Madeleine Probst, Vice President of Europa Cinemas, kicked off Day 3 of the Network Conference with an important reminder about why it is we’ve all come to Prague: to share our experiences and ideas. “We are Europa Cinemas,” she said, emphasising that Europa Cinemas is not some elusive organisation, it’s a network.
Here to share stories and experiences, this morning’s case studies offered inspiring, but very practical ways to use the enthusiasm and passion we all have for cinema to build something for audiences.
KINO MREZA, CROATIA
Kino Mreza in Croatia is a network of cinemas, started by cinemas. They have a lot of work to do and they do it entirely voluntarily. Their current challenge is to convince the minister of culture to create a small fund that can go towards maintenance and upgrade costs in cinemas across Croatia. They also have an innovation called Kino Doctor where they offer a manager in residence program. Similar to the concept of an artist in residence, a manager in residence is a program where experienced cinema managers go to work with small, new or inexperienced cinemas for four or five days to offer guidance and assistance in developing their operational strategies.
Their second project, ‘Let’s go to Kino’, is about the wider mission of building a culture of cinema-going. The official trailer is shown in both art house and multiplex cinemas as well as online. Working together with commercial cinemas in this way is significant as it helps promote both Croatian film and the cinema as a cultural space.
The initiative is impressive but it’s also hard work. The network meet regularly despite their disparate locations. Coming from all over the country, some members travel hundreds of kilometres for the meetings. Fuelled by passion and determination to improve cinema culture in Croatia, the extra hours and energy are proving fruitful. The group has also managed to secure film crews to visit a range of locations, including the smaller, regional cinemas, to make short videos and provide a sense of occasion outside of the capital, Zagreb.
CINE VAN DYCK – SALAMANCA, SPAIN
Building relationships with young audiences has also been a priority topic at this year’s conference and Cine Van Dyck’s case study was exemplary. Involving children in stop motion animation workshops, they were able to build both an emotional connection with and technical understanding of what goes into making the types of films they love to watch.
CINECIUTAT – SPAIN
Sometimes the statistics in our industry can be depressing, but the solutions offered today were also very encouraging. Over the past 5 years Spain has lost 35% of cinemas and 43% of its Box Office owing to the economic crisis. Lack of public support, along with digitisation costs and the constant challenge of illegal access to films makes it all too easy to bemoan our beloved industry.
However, in this instance, there was a shining light of hope. As an island audience gave a farewell dinner to their only art house cinema a conversation about pitching in to keep it going began. In less than 2 months, almost 1000 people were each putting 100 euros into a bank account to re-open the cinema. The community spirit was encouraging but there are still some practical problems to wok through – as the audience becomes the industry, exactly who is the cinema owner?
Over in Maastricht there is a clear, well researched demand for European films with English subtitling. Students and other temporary residents from across Europe are unable to access quality contemporary European cinema because of their inherently Dutch subtitling.
Though brilliant strides forward in an attempt to accommodate this need have been made, there are considerable financial barriers. Sales agents and distributors won’t allow English subtitling because of the terms of contract. Suggested costs for this service are often somewhere between 1000 and 2000 euros. And, as we often see with this side of our industry, concerns over piracy are voiced.
So, starting up a cine cafe and staging an open air screening for 1000 people, Maastricht was able to begin to meet the audience demand. The importance of this case study shows that this problem is not just a market issue, it is a cultural issue, and one we must challenge. Connecting audiences with film is the mandate of everyone at this conference and if Europeans are living somewhere else in Europe then we should ensure they are still able to connect with European cinema.
QFT and FILM HUB, NORTHERN IRELAND
Access is a major issue in Northern Ireland where there are 194 screens but 93% of those are multiplexes. Susan Picken, Head of QFT and Film Hub NI said that there are only 2 cinemas showing cultural content in Northern Ireland. But once again, these bleak stats are not the final word.
The Film Hub NI in conjunction with QFT decided to see these stats as an opportunity to work with some of those multiplexes. Titled ‘Project Monday’, the initiative engaged six sites, where very limited or no access to cultural content existed. Choosing six titles that spanned European, world and documentary films, the program screened simultaneously across those six sites and at QFT.
In addition to Project Monday, Susan Picken spoke about another initiative in Northern Ireland called Black Moon Film Club. The club was created for adults with learning disabilities and is set up, programmed and executed by its members. Black Moon Film Club has been a great success and was recently awarded Best Emerging Community Cinema Club by Cinema For All.
BIO PARADIS – ICELAND
Over in Iceland, we saw another instance of cinema being made more accessible. In this instance, Bio Paradis, the only arthouse cinema in the country, could not afford to make the necessary building upgrades to become a fully accessible venue. Criticised in the press and by the public and frustrated at not being able to come up with the 45,000 euros required to bring their venue up to spec, the board of trustees decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign. Though it started very slowly, their final 48 hours, after a photo-tagging Facebook exercise went viral, was a huge success. They raised more than 30,000 euros and were able to make up the difference.
The Open Slot session also saw presentations on the LUX Film Prize and the 28 Times Cinema Project that appoints 28 youths between the ages of 18 and 25 to the Young European Jury for Venice Days at the Venice Film Festival, and from a truly remarkable sound engineering training program for Romanian projectionists in Bucharest.
Photos courtesy of Eva Kořínková.