Diversity of European film at risk


While its more than 2,700 members crowned Michael Haneke’s Amour, Austria’s Foreign-Language Film Oscar contender, as Best European Film of 2012 with additional awards for the director and his leading legends, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant (www.europeanfilmawards.eu), the board of the European Film Academy (EFA) showed little love for and “much concern” about the latest proposed changes to the EU “Cinema Communication.” New restrictions to territoriality clauses would prevent film-support schemes from going beyond the obligation to spend more than 100% of the aid amount locally.

Despite so-called cultural exceptions, national film funding is at risk, especially in member states with “important” mechanisms like Germany and France who “have expressed deep concerns about the new rule.” During their meeting held in Valletta, Malta, following the 25th-anniversary edition, the board pleaded with the European Commission “to take these concerns seriously and to come to an agreement with the member states. Europe needs cultural diversity!”

Amsterdam EYEs Cinematic Abstraction
Through mid-March 2013, EYE—the film museum in Amsterdam and the Center for Visual Music in Los Angeles jointly present the work of Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), a pioneer of animated film and abstract cinema. This German avant-garde filmmaker who left Hitler’s Germany for Hollywood in 1936 made short films that became “highly influential in the development of the animation film, music-video and computer graphics.” Calling him “one of the most important film artists of the 20th century,” curators also said Fischinger “steered cinema in an entirely new direction.”

“Experiments in Cinematic Abstraction” shows many of his films and some original, never previously displayed animation drawings that Fischinger used to shoot his films frame-by-frame, supplemented by paintings, notated music scores and documents.

Picturehouses Joins Cineworld
Continuing to own majority interests in Arts Alliance Media, Europe’s largest digital-cinema integration company, along with other investments, Arts Alliance sold City Screen Group, which operates 21 Picturehouse Cinemas with 60 screens in England and Scotland, to Cineworld Group plc, for £47.3 million in cash (€58.4 mil., US$76.4 mil.).

Arts Alliance founder Thomas Høegh lauded Picturehouse’s managing director, Lyn Goleby, and her team for having been “at the forefront of developing a customer-centric, quality cinema experience,” and for successfully bringing “the unique Picturehouse proposition to an ever-increasing number of passionate audiences." In Cineworld, he said, “Arts Alliance could not have found a better partner for Picturehouse to scale the circuit to many more [locations].” Concurrently, Cineworld announced that net proceeds from the placing of new ordinary shares will be used “to fund in part” the acquisition, with the balance coming from new debt under Cineworld’s existing undrawn bank facilities and debt assumed as part of the Picturehouse acquisition.

Picturehouse is the U.K.’s leading arthouse cinema operator and was the first major group to convert 100% to digital. The company also provides programming and ticketing solutions to over 50 independent cinemas throughout the U.K. and Norway, and operates Picturehouse Entertainment distribution. Between 2002 and 2011, Picturehouse saw revenues and earnings increase more than fourfold.

Arts Alliance Media continues to provide digital in-cinema solutions, services and support to both Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas. In the latest Arts Alliance deal in Spain, five Cines ABC and 55 screens across the Valencia region will be converted under the AAM/Barco Leasing Program, including Barco projectors, Doremi servers and IMBs, and AAM’s software suite. AAM recently concluded another VPF deal with Grupo Sade’s three cinemas in San Sebastian, and earlier this year announced a deal with ACEC Cines, the 2012 Exhibitor of the Year at CineEurope.

3D Stereo MEDIA Finds Success
At the beginning of December, the fourth edition of the European Forum for Stereoscopic 3D for Science, Technology and Digital Art, welcomed over 40 international speakers to Liège, Belgium (www.3dstereomedia.eu). In addition to keynotes by talent working on the likes of Avatar, Beowulf and The Lion King, 3D Stereo MEDIA offered hands-on training for filmmakers and students. The 3D Film Festival presenting over 60 titles was once again augmented by the 3D co-production Film Market in Europe. For this second edition, the jury selected 20 projects from submissions by a dozen countries with a total budget of €155 million (US$203 mil.) that were pitched to 11 investors consisting of sales agents, distributors, financiers, et al. The International 3D Society chose the event to present its 3D Creative Arts Awards for film and television productions in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. “This year, the international reputation of 3D Stereo MEDIA is bearing fruit,” organizers noted.

More Deals for dcinex
Further solidifying its position as pan-European provider of “fully integrated and best-in-class solutions for movie operations,” dcinex announced a flurry of agreements and activities. dcinex formed a commercial partnership with VSI Group “aiming at providing one-stop-shop digital content services to movie distributors.” VSI’s 200-plus employees in 16 dubbing studios and subtitling offices make the London-based company “the world leader” in language versioning. Carsten Schuffert, VP of content services at dcinex, noted how their complementary geographical presence offers “unprecedented proximity to the local markets.” As a first step, dcinex has already collaborated with VSI in France to open a new hub in Paris for optimized physical DCP delivery and backup to DSAT Cinema, the recent joint venture between dcinex and Eutelsat.

In the United Kingdom, dcinex acquired 51% of consultancy Cinema Next, thereby extending their respective ranges of activities as the newly named dcinex U.K. Cinema Next will become the exhibitor-services arm of dcinex in the U.K. and the flagship company of the new consulting business of dcinex in Europe. “We have been advising real estate firms and exhibitors to improve cinema design and operations for more than a decade now,” noted John Sullivan, head of consulting activities and director of dcinex U.K. “We are happy to join with dcinex to grow that business throughout Europe.” Keith Pullinger, the new country general manager/director of dcinex U.K., added that the combined entity “will give us the unique opportunity to support our clients from initial advice through to execution and beyond.”

For the first time in Russia, the cinema program of Eurimages lent its financial support to assist with the digital conversion of a cinema. The Russian subsidiary of dcinex equipped the second screen of the 35mm Cinema (www.kino35mm.ru/en) with Doremi IMB and ShowVault, Volfoni 3D, JBL speakers and Rosettabridge TMS. In addition, a Barco ACS2049 scaler for alternative-content screenings and a Datasat AP20 16-channel processor for simultaneous interpreting, among other options, “provide for the latest standards in a state-of-the-art cinema.” Julia Vinokurova, managing director of dcinex Russia, explained that Eurimages grants up to €30,000 euros (US$39,000) per screen and/or 50% of the purchase and installation costs of digital equipment to assist exhibitors in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Georgia.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this column erroneously stated the EYE museum was showing an HD re-creation of Oskar Fischinger’s c. 1926 multi-projector installation Raumlichtkunst. The installation was re-created and mounted by the Center for Visual Music and is currently on view at the Tate Modern in London, England, until May 2013.

Send your European news items for Andreas Fuchs to kevin.lally@filmjournal.com.