Day 1, Opening of the 22nd Europa Cinemas Network Conference

Nico Simon, President of Europa Cinemas welcomed the speakers and the room, with special emphasis on the joy of being together once again, as the network celebrates its 30th anniversary, without Zoom.

Nico gave his thanks to the European Commission for their support in dealing with the challenges posed by the pandemic as well as the ongoing energy, environment, humanitarian and economic crises facing Europe before Metka Daris, Director at Kinodvor in Slovenia, who has joined the board, congratulated the members on the work they have been doing.

Lucia Recalde, Deputy Director and Head of Unit, Audiovisual Industry and Media Support Programmes, DG Connect

Lucia Recalde, Deputy Director and Head of Unit, Audiovisual Industry and Media Support Programmes, DG Connect said “Movie theatres are cultural emblems” and that “European cinema embodies the European spirit.” The network began with just 30 exhibitors and now there’s more than 3,000 in more than 700 cities. She was keen to congratulate the team on their success and reiterate that the European Commission immediately understood the dramatic effect of the pandemic and strongly believe in the survival of cinemas for the recovery of the AV sector. Recalde also spoke of the tragedy of the Russian invasion of Ukraine extending compassion and support.

Olivier Henrard, Deputy General Manager of CNC said we have reached a turning point for cinemas in Europe, outlining four key phases of recovery, “First, it is necessary to build admissions and help young generations to see films, not jut films from outside of Europe. Second, we need to set up a regulation to ensure diversity in terms of films and movie theatres. Third, we must help theatres cope with the energy crisis and to rise to the longer term challenge of ecological transition. Fourth, to protect them as strategic cultural assets in Europe and to build admissions once again.”

Henrard said that France is sitting at -29% of admissions currently, which is less of a hit than Spain’s more than -30%, -40% in Italy and near -50% in Spain. Moreover, “Exactly 30 years ago [in 1992], we sold 100 million tickets a year and now it’s 200 million on average,” he said. “The pandemic acted as a catalyst, strengthening certain trends. The crisis in Ukraine, the energy and inflation crises have compounded the existing crisis and the lockdowns sped up a rise in platforms and less product being available.” CNC presented the findings of a detailed qualitative analysis in Cannes earlier this year, looking at why fewer people than expected were going to cinemas. Reasons ranged from price to the quality of content and the prevalence of platforms. For Henrard, communication is key.

“In France, we’re launching a big communication campaign to tell people to go back to cinemas, and it’s been somewhat successful.” Henrard said. Younger people have gone back to the cinema but are only attending a small number of films which are, largely, non European films. “It’s not a question of quantity but of quality,” he said, recognising the importance of providing suitable European content across all demographics and communicating that such content exists.

Olivier Henrard, Deputy General Manager, CNC, France

Lots of French and European films are doing better where there is an absence of American films. American films bring in a lot of money but the two categories of film must live side by side. “Word of mouth is what helps films,” Henrard said, “and they have to be released at the right time, but there are too many films being released for them to get the attention they need. The visibility and diversity of films is a very real issue. We are working towards modernising the regulatory toolbox – regulations pertaining to unlimited cards/passes, and regulations pertaining to dissemination by distributors – with the goal of ensuring diversity of films in theatres.”

Regarding the third challenge – energy and the environment – support is needed to help cinemas to cope with the increase in expenditure. “We are considering making funds available to help pay for exceptional running costs.” Henrard said. Fourth and finally, is protecting movie theatres. “There is a risk in terms of strategic cultural assets. Networks and catalogues can be bought by investment funds without cultural goals. European law means we can’t stop this kind of purchase but we consider this state of affairs serious.” Henrard concluded.

Claude-Eric Poiroux, General Director, Europa Cinemas

Claude-Eric Poiroux, General Director of Europa Cinemas was the final speaker to welcome the room, reflecting on the entrepreneurial spirit of participating cinemas and thanking members past and present. He also thanked the CNC and European Commission whose programmes have financially supported the programming of European films. “We owe them for the quality and perseverance of the network,” Poiroux said, “an indispensable tool for the important culturally diverse work we do.”

Over these next three days, delegates can expect insights into how to reinvent our cinemas in light of new challenges; environmental, energy and other. There will be a focus on the Collaborate to Innovate initiative and other shared tools for the future. “Even if they are incredibly dynamic the movie theatres cannot ensure the success of all the diverse films,” Poiroux said, “We need to work together. We wish you all an innovative and creative conference.”

Photographs © Francesco Clerici