1. The main weaknesses of European exhibition
The extreme diversity of national markets makes it difficult to implement
action on a truly European scale. This diversity makes itself especially
felt at the following levels:
- structure of the sector (density, type of exhibition)
- status of the sector vis-à-vis the State
- concentration in the sector and identity of the key players (nationals,
subsidiaries of U.S. majors)
The case of Greece, where exhibition has almost completely collapsed due
to the inertia of both the State and the private sector.
Recent market trends (the rapid spread of multiplexes, increasing numbers
of multi-nationals as players in exhibition) seem to favour U.S. communications
groups, potentially to the detriment of European players. This seems an
imminent reality in markets without strong national players or real State
At European level, we are witnessing a progressive weakening of the less
integrated players, especially independent exhibitors with own programming.
This weakening is more severe where independents have failed to join forces
in associative structures capable of giving them negotiating strength in
respect of distributors and other players in the industry.
The absence of any real programming strategy on the part of exhibitors
is lamentable. It is a failing typical of the industry as a whole, with
arthouse screens as sole exception, there being otherwise no appreciable
fundamental difference in approach between the independents and the circuits.
It is difficult to see how this state of affairs can be avoided in a situation
where distributors exert massive control over programming in cinemas. In
the circumstances, vertical integration would appear to be the only way
of obtaining a measure of control over the type of films shown and their
2. The strong points of European exhibition
Again at European level, we may note the increasingly marginal place of
non-domestic European product in box-office terms.
The existence of a handful of strong European players, who must secure
their national positions and expand into other EC territories (circuits
français, Kinepolis Group, UFA, Lusomundo, Nordisk...) by adapting
their strategy to fit the new market requirements (creation of multiplexes,
modernization of cinemas...).
Continued high density of cinemas, even in countries where exhibition has
shown a marked decrease (such as Italy).
A longstanding tradition of organization of the industry (numerous associations
or regulatory packages specifically for the cinema were created after the
Second World War). This gives a representative or regulatory framework
to an industry otherwise based on a highly competitive market economy model.
The existence of such administrative or associative units, already in place
and operational, could potentially provide the vehicles for a European
strategy for the sector.
The healthy state of the arthouse sector, which functions as a self-contained
branch. Although it is to be regretted that arthouse cinemas should become
the preferential vehicle for European cinema, it may be observed that in
Europe this is a sector of exhibition which has suffered only a slight
decline in admissions, and could even potentially be a growth sector in
certain countries. We should maintain, perhaps even extend the arthouse
concept, and support a modern conception of the activities of these theatres,
which often guarantee a degree of variety in the increasingly standardized
programming shown in cinemas.
The continued foothold, at European level, of domestic product in the respective