens. Nonetheless, at the end of 2008, every ninth screen (11.7%) across the country belonged to the group that also includes drive-ins, traveling Wanderspielstätten and nonprofit or membership-based theatres run by communities, screenings at cultural events, universities, schools and hospitals. Along with the decline in the number of venues came a 7% decline from 4.5 to 3.2 million tickets sold, whereas overall admissions in Germany were up 3.2%. In addition to open air, universities, schools and hospitals also recorded increases.

Chilly Scenes from Norway
From Oct. 14–24, Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America presented a selection of six recent films from Norway with “the aim of exposing an American audience to the work of both established directors and a new generation of filmmakers.”

In 2005, Norway celebrated its 100th anniversary. Cinema, of course, “was invented just ten years before” the separation of the Swedish-Norwegian Union, notes the Center’s press liaison, Kyle Reinhart. “So it could be said that the process of introducing the new medium into Norway went alongside that of creating a separate national identity for the new nation.”
Today, Norway produces about 15 to 17 feature films annually, often in co-production with other Scandinavian and European partners. Among the recent selections in Manhattan were Foreign Language Oscar submission Max Manus, and the tantalizingly titled Icekiss/Iskyss and Cold Lunch/Lønsj. Speaking of meals, the Center’s Smörgås Chef still offers Dinner and a Movie there, including Swedish meatballs.

E-mail news and comments to Andreas Fuchs at info@creativecinema.net.