Innovation Labs


Sofia Innovation Lab 2015


Building Audiences from the Ground up


In March 2015, Europa Cinemas held its second Audience Development & Innovation Lab in Bulgaria as part of the Sofia International Film Festival.

Sessions were led by Madeleine Probst (Vice-president of Europa Cinemas and Programme Producer at the Watershed in Bristol), with the assistance of Marynia Gierat (Manager of Kino Pod Baranami, in Kraków) and Sylvain Chevreton (Young Audiences Coordinator at Le Méliès in Saint-Etienne). Thirty-six participants, directors and exhibitors, half of whom came from Central and Eastern Europe, attended four days of workshops on the theme of Building Audiences from the Ground up.

Appropriately for this theme, the event was held at the Cultural Centre G8 Cinema, the new film theatre in the centre of Sofia. The choice of this city was also particularly pertinent given the enthusiasm for the Sofia Film Festival among local audiences.

Challenges, facilities and partnerships

As usual, day one was a day for introductions. The main challenges facing cinema managers, programmers and coordinators were identified. This time, the key themes that came out of individual presentations were the need to raise the cinemas’ profile, improving digital communication and further developing of the programmes targeting the Young Audiences. These topics were then taken up in practical workshops that ran alongside discussions and brainstorming activities.

Participants also shared their strengths and weaknesses: Programming expertise and the identity of individual cinemas were often mentioned as major assets. In contrast, some participants spoke of the difficulties they faced working with the limitations of old buildings, and a lack of resources to modernise cinemas.

Facilities were a central theme of discussions on day two, which started with a tour of the host cinema. This gave the participants an opportunity to self evaluate their own premises, to consider the potential their spaces offered and the question of the interior design in general. Afterwards, we looked at different models of interior design achieved in seemingly unfavourable situations.

Tudor Giurgiu (film director, producer, distributor and director of the Transylvania International Film Festival) and Stephane Kalev (Sofia Meetings) gave a presentation on Operation Kino. This transnational initiative was set up by a number of festivals in the Balkans - including Cluj-Napoca in Romania, Sofia and Sarajevo. Taking the form of a travelling cinema, the project's aim is to disseminate auteur films in emerging countries. As an outcome, tens of thousands of film lovers have been able to watch films they would not have had the opportunity to see otherwise due to a lack of facilities and inadequate provision.

Always on the lookout for solutions when options seem limited, Sylvain Chevreton showcased an amusing video campaign launched to promote the Cinéma Méliès Saint-François in Saint-Etienne. His team took over this traditional cinema under a year ago and a series of quirky clips have helped increase its visibility. Still on the theme of reviving fortunes, Andrea Frenguelli talked about the crowdfunding campaign his team launched to open the Cinemà PostModernissimo in Perugia, central Italy, last November. The unexpected success of the campaign has created an unbreakable link between members of the public and the cinema.

Examples of other successful collaborations were also presented. Kino Europa and the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra have been organising screenings of classic films with live musical accompaniments. And in Belgium, the CineMAATjes programme sees the Budascoop cinema in Kortrijk transformed into a local cultural centre for one morning each week. Finally, Branko Krsmanovic of Bioskop Kupina Film in Niš, Serbia emphasised the importance of developing initiatives directed at teenage audiences. Attendance at his cinema has increased significantly since he introduced a scheme for young ambassadors who are chosen by local schools and cultural institutions to watch films and promote them among their friendship groups.

At the next session, we concentrated on initiatives to create a dialogue with new generations of cinemagoers. First of all, Javier Pachón Paz of the CineCiutat in Palma (Majorca) showcased the KontraBando Film Festival. Alongside the short films at the focus of this festival, teenagers have opportunities to take part in creative activities while becoming protagonists of online promotional tools. Octavio Alzola (Renoir, Madrid and Barcelona) shared tips on how to develop the interactive aspect of film screenings. He gave examples from his Cien x Cien programme, such as karaoke during screenings, face painting and film viewers quoting dialogue directly. The first day ended with a display – by Renske Gasper – of the workshops organised by Filmhuis Den Haag, a cinema with an exemplary film education policy.

Europa Cinemas + Europa Distribution = joint session

For the second consecutive year, Europa Cinemas and Europa Distribution led a joint session focusing on examples of successful relationships between exhibitors/distributors and the general public.

To introduce the session, Domenico La Porta, chief editor of Cineuropa, spoke about young adults’ use of social media and the need to replace Facebook as the single digital communication tool for developing communities around cinemas. By citing the example of websites and apps such as Fever, Tinder and Geocaching, he encouraged us to come up with creative ways to increase the appeal of cinemas by placing the community and digital experience at the centre of our communication strategies.

Madeleine Probst has got to the heart of the matter with Conversations about Cinema, a project run by the Watershed, in partnership with the University of Bristol, as part of the British Film Institute's Film Audience Network (set up to develop cooperation between programming and exhibiting professionals so as to increase cinema going and raise the profile of British films). Taking the theme of The Impact of Conflict as a stimulus, her project uses an Internet platform, social networks and post-it notes in cinema foyers to encourage discussion and debate about films. Covering critical, sociological and aesthetic themes, the project receives hundreds of high-level contributions, available on the website .

