Major changes announced at UNIC

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During CineEurope, UNIC (Union Internationale des Cinémas/International Union of Cinemas) announced “major changes intended to strengthen its effectiveness and influence as the voice of European cinema exhibition.” German-born Jan Runge will be leading the trade organization as the newly appointed chief executive, with his first order of business seeing headquarters moved from Paris to Brussels.

Continuing the association’s goal “to promote and defend the social, cultural and economic contributions of cinemas across Europe,” Runge believes that this relocation “will help ensure that policy-makers in Brussels and all over Europe recognize cinema operators’ capacity to fully embrace innovation and to attract audiences with an upgraded and diverse cinema offer.”

In making the announcement, UNIC also confirmed its streamlining of the structure of its board and welcomed several new cinema operators that joined the existing roster of exhibitor associations and individual circuits. Representing 33,000 screens in 19 countries with over one billion moviegoers per year, cinema operators now include Cinéma Gaumont Pathé, Cineworld, Kinepolis, Mars Entertainment, Movies@ Cinemas, Nordisk Film Biografer, Odeon/UCI/Cinesa, SF Bio, Svenska Bio, UGC, Utopia Group, Vue Entertainment and Yelmo Cines.

“The challenges faced by European cinema exhibitors have never been so great or varied,” noted UNIC’s president Ad Weststrate. “These changes, agreed with UNIC colleagues, are our response, and will result in a stronger collective voice on the issues which matter most.”

MEDIA Launches Digitization Program
MEDIA, the support program of the European Commission, has set its rules and regulations to obtain funding for digital deployment. According to the 13-page document, the 2011 budget for co-financing the installation of up to three screens per cinema at €20,000 each (US$29,000) is €2 million. To receive grants, at least half of the films shown at qualifying cinemas need to be of European origin (30% non-national titles). The cinemas have to offer no less than 70 seats and 520 shows per year and have welcomed 20,000 moviegoers over the past 12 months.

3D News Times Three
For the premiere of the Czech Republic’s first film shot in 3D, the fantasy musical Under the Duvet, at the 51st Annual International Film Festival for Children and Youth in Zlín, Germany’s Kinoton helped equip the 1,010-seat Grand Cinema. Local sales and service partner Kinoservis installed two DCP 30 LX DLP Cinema projectors (manufactured by Kinoton, based on technology provided by Barco and featuring a Dolby 3D LS solution).

In France, Les Cinémas Gaumont Pathé selected MasterImage 3D for its ongoing rollout. High on the priority list are new theatres in The Netherlands and top Parisian locations such as Gaumont Ambassade on the Champs Elysees and Gaumont Opéra. Again, local partners (ADDE and Cinemeccanica France) are taking on installation and maintenance services for MI-2100 digital 3D systems and MI-1000 dual projection 3D glass filters. Noted Brian Kercher, managing director of MasterImage 3D PLC, “Our strategy to provide the best 3D technology in partnership with leading reseller partners has helped us rapidly grow our installations and market share in Europe.”

Courtesy of Harkness Screens and documented in the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest 3D movie screen (so far) was installed at Le Grand Palais in Paris for a special screening of Rio. LG Electronics and Parisian exploitant extraordinaire MK2 co-hosted the launch event for LG’s Cinema 3D TV. With 1,500 invited guests mesmerized by Harkness’ Spectral 240 3D silver-surface screen measuring 27 meters wide by 11 meters high (88.6 by 36.1 feet), Guinness also recorded the largest audience for a 3D film. In related news, Harkness doubled its manufacturing capabilities for the EMEA region with an €2.5 million investment (US$3.6 mil.) to its operations in France, with additional screen production commencing in July.

CinemaxX Selects Sony 4K
After launching MaxXimum Sound with Meyer Sound (FJI July 2011), Germany’s CinemaxX is now set to go all 4K with Sony digital projectors. The memorandum of understanding covering 292 screens (with Sony collecting virtual print fees) was announced at CineEurope. Some 100 screens have already been rolled out, confirmed Sony Digital Cinema’s country expert Oliver Pasch.

FTT Expands European Operations
Germany’s FTT (Film Ton Technik) acquired 20% of Minsk, Belarus-based Kraftwerk Weißrussland COOO, an affiliate of Austria’s Welskraft Technology Holding GmbH. In Rome, FTT opened new offices in partnership with Kinoroma and operating under the heading of FTT Digital Cinema Italia s.r.l. FTT-DCI marks the continuation of “close ties” with the country, said managing director Thomas Rüttgers, whose company marketed Cinemeccanica products in Germany from 1972 to 2009. “We think that the Italian market is now ready for a d-cinema rollout on a large scale,” noted Tony Vagnarelli, FTT-DCI’s managing director. About the prospects in Belarus, Kraftwerk’s Aliaxandr Handogin is equally enthused. “We have seen how enthusiastically people reacted to this new technology and that it really can move forward the cinema market in our country.”

D-Cinema Increases Norway Attendance

As “the first country in the world,” industry association Film & Kino proudly reports, “Norway has completed a collective, national digitalization of its cinema theatres.” The upgrade process of 185 sites ended almost a year earlier than anticipated. Mobile locations included, 410 screens across the country can now show digital films and alternative content. Almost 70% are 3D-capable as well. Even better, “the small and medium-sized cinemas are reporting a large increase in attendance.” Investments by the municipalities have paid off, finds consulting department head and d-cinema project manager Jørgen Stensland. “It shows that the decision to digitalize all the cinemas was the right one.”

Cineworld Updates Numbers
For the first half of 2011, Cineworld Group plc recorded numerous pre-close results. Circuit box-office market share increased 24.9% on a 0.9% higher collection at cinema tills. In the previous year of Avatar and Alice, 3D accounted for 27% of box office versus 20% during the current year. While total retail “remained broadly level against last year, a creditable result in a challenging consumer environment,” screen-advertising revenues dipped some 1.6%.

Continuing its investment in d-cinema, the Group currently has 485 screens, or 60% of total, digitally equipped. On June 17 at The Brewery in Cheltenham, Cineworld launched its “new premium cinema concept as planned,” called The Screening Rooms.

E-mail news and comments for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally@filmjournal.com.