"European Cinema Exhibition: A New Approach"

Budapest 2004

Prospects for the cinema market, following the new balance determined by the multiplexes, were a central issue in the fourth edition of “European Cinema Exhibition: A New Approach”, the well established training course for cinema exhibitors promoted by MEDIA Salles and specifically devoted to cinema management and marketing. The initiative, which exists thanks also to the support of the Italian Government, is the first ever within the MEDIA Programme to address movie theatres.
Amongst the main topics on the course, which involved over forty professional operators from all over Europe – from France to Finland and from Greece to the United Kingdom – were: future developments in the sector, the marketing models most likely to become successful, making room for European films in multi-screen and other cinemas. These topics were examined in detail thanks to talks by Ferenc Port, President of the distribution and exhibition company Budapest Film, which bases its strategy on a balance between doing business and conveying cultural values, and Adnan Akdemir, President of Afm, Turkey’s main exhibition company, quoted on the stock exchange since 19 October 2004. Of great significance was an analysis of the role played by strategic communication and promotional events for the cinema’s success, outlined by Tony Meehan and Rob Arthur of RAAM Management Limited (UK), and the reflection on the present state of digital cinema. Starting out from the overview provided by MEDIA Salles, a succession of presentations were made of initiatives already underway or being created, which demonstrated that close attention is being concentrated on new technologies. This is the perspective of the project developed by the UK Film Council for setting up a network of around 200 digital screens in the United Kingdom – presented by Steve Perrin, Deputy Director of Distribution and Exhibition of the UK Film Council – with the “desire to use the new technologies in order to offer a wider choice of films, strengthening the market for domestic works, niche products and those coming from all over the world”. Confidence in the possibilities of digital screening also emerged from the words of the Norwegian Rolv Gjestland, Technical Consultant for Film&Kino: in Norway advertising in movie theatres has abandoned the 35mm format and is shown on electronic projectors. In the same way, the project aiming at the conservation of the Country’s domestic film heritage and spreading knowledge of it also makes use of the new technologies. Crucial for the development of the cinema market, whether for digital or 35mm screening, is the fight against piracy. This was the topic dealt with by Trevor Albery of Warner Bros, who outlined the main strategies adopted for combating the market for counterfeits.
Lastly a reflection by Jan van Dommelen, President of Unic, offered course participants some ideas and guidelines as to future trends in cinema-going and, more in general, as to the expectations of the public regarding the offer of leisure activities.
Ample opportunity was also allowed for exchanging views, thanks to the presentation of initiatives on behalf of spectators and the promotion of European films. In her overview of experiments carried out in various countries, Lisa McNamara spoke of promotion in multiplexes, describing a vast range of activities on offer in the cinema she manages in Faro, Portugal, under the Sbc International Cinemas banner. Enrico Chiesa, Vice-Delegate of Afcae in France, presented the collective promotional campaigns organised by the network of French arthouse cinemas, whilst Kenneth Just Hansen, Director of Grand Teatret, situated at the heart of Copenhagen, explained the proposals by a “quality miniplex“ which has become a reference point for spectators who prefer art-house and experimental cinema. He was echoed by Robert Kenny, Director of Curzon Cinemas in London. Quality as the objective of a carefully planned corporate strategy was, instead, the central theme of Roman Gutek’s talk. The distribution and exhibition company that he founded and presides over plays a crucial role in the circulation of European films in Poland, thanks also to synergy with a festival that has become very popular with younger audiences.
Also inspired by European films were the visits to different types of cinemas operating in Budapest, starting with two art-house cinemas, the Cinema Muvész – with a programme addressing a young audience and carefully planned promotional work that also makes use of pricing policy, with reductions of up to 30% on screenings – and the Uránia National Cinema Palace: three screens, with programming that allows plenty of room for Hungarian films, European works, debuts by new directors, “cult” and art-house movies for university students and, during the Hungarian Film Week, screenings of young directors. Also included were visits to the Capital’s multiplexes, starting with the MOM Park – where the exhibitors saw a screening of the Hungarian film Kontroll, by the director Nimród Antal, which won awards at the International Film Festivals in Warsaw, Copenhagen and Chicago, amongst others, as well as the “Young Directors” award at the last Cannes Festival, whilst Nimròd Antal was nominated for the European director of the year prize at the 2004 European Film Awards.
The MOM Park, managed by Palace Cinemas, is equipped with avant-garde technology: in fact it houses one of the three digital screens in Central-Eastern Europe. Another significant multiplex is the Lurdy Ház, managed by InterCom, a vertically integrated leader on the Hungarian cinema market.

Complete version of the article published in the MEDIA Salles’ Newsletter “European Cinema Journal” no. 1/2005.