Day 2, Session 3 Workshop 3: Roadmap to recovery and renewal – Tools for building diversity and environmental sustainability

In an introduction from Europa Cinemas board members Metka Dariš & Mathias Holtz, two new Europa Cinemas charters, outlining principles to be adopted by network members, were presented, which will be available after the conference on the Europa Cinemas website. The charters represent a coherent technical, moral, and social position and were devised by a working group of network members for the wider membership. 

The core objective behind the creation of these charters is to turn words into actions across the network. The two charters – on gender balance and inclusion and environmental sustainability – represent issues our public are invested in. These issues will also serve as a focus for next year’s Collaborate to Innovate fund. In addition to the charters there will be a 7-step approach outlined to assist cinemas in taking tangible steps towards positive change.

At its core the charter for gender balance and inclusivity means creating a safe space for everyone, and the charter for environmental sustainability means creating both a more sustainable business and building a Green programme. While starting points will vary, everyone can do something and many cinemas will likely find that they are already well positioned along the pathway to positive affect.

Concerning the charter on environmental sustainability, Matthias Damm, Director of Casablanca Cinema in Germany gave an example rich in statistics to explain how every cinema can calculate their carbon footprint. The climate crisis is real, and it effects everyone and every business. There will be an advent of national and European requirements by law, which will also require public support. But it needn’t be daunting as there potential cost savings in making active changes.

Having researched various aspects of sustainability concerning resources, waste, mobility, film and culture, social and economic impacts, his advice is to create a roadmap: analyse, prioritise, involve your team, and make actual change, avoiding ‘greenwashing’. In calculating carbon footprints, it is important to have a clear methodology and to follow a protocol in order to calculate correctly.

Next to speak was Anne Faucon, Director of Utopia Saintes Maries in France, who agreed with other panelists and again underlined the issue of greenwashing in taking active steps. For Faucon, the journey towards sustainability is already well underway and, having launched a crowdfunder during the pandemic, Utopia Saintes Maries is a purpose built ecological cinema in Troyes, expected to open at the end of December this year.

In France, Utopia cinemas are independent art film theatres. For Faucon, art is a must but she also wants to pay attention to the environment. Thus, in looking at the architecture of the building, she quickly found environmental friendly options already in existence: from composting toilets to the wood structure of the cinema itself. This strategy is atypical in its geographical area, and she had many financial problems at the start because no one believed on her ‘avant-garde’ project. Despite the lack of support from political and financial sponsors, she never gave up, enlisting local carpenters to help with the project. Every choice made along the way was driven by principles of inclusivity and ecological impact. While some green technologies were very expensive, others were not and, in the long term, costs will be cheaper.

The cinema has received a huge amount of press and while it was a very difficult project, Faucon is now enjoying positive publicity for the cinema because the project is concrete. Faucon invited everyone to visit the cinema, which is only one-and-a-half hours from Paris.

Next was Olivier Douet, CEO of La Cabinerie in France who spoke about the technical side of “greening the environment” as Douet works with projectors. The technical side of the cinema is often the most expensive and many exhibitors don’t want to change or repair their equipment owing to the costs, but Douet’s presentation showed how simple repairs can be both a fast and effective choice.

With the increase in energy costs, Douet suggests repairing cinema projectors to save money, and new technological options span repairing equipment, installing newly refurbished equipment, using all-inclusive rental programmes or laser retrofitting digital projectors. Retrofitting is approximately 60-70% less expensive in energy consumption, he said. Other benefits to repairing rather than replacing equipment includes improvements in picture and colour range. Typically, the repair or installation of such equipment only takes 4-8 hours, and the habit of transforming projectors has already taken off in Asia, we now need to bring it to Europe.

The conversation then turned to social inclusion as Madeleine Probst, Programme Director at Watershed in the UK talked about changing priorities and community focus. Before the pandemic hit, Watershed had plans to add an additional screen. Instead, they switched to thinking about changing the “energy” of the place, to make it cozier, working with local artists and in building a mini café.

Social inclusion was at the heart of the plans and Probst referenced Kate Raworth’s who wrote, “What we need are economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow,” (Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist).

Key to making positive change is training for all staff, from the people working in the kitchen to the CEO. Everyone needs to think about ecology and inclusivity and by involving everyone there is also a wealth of different perspectives and ideas. Some of the many positive changes Watershed have made include: re-imagining recruitment to reflect the community, creating a new common toilet facility that has no gender division or designation, and a socially engaged cinema that actively supports Black Lives Matter and other inclusive movements.

The final speaker was Jérémie Monmarché, Deputy Director for Cinéma Studio in France. Cinéma Studios an independent arthouse cinema who were looking to diversify their audience beyond the older cinephiles who regularly came. Organising workshops and working with a broader film programme, Cinéma Studio was able to meaningfully engage with local associations, strengthening ties between local cinemas and socio-cultural professionals in the area. Other benefits have included an increased interest in partnership from distributors who now know the cinema can reach a wider and diverse public.

The examples given are just a few of the many ways that venues across the network are already taking positive steps towards meaningful, positive change in achieving greater gender balance and inclusion and in creating and transforming cinema spaces into environmentally sustainable social hubs.

Photographs © Francesco Clerici