News / The Network


The Network - 18/11/2010


Europa Cinemas Awards 2010 - Entrepreneur of the Year


Watershed Media Centre

Watershed, Bristol (United Kingdom)

Located in Bristol’s historic harbourside, Watershed was opened in 1982 as the UK’s first media centre and offers three cinemas, a large café/bar and a suite of conference and events spaces. According to managing director Mark Cosgrove, the Europa Cinemas Prize for Entrepreneur of the Year is “a great honour” since it recognizes Watershed’s particular approach to cinema. “In the early days of digital – ten years ago! - we knew that there was a lot of potential with these emerging technologies to allow a wider engagement with audiences,” he recalls. “Now, we no longer think of ourselves only as a cinema but as a publisher, a producer, a promoter, a blogger, a twitterer, and an archive.”

He points that, as an independent exhibitor committed to promoting European and World cinema, “Europa Cinemas has been a consistent source of support, solidarity and inspiration. Being a member has provided us with a clear focus on supporting European cinema and plugged Watershed and Bristol into a pan-European network of partner cinemas, projects and the wider European film and media industry.”

One of the centre’s recent innovations has been Decalogue, a year-long programme of screenings and talks which reflects on the first decade of the new century - the ‘noughties’. “Our theme was to look at which films demonstrated an experimentation with film language and which may map out a future direction for the art of film. Similar, as it were, to the decade 1900 - 1909. Titles range from Russian Ark and Dancer in the Dark to Avatar and WallE,” Cosgrove explains. “The talks are published online and we invited the audience to participate and contribute their own thoughts to the debate via post-it notes in the venue foyer, email, twitter or via flip cameras/mobile phone interviews on the day of screenings. Over the year you will see an accumulation of debate and participation at the website . One of our next aims is to publish this as a book next year.”

Looking at future challenges for Watershed, and the UK arthouse sector in general, he suggests that “the challenge is to maintain and develop audiences for non-mainstream cinema using the paraphernalia of new and old tools at our disposal. This also means that we need to develop a more visible and robust UK-wide network of independent cinemas committed to this cultural goal. In my experience, the UK audience has an appetite for adventurous non-mainstream films,” Cosgrove notes. “The old film business model is no longer adequate to satisfy this demand and the danger is audiences will migrate to other technologies to get what they want.”

Martin Blaney

Pictures (from left):
- Kinodvor
- Mark Cosgrove
- Gwen Joy