The next presentation, by Małgorzata Kostro-Olechowska (Gutek Film, Poland) was about the Scope 50 project. This joint initiative from five European distributors aims to create a panel of 50 cinema lovers in each country. Each distributor chooses ten titles from a list of 25 European films. Panel members then watch these ten films online and vote for the one that will be distributed. By choosing a representative sample from the public, distributors hope to spark discussion about the films, word-of-mouth recommendations and also confirm the pertinence of this approach from a commercial viewpoint.

Exhibitors and distributors were then divided into groups and set the task of working together to come up with an original promotional campaign for a film, involving active engagement with the public

Word-of-mouth and social networks

The fifth session focused on word-of-mouth recommendations and the creation of social networks to promote cinemas.

Marynia Gierat, manager of the Kino Pod Baranami in Krakow, shared the ideas she had come up with to create a buzz about her cinema. These included use of digital media, advertising through physical objects (bags, badges, chaises-longues and guerrilla advertising in the city's streets for some events (stencilling on streets, paper flowers with the cinema logo placed in flowerbeds). This has given the cinema a strong identity and a forceful brand image.

Next, Antonella Cipressini described the website management system for her three cinemas: Olimpia, AlCorso and Jolly in Reggio Emilia in Italy. Designed and created especially for the exhibitor, these sites combine user-friendliness and ergonomics, giving a high degree of flexibility with regard to content management and communication with the public.

Finally, Domenico La Porta impressed the audience with a lesson in viral marketing. He broke down the process of creating a word-of-mouth buzz to its basic components, emphasising how information travels, the channels it takes and the sociological, emotional and cognitive mechanisms that make it go viral. He then related this to the cinema experience and possible practical uses, giving exhibitors the keys to analyse and look at their audiences in a completely different way.

At the end of the workshop, a quick plenary highlighted just how much practical and theoretical information had been shared in these four days in Sofia. A number of participants have already planned new initiatives and campaigns, directly inspired or borrowed from the experiences of their peers. We look forward to hearing about the results of their new initiatives.


Seminars Archive

  • Sofia Lab 2017

    Building Relationships & Designing Experiences 

  • Sevilla Lab 2016

    How can cinemas remain vital spaces for their local communities? 

  • Bologna Lab 2016

     The Cinema Experience In The Age Of Digital Distractions? 

  • Sofia Innovation Lab 2016

    Creating active and diverse relationships with our communities

  • Bologna Innovation Lab 2015

    Creating the demand for a diverse cinema

  • Sevilla Innovation Lab 2014

    Standing Out In The Digital Age - Place-Making, Brand-Building & Shareability

  • Bologna Seminar 2014


    New Challenges & Approaches With New Audiences

  • Sofia Innovation Lab 2014

    Starting from scratch - New approaches with new audiences in the digital era

  • Bologna Seminar 2013

    “Engaging Communities in the digital era”: Saturday, 29th June – Wednesday, 3rd July, 2013

  • Bologna Seminar 2012

    Cinemas facing the economic and digital transition.  New realities and opportunities.

  • Bologna Session 2011

    Every year, since 2005, a Young Audience Seminar has been organized by Europa Cinemas during the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival located at the Cineteca di Bologna.
    This year, it will take place from Saturday the 25th of June until Wednesday the 29th of June 2011. Conducted by the film historian Ian Christie (Vice-President of Europa Cinemas and professor in London), and run by Madeleine Probst (Watershed Media Centre, Bristol) and Simon Ward (Independent Cinema Office, London), the theme will be:
    "Competing for attention & success Educating through creativity"

  • Bologna Session 2010

    Every year, since 2005, a Young Audience Seminar has been organized by Europa Cinemas during the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival located at the Cineteca di Bologna.
    This year, it will take place from Saturday the 25th of June until Wednesday the 29th of June 2011. Conducted by the film historian Ian Christie (Vice-President of Europa Cinemas and professor in London), and run by Madeleine Probst (Watershed Media Centre, Bristol) and Simon Ward (Independent Cinema Office, London), the theme will be:
    "Competing for attention & success Educating through creativity"

  • Bologna Session 2009

    From 27 June to 1 July, Europa Cinemas organised its fifth annual seminar devoted to Young Audiences under the theme of the CHALLENGE OF GENERATIONS. The discussions took place as part of the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival organised by the Cineteca di Bologna.

  • Bologna Session 2008

    Our theme this year is twofold: to review how specialist cinemas can actively contribute to creating a sense of cinema’s history through their programme, especially for youth audiences; and to learn how digital technologies can help them do so – rather than being seen as a threat to the ‘culture of celluloid’.

  • Bologna Session 2007

    As part of the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, for the third year Europa Cinemas organised a seminar with the Cineteca di Bologna focusing on young audiences and classic films. 

  • Bologna Session 2006

    How to modernize cinema history? 

  • Bologna Session 2005

    How to promote heritage films rowards young audiences? 


Sofia: Europa Cinemas Audience Development & Innovation Lab

Europa Cinemas invites you to participate in a five day Lab as part of Sofia International Film Festival in Bulgaria: Making the Most of Your Resources to Build AudiencesWednesday 14th to Sunday 18th...

Read more Activities - 11/01/2018