This year, Europa Cinemas celebrates its 25th anniversary and Nico Simon, President of the network, began by giving fifty years of thanks: twenty-five for the past twenty-five years, and twenty-five for the twenty-five, with support, to come.
The network began, in 1992, with 106 screens across 45 cinemas. Twenty-five years later, the network boasts 2,684 screens across 1,088 cinemas. The success of the network owes a lot to its pioneers as well as to its new and growing members. One thing that was especially striking in what Simon said, was how the simple act of showing the art form is a direct and leading form of innovation, “Exhibitors have been doing it for over a hundred years,” he told the room, “otherwise, they wouldn’t be around anymore.”
Today, we are affronted by the challenge of how to get audiences into cinemas but, Simon believes, cinemas can not fail if quality cinema persists, “If audiences abandon cinema it will be because of the absence of cinematic language and innovative storytelling.”
What we all know very well is that passion and innovation must also be met by resources. Encouragingly, Lucia Recalde, from the European Commission, spoke about their continued commitment to support Europa Cinemas, “We are already making our best efforts to secure the best possible budget for the media programme after 2020.” Acknowledging the key role the network has already played, she continued, “Europa Cinemas has been, for the last twenty-five years, and will be after 2020, one of the cornerstones of the European Media family.”
She emphasised the importance of the network as a leader in taking advantage of technological advances and in exploiting its collective data, so as to better understand the preferences and behaviours of audiences. This, in turn, means that the network can better provide the theatrical experience across the geographic spread of the network and in collaborating with other parts of the value chain.
Recalde also highlighted the Commission’s need to remain flexible, to better meet the ever-evolving demands of the network and the industry more widely. She also outlined their commitment to diversity. Specifically referring to gender, nationality and culture, Recalde clearly sees the future of the network in young audience development. “The young generation”, she said, “embodies the values we would like to see in your network.”
Claude-Eric Poiroux, General Director of the network, echoed Simon and Recalde’s enthusiasm for the future of the network, reflecting on its growth and clear success in exceeding its core aims. When it started, it hoped to 1) set up a network, and 2) make sure the films circulated.
With results showing that the network has exceeded its goals by 10% in the last 5 years – with the network showing 60% European films and 30% non-national European cinema – Poiroux also examined how the network could be useful, representational, powerful, and visible. And, most importantly, how it can be interactive and useful for each and everyone in it.
Finally, Poiroux emphasised the importance of the theatrical arena, “The experience of the movie theatre cannot be separated from the idea of a film.” Much like Simon, Poiroux believes that cinema-going is a cultural imperative, even if it is a challenge, “We are going to win the battle.” Despite the ever-changing landscape and diversification of viewing platforms, the network plays an active and interactive role in how audiences consume films. Like the very act of cinema-going, its future is a collective issue with a collective solution. And, Poiroux is hopeful, “Together, we have the requisite means.”
Photographs courtesy of Ionut Dobre.