Shared strengths: Cinemas in Asia and Europe have common interests
This December, CineAsia in Hong Kong puts the spotlight on the fast-paced and extraordinary development of cinema exhibition in the Asia-Pacific region, an exciting mix of vibrant markets that strengthen both the diversity and the resilience of global cinema exhibition.
First of all, congratulations to TOHO Cinemas and Kazuhiko Seta from Japan on winning the CineAsia Exhibitor of the Year Award and for illustrating that going to the movies remains a timeless and unparalleled leisure activity (and certainly good business!) in markets where the proliferation of VOD platforms has grown significantly over the past five years.
In Europe, we have in recent times paid close attention to the rise of cinema exhibition in many Asian territories, including of course China’s astounding 36 percent year-on-year boom in 2012. Taken together with the resilient market represented by UNIC member territories—which accounted for box-office revenues of around €7.4 billion in 2012—Asia and Europe together now command more than 50 percent of global box office. That alone is an important reason to increase dialogue and cooperation between our markets, if only to make sure that in the future films are increasingly made with our diverse audiences and tastes in mind.
What other interests unite us? Firstly, there is of course the transition to digital cinema, which—with more than 80 percent of all screens now converted—is reaching its endgame in both regions. We of course need to support the remaining 20 percent who have not so far gone digital, while at the same time ensuring that cinema exhibitors remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding when and how our industry innovates in the future. Recent experiences in relation to “immersive sound” and Higher Frame Rates underline the need for us increasingly to speak with one voice with regard to all aspects of cinema technology.
Film theft remains another top priority. Exhibitors will continue to target camcording “hotspots” and further improve efforts to identify illegal recording devices where they are being used in theatres. There is also a need to support partners from distribution in fighting piracy on the Internet, which harms the healthy development of the entire motion picture industry. Ultimately, the development of legitimate VOD markets will be to the benefit of cinema exhibition, if and when these new players accept that they have to partake in financing the creative process and recognize that films are best released in cinemas before they are offered on other digital platforms that yield less certain returns.
In relation to the latter, UNIC encourages all international exhibitors—large and small—to retain their robust position regarding the value that an exclusive and sustainable theatrical release window brings to the entire film industry, including Video on Demand. In Europe, after years of often ill-informed comment from Internet pundits and fellow advocates of day-and-date releases, recent months have seen even VOD entrepreneurs begin to acknowledge that without a healthy theatrical window their businesses would vanish in the medium-term.
Cinema exhibition will surely remain a highly dynamic and rewarding industry for years to come in both Asia and Europe. We hope to see our colleagues in Asia benefit from a great slate of films towards the end of 2013 and look forward to increasing our collaborative efforts in the coming months.
UNIC (the International Union of Cinemas) speaks on behalf of the majority of cinema operators in Europe and represents more than 36,000 screens. Visit www.unic-cinemas.org.