Europa Cinemas Awards 2022
The Europa Cinemas Awards 2022 were given to Kino Pilotu from Prague (Best Programming) and to Alexander Vandeputte and Jan De Clercq for Lumière (Belgium). The awards were presented during an evening at the Cinéma le Balzac. The ceremony was followed by the screening of the film SAINT-OMER by Alice Diop.
Best Programming Kino Pilotu
(Prague, Czech Republic)
The history of Kino Pilotu (Pilots Cinema) dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1930s, its auditorium had a capacity of almost three hundred seats, and it was operated by the former Union of Czechoslovak Pilots – hence its name.
A lot has changed since. In the 1990s, the venue was variously transformed into a pub, a music club, and squash courts. Jan Macola and Alzbeta Macolova, a married couple, operate the Kino Pilotu as it is now known. Thanks to their commitment, investment, and vision, it was re-opened as a cinema in 2016, after extensive reconstruction. Alzbeta manages the day-to-day of the cinema and takes care of the programming and film distribution of Pilot Film. Jan works as a film producer for his other company, Mimesis Film, and co-manages the distribution of Pilot Film.
Higher traffic and sales than before Covid-19
Gradually, the two-screen cinema space that opened in 2016 grew into an establishment with three screens with a total capacity of 170 seats. How does this family business welcome almost 80,000 visitors a year? The major characteristic of the programme is its diversity. Owing to this programming, Kino Pilotu managed to achieve higher ticket sales in the period from April to the end of October 2022 than in 2019 (i.e: in pre-covid times). The cinema shows not only original films and documentaries but also quality mainstream films and blockbusters. Moreover, Kino Pilotu hosts a number of premieres accompanied by discussions with filmmakers, as well as many festivals (10 per year on average). They run a special programme for senior citizens which presents contemporary international and Czech films at a discounted price. In 2022 (from January to October), 627 screenings for children and 44 screenings for senior citizens took place at Kino Pilotu. On average, there are 11 screenings each weekday and, at the weekend, this number rises to an average of 17.5 screenings.
Varied programme for diverse visitors
Kino Pilotu has a very diverse audience, which is why the selection of films ranges from animation for children, to comedies and independent documentaries to Hollywood blockbusters. Jan, Alzbeta, and their colleagues decide what will be featured.
“No matter whether you are a child, student, adult, or a senior citizen, we want to know what you are interested in and what you enjoy watching. And, if it matches our core values of openness, tolerance, diversity, and artistic quality, we will do our best to deliver relevant films for you. We are curious people and, as such, we tend to work with and meet other curious people. In this way, we multiply our resources through adding topics and stories other people are interested in. Thus, the programming is not ‘BY’ Kino Pilotu but ‘in’ Kino Pilotu. In a sense, we are a curated open platform,” explains Jan Macola. As Jan and Alzbeta own the cinema, it is extremely important for them to be able to stand behind what they show and to carefully select high-quality content.
The most important aspect is hidden inside
It is not, however, only the variety of the films that attracts people to this Prague gem. It is also the welcoming atmosphere and genius loci that encourages visitors to return to this well-established space. Locals like to stop by from time to time just for a coffee or a beer. People enjoy talking about films with friends in the welcoming cafe that is part of the cinema complex. In the summer months, the garden in front of the cinema is also open, and it offers the great vibes of Vrsovice, an increasingly popular part of Prague. Over time, the local community of “Kino Pilotu fans” has steadily increased.
“It is the audience and their response to what we play that makes us constantly innovate. 90% of our income comes from the box office and refreshment sales. Therefore, we need to come up with new ideas all the time and, if they do not work, we have to think again and devise something more efficient,” says Alzbeta Macolova, who is in touch with their visitors every day.
Kino Pilotu is part of a family business run by Jan and Alzbeta. The other two areas that they are invested in are film production and distribution.
“We consider ourselves storytellers. We bring people quality films thanks to our distribution company Pilot Film, and we produce our own work through Mimesis Film Production. In the cinema, we also show films by other filmmakers whose ideas we want to bring to our audiences. It’s a big responsibility, but also a source of great joy,” adds Jan Macola, who has recently finished the production of his most ambitious project so far, an historical feature film, Il Boemo. It premiered globally as part of the Official Selection in San Sebastian and has been selected as the Czech contender at the Foreign Feature Film Oscars race. The company Pilot Film has distributed the film to most cinemas in the Czech Republic, which enabled them to introduce Josef Mysliveček, the famous eighteenth-century opera composer and a friend of Mozart, who is the main character of Il Boemo, to thousands of viewers, from classical music lovers to the general public.
“There is a considerably higher number of films that do not work at all in theatrical distribution. Fortunately, there are films that perform very well and become hits of a kind. The objective for the programmer is to spot these hits and promote them well enough so that the audience fills the auditorium. This is more important now than ever before, and it involves more risk and more adrenaline!” concludes Alzbeta Macolova.
Jan Macola and Alzbeta Macolova, Cinema Managers
Entrepreneur of the Year
Alexander Vandeputte, Jan De Clercq
(Lumière Cinemas, Belgium)
Lumière’s history began in 1996 when Jan De Clercq and Alexander Vandeputte opened Cinema Lumière in Bruges. They were invited by a local theatre group to use the theatre at times when there were no performances. When the cinema was up and running, both Jan and Alexander, with their background in theatrical distribution, decided it was time for some additional activities. So, they ventured out into both film production and theatrical and digital distribution.
