Maintaining momentum: Europe sets bold initiatives to recapture moviegoers


This year, discussions at CinemaCon will more than ever focus on audiences, their increasingly diverse lifestyles and the many innovative opportunities that exist to attract and entertain cinemagoers, young and old. Such renewed consumer focus is perhaps welcome after the global technology frenzy that has fueled the dynamics of cinema conventions over the past decade.

UNIC—the International Union of Cinemas—represents exhibitors and their national associations in Europe, Russia and Turkey. That’s 33 000 screens, accounting for box-office revenues of € 7.5 billion—around one-quarter of the global exhibition landscape. Across our territories, in 2013 cinemas experienced a moderate drop in both box-office income (3%) and admissions (2.2%) after very strong results in previous years. While markets in Central Europe, Turkey and Russia continued their strong upward trajectory, admissions in most mature Western territories have plateaued in recent years, with the economic downturn hitting hardest in Southern Europe.

That said, there are plenty of bold initiatives to recapture momentum and create excitement around European cinemagoing. In January, French colleagues launched an audacious—and hotly debated—youth initiative, significantly lowering ticket prices for under-14-year-olds. Across Europe, others are exploring new ways to make cinemagoing an ever more seamless, social, participative and playful experience. Social media, mobile apps, innovative partnerships with third-party brands, experiments with alternative content and a reassessment of what makes cinema the ultimate leisure destination all come into play here. Innovative cinema technology, naturally, will continue to play a major role. New developments in immersive sound are just one example of how technology contributes to providing audiences with an experience worlds apart from consuming content on a mobile device or in the home.

UNIC recognizes that the process of managing innovation and change across the entire film value chain has of necessity become more collaborative, interdisciplinary and experimental. The exhibition community has to collaborate and innovate across organizational and territorial boundaries if it wishes to continue to outperform emerging global online platforms.

UNIC’s recent establishment of three international working groups—which we have called “UNIC Labs”—bringing together thought leaders and senior exhibition executives from member companies, is intended to be a small contribution to this challenge. Focusing on retail, marketing and technology, respectively, each aims to identify how exhibition can further upgrade the cinemagoing experience to the benefit of audiences. Together with our Partner Programme, which strengthens our networks with leading brands and suppliers operating in the cinema space, we aim to launch several real-time experiments that test new approaches to innovation in cinema. Should you be interested in working with us in this context, we would love to hear from you during CinemaCon.

Cinema exhibition and the wider film industry face significant political challenges across the European Union in the coming year. Promoting and defending exhibition’s interests in this sphere is of course UNIC’s raison d’etre, and takes up the bulk of our time and efforts. In Europe, we face some hopefully short-term uncertainty in this context. In May, around 375 million eligible voters will be asked to vote for a new European Parliament and—given current developments—the outcome is unclear. At the same time, the European Commission seems set to establish a copyright-reform process that could have an impact on how we do business and fight film theft. Continuous awareness-raising and advocacy in order to maintain conditions that allow cinema exhibition to thrive will be our major task in the coming year.

Finally, CineEurope—UNIC’s annual convention and Europe’s premier cinema convention, co-organized in collaboration with Prometheus Global Media—is just around the corner. From June 16-19 we will again celebrate the cinemagoing experience in the Barcelona Convention Centre (CCIB). You can expect an innovative, entertaining and cutting-edge convention filled with unparalleled screenings, a major trade show and an intelligent and diverse conference program. Why not plan a trip to Europe this summer?

But first things first: Enjoy CinemaCon! Our friends Mitch Neuhauser and John Fithian and their teams at CinemaCon and NATO have surely again prepared an outstanding event.

Thank you, Mitch and John.