An initiative of the EU MEDIA Programme with the support of the Italian Government
Since 1992 MEDIA Salles has been promoting the European cinema and its circulation at theatrical level

MEDIA Salles at Cinema Expo International 2005,
Amsterdam (NL), 27- 30 June




Milan, 28 June 2005

“Will Digital be the Savior of European Film?”
A seminar opens Focus on Europe at Cinema Expo International

Quality first. This is the imperative repeated by many different voices yesterday, during the seminar that opened the MEDIA Salles’ “Focus on Europe” event in Amsterdam. And if no-one seems ready to entrust digital with the task of saving Europe’s cinema, there are many ready to believe that the new technology can offer more than one chance to films from the Old Continent, if properly used.
As in the case reported by Florent Bugeau, Head of Distribution of Rézo Films (France), of the Ingmar Bergman film, Saraband. When the director refused to transfer his work onto film, judging it to be of lower quality than high definition, the people at Rézo found a way of seeing that the film literally crossed France. And thus the collaboration with Barco France was launched. In fact Barco provided the cinemas that were interested with a digital projector and server and Rézo Films organised the distribution, not only of the film: on a truck, together with the latter, the equipment travelled, too. ”The challenge we decided to take up by gambling on digital – comments Bugeau – is that of Bergman versus Lucas, or independent cinema against the Hollywood giants, for the sake of diversity”.
Cultural diversity and attention to the demands of local identity – a peculiarity of independent cinema – are the decisive factors emphasised by Nico Simon, Chief Executive Officer of Utopia, an exhibition chain with as many as 10 screens equipped for digital projection. And it is not by chance that in 2004, amongst the 5 European films screened by Utopia, which has cinemas in Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands and France, 3 of them (K3 en de Magische Medaillon, Pluk en de Petteflet, Heim ins Reich) had a strong local focus.
Moreover, Heim ins Reich, a documentary on the German occupation of Luxembourg, filmed on Betacam, is a significant case: it reached cinemas thanks to digital screening and, surprisingly, was one of the 10 most widely seen films in Luxembourg in 2004.
Another key factor in Simon’s opinion is quality, including that of the screening: “we have to go for the best possible technology. With 2K, for example, digital equals, and in some respects even betters 35mm”.
“What counts – confirmed Joachim Ph. Wolff, Scientific advisor to MEDIA Salles’ "European Cinema Yearbook" and Chairman of The Netherlands Foundation for Film Research – is the quality of production”, which, in Wolff’s view, is far more important than the distribution format. Nonetheless, some figures he showed also open up the way for other reflections: as in the case of the Danish film Italian for Beginners, of which only 89 copies were distributed in Germany in 2002, drawing as many as 860,000 admissions, i.e. more than films that could rely on at least three times as many copies. Thus better planning of distribution, perhaps with a few extra copies once the audience reaction has been observed – something that digital technology would make far easier –, might well have been able to increase the number of tickets sold.
As stressed by the MEDIA Salles’ Secretary General, Elisabetta Brunella, who chaired the seminar, it is a question of “coordinating digital screening and the planning of strategic choices, the only way of making the adoption of a certain technology into a winning choice”. Strategic choices that must be capable of a long-term view: “digital technology – commented David Gadja, Vice President of Access IT, a US company providing services for cinemas – if they are well used, can help European films to be seen more not only in Europe but throughout the world, thanks also to the linguistic affinities with large geographical areas and the possibility of using the new technology not only for distribution but also for improving promotion and, therefore, the circulation of the works”.

MEDIA Salles’ Focus on Europe continues this evening with the “A Salute to European Film” (Westhal 3, 8.30 pm), during which the “International Directors of the Year” Award will be presented to Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and the new initiative “Italian Cinema Worldwide” will be launched.

Cinema Expo International is the traditional meeting for European exhibitors, which brings together over 1,200 professional operators from all countries. The event includes seminars on different aspects of the cinema industry and the presentation of films about to be released. The programme of Cinema Expo International includes an exhibition of equipment and services for cinemas, from theatre design to the most technologically advanced products.

The MEDIA Salles project operates within the framework of the European Union's MEDIA Programme, with the support of the Italian Government.
The end objective of MEDIA Salles is to foster theatrical distribution of European audiovisual products. This aim is pursued both by high profile campaigns involving Europe's cinema exhibitors and by initiatives to raise the visibility of European productions with industry players and potential audiences, creating specialized information channels on a global scale. Thus the current initiatives from MEDIA Salles dovetail in a program with a triple focus - training, promotion and information - and maximum combined effect.

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