In the following years, Lumière focused on the production and distribution of films and television series: Belgium is acquainted with Scandinavian crime through series such as Wallander and The Bridge. Alongside the production activity, Luminvest is created, a financing and tax shelter partner for local and international fiction projects. Lumière Publishing, the distribution arm, sees an opportunity in the exploitation EST rights, creating a digital distribution platform for series: Lumière Series, now known as myLum.
Cinema Lumière Bruges turned out to be very successful, and so, in 2014, Lumière took over “Cinema Cartoon’s” in Antwerp and, in 2019, Cinema Zuid, which became Lumière Antwerp. Finally, in October 2021, Lumiere Mechelen was born. Lumière now operates four cinemas.
Lumière became a 360 degree company: a complete ecosystem in which production, film financing, distribution, a streaming platform, four city cinemas and an animation studio work closely together to bring the best stories to a wide audience in Benelux. As exhibitors, we want to offer a diverse selection that reflects the best of contemporary local, European and world cinema. The audience’s choices are important, but we also ensure the big films don't push the smaller films away. We aim to be a partner for distributors. Our cinemas are located in the city centres and well embedded into the urban social and cultural fabric. Each of our cinema has its own specific profile, depending on the environment and its audience. The local character is very important in many ways. The link with local government and its cultural policy and strategy is crucial. Our integration goes way further than the typical school screenings and collaborations with local partners.
On December 18th, 2019, Lumière reopened the cinema in the Antwerp Museum of Photography (FOMU), which was renamed Lumière Antwerp. Lumière cherishes the link with Antwerp Museum of Photography and its bustling neighbourhood. It is a unique collaboration with the museum and the city of Antwerp. FOMU and Lumière Antwerp not only share the same building, but also intend to strengthen each other’s operational aims. Lumière Mechelen has great ambition to be a game changer because it’s the first completely new city cinema in 25 years.
A “purpuse built” city cinema is unique nowadays and it means that cinema is once again completely central, literally and figuratively.
In 2015, the City of Mechelen grants a concession to Lumière for the operation of a small-scale city cinema in the historic city festival hall. Since the building cannot meet the strict acoustic standards required, a large box-like structure is placed inside the building, which contains three stacked auditoriums.
The old town hall in Mechelen was built in 1883-1884 to a design by the city architect Victor Louckx. The hall, which combines Italian Renaissance, Classicism and interwar characteristics, was protected as a monument in 2003 but, due to noise pollution, lost its function and fell into disrepair. Eight years ago, the city began looking for a new function for the monument. A partner was found in Lumière and the former town hall was given a valuable repurposing into a new meeting place: an urban cinema with space for exhibitions, meetings and a café, LUX28. The city of Mechelen was responsible for the restoration of the auditorium and Lumière for its new use.
Flanders has struggled with a shortage of screens for years, with only eight city cinemas. In comparison, in the Netherlands, there are over 100 screens and every municipality has one. The result is that there is an “unserved cinema audience”. We hope to repeat the Mechelen model in other Belgian cities and serve that audience. myLum (www.mylum.tv) is an EST platform (electronic sell-through), where customers can digitally purchase Lumière series and individual films. In a world where 'all you can eat' streaming subscriptions are piling up, Lumière is a film and series distributor that consciously opts for an 'à la carte' service in which (usually brand new and sometimes even exclusive) series can be bought on a pay-per-view basis (and kept forever). We operate a targeted selection of quality films and series for our service www.mylum. tv. This model also ensures that we can always pay a fair share of the proceeds to the makers of the films and series, which is very important to us.
When the world closed down during the first Covid-19 crisis, we used the technical infrastructure of the platform to bring big screen films to our audience’s living rooms, and we named this platform “Cinema bij je thuis” (Cinema at home). The platform still exists today, it is now a way for the public to watch a movie they didn’t see in the cinema. As a distributor, Lumière focuses on films that we are involved with as a producer or coproducer and on animation films in which our own animation studio, Lunanime, is involved. The release of restored classics is also important. This summer, Lumière successfully brought the digitally restored versions of Yazujirõ Ozu classics and Béla Tarr films to Belgian cinemas.
The main challenge Lumière faces, as an exhibitor, is in bringing people back to the cinemas after lockdowns. Smaller films are facing greater difficulties than blockbusters in finding an audience. Fewer people are watching more films. We must find ways to bring in new audiences. People are more selective in how they watch a film, choosing which ones they want to see on the big screen and which ones they want to see on television or mobile devices. We strongly believe that we can best achieve our aims by offering a full experience to our visitors. A new and hopeful phenomenon is that there is a young audience of film lovers who consciously choose to watch films in the cinema. Lumière is always looking for new opportunities for additional venues, either to renovate old buildings or build new ones. Owing to the shortage of screens, there is certainly a place for new city cinemas that respond to the local character of a city. We keep our eyes open!
Alexander Vandeputte, Co-owner
Picture: Claude-Eric Poiroux, Jan Macola, Alzbeta Macolova, Simon Wullens, Fatima Djoumer, Nico Simon
by Francesco Clerici