Over-saturation of the market, films with dwindling support from distributors, and the continual rise of the multiplex make up a number of key issues within the ecology of independent and art house cinema-going.
Kicking off the conversation, Palbo Carrera, Principal Research Analyst for Cinema Intelligence, HIS Markit, UK, revealed the current growth and future plans of large corporations in consolidating the market. He explained how their financial capacity and footprint give them greater buying power and influence over how our industry operates. Their prowess in data harvesting, and the low risk against their capital when it comes to cinema renovations and upgrades, along with pricing and the trial of new technology and experiences such as 4D and VR, mean they are fast becoming a threat independent cinemas. Effectively, and worryingly, they have the capacity to set standards.
Eric Busidan talked about distribution commitments for distributors, a sort of socialist approach to supporting smaller exhibitors. When asked if this might work in the UK, Ben Luxford was quick to say that it was a very French approach. Still, a comment from the floor suggested that cinema chains that also run a distribution arm can be guilty of restricting access to content, as happened in Sheffield in the UK. Though the example revealed the matter was settled without impacting industry change, the key issue remains: distributors should be accountable to make content that is funded with EU money available to any and all potential exhibitors.
In Slovenia, Kinodvor also feels the weight of responsibility – it is a push and pull situation for exhibitors and distributors alike. Three out of only seven distributors in Slovenia depend on Kinodvor for the release of their film. The equation, then, as Peče puts it, is: CINEMA = FILM + AUDIENCE. Both the films and the audience must be at the forefront of an exhibitor’s mind. “We have a cultural mission and a responsibility,” Peče said, “to the film – and to the fragile films – towards the film industry and towards the audiences.”
However well intended any exhibitor is, Peče is right in saying that, “We choose one film at the cost of another.” Every decision impacts the audience and, unfortunately, “Bigger diversity doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger audience.”
Photographs courtesy of Ionut Dobre.