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Highlights - 17/09/2012


Open Letter from Europe's cinema exhibitors



The European institutions are currently rethinking their approach to promoting the well-being of the European film industry in several domains: competition policy; copyright; digital distribution; and support for the film and cinema sector are among the issues that are examined. Input and oversight from the European Council and national governments are required to get this new European strategy for film and cinemas right.

The signatories of this letter would like to encourage you to ensure that cinema theatres – the cultural, social and economic drivers of Europe’s film industry – will be placed at the centre of this new agenda for film. We offer you our full support in this endeavour.

Cinemas have a significant stake in the digital transition that is currently changing the film industry. Our sector depends on the successful roll-out of digital projection technology and related innovations. However, some small and medium-sized cinemas still struggle to finance this important transition and are at present in danger of closure if no financing solutions are found. This is the most pressing issue for Europe’s film industry to date, and if not solved could devastate access to local cinemas across some important regions of Europe.

Cinema exhibition depends on the success of the entire film industry. Cinemas therefore support the development of the Video on Demand business model, as long as there is acknowledgement that a cinematographic work can only generally be successful – and reach audiences – if it is exploited according to a sophisticated release schedule (the “media chronology”). As only a theatrical release enables a film to receive unparalleled levels of publicity, and meet initial consumer demand, films are usually launched in cinemas. A film’s subsequent release schedule is then determined either by commercial agreements or, in some cases, mandated by national regulation. We strongly believe that this arrangement works to the benefit of European citizens and consumers, and of the entire industry, and recommend that the European institutions trust the market as well as their colleagues at national level to do what is best for each European territory. Moreover, we would like to point out that films are initially created to be shown on the big screen, as cinemas are considered the gold standard for enjoying a cinematographic work. It is simply not possible to compare the cinema experience with watching a film on a mobile device.

Given that the theatrical market for film is 10-15 times larger than the VOD market, we feel that some current EU audiovisual policy developments are unbalanced and may even have the potential to harm the film and cinema industry in the medium term. These include the establishment of a new support scheme for day-and-date releases as well as a certain level of criticism concerning current industry release practices, as mentioned in the EC Cinema Communication and in the EC Green Paper on the online distribution of audiovisual works in the EU. Additionally, we feel that more efforts are needed to prevent film theft.

Europe needs its cinemas! They are spaces for creative exchange that promote cultural diversity. Cinemas also help to illustrate what it means to be European, providing entertainment and employment, all over Europe. At a time when online business models still have to prove that they can sustainably contribute to the wellbeing of the entire film industry, total cinema revenues in the EU remained at a stable € 6.4 billion in 2011. Admissions similarly grew in most European countries. Importantly, European films increasingly fare well in European cinemas; in 2011, cinema attendance for European films rose to 274 million and total box office for EU films was € 1.8 billion. All of this income supports vital employment opportunities in each and every European state.

The cinema exhibition sector is going through a period of tremendous change and we urge the European institutions to not put at risk the business practices on which creation, cultural diversity and innovation are built, but to support the industry in its endeavours to offer film lovers an unparalleled choice of films on the big screen. If we endanger cinema attendance with unbalanced new initiatives, many cinemas will be in danger of closing their doors forever. These cinemas are often the only local places where Europeans can experience cultural and creative exchanges outside their home.

We invite the European Council to carefully consider whether current attempts by some EU policy makers to get more involved in debates on how films should be released in Europe, however well-intentioned they may be, are ultimately beneficial for creation and cultural diversity in Europe.

Please direct any questions or comments that you might have to Jan Runge, Chief Executive of UNIC (, who will keep all other signatories of this letter informed.

Sincerely yours,

Ad J. Weststrate

President, Union Internationale des Cinémas/ International Union of Cinemas

Dr. Detlef Roßmann

President, Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art et d’Essai

Prof. Ian Christie

President, Europa Cinemas