While preparations are already under way for next year's centenary celebrations of the first public screening of a film, which took place on 28 December 1895, MEDIA Salles, the project addressing cinema theaters under the aegis of the European Union's MEDIA Programme with the support of the Italian Government, presents the White Book of the European Exhibition Industry, the first study specifically dedicated to the overall make-up of this essential part of the European audiovisual industry.
Just as they have an essential, irreplaceable role to play as social centres and structures servicing the community, cinemas are also vital to the continued production of films, and therefore also of European films, as was recently highlighted by the Green Paper on the audiovisual industry published by the European Commission. This fundamental role relates to the still considerable share of receipts derived from the box-office and to the significance of the "importance of the screening in the cinema, where success can determine the fate of a production (the film must be seen in the cinema)".
But what is the pattern of cinema exhibition in European countries today? What are the influences on the future of this form of entertainment and culture which in the first hundred years of its existence has become a crucial part of our individual and collective lives? What is the role played by cinemas in that special part of European industry, the audiovisual sector, where culture and business converge in fascinating, but far from conflict-free interaction?
These are some of the questions that lead MEDIA Salles to include specific research on the topic in its programme of action. This has borne fruit in the shape of the European Cinema Yearbook and subsequently in that of the White Book.
Performing in this fashion one of the tasks set at the moment of its institution by the Council of Ministers of the European Union, in the field of information on the cinema system, MEDIA Salles, with the European Cinema Yearbook, supplies an annually updated survey of key statistics on the industry. With the White Book, it now addresses the far more ambitious objective of providing an overview of the current state of European cinema exhibition, via an in-depth qualitative analysis, and of highlighting the phenomena shaping its future.
The fulfilment of this objective, a priority purpose for the Executive Committee of MEDIA Salles, was made possible thanks to the knowhow of London Economics and BIPE Conseil, two highly qualified research institutes, which completed the survey that for the first time directly involved a large number of professionals in the industry, in concert with MEDIA Salles' member associations, representing cinema exhibitors at national and international level.
With the aim of facilitating liaison between the researchers and the industry, MEDIA Salles set up a special task group. This kind of cooperation sets the White Book apart from other material on cinema operation, which all too often fails to reflect the problems faced by exhibitors.
Although active in maintaining contacts between the research institutes and the actual operators of the European exhibition industry, MEDIA Salles gave absolute priority to the independent nature of the study. MEDIA Salles considered the impartiality of the researchers to be one of the essential conditions for drawing up the White Book.
The researchers therefore were fully responsible for the content and approach of the White Book, while MEDIA Salles has set itself the task of stimulating comments and proposals from inside the industry, as also between the sector and public institutions at various levels.
It may easily be imagined that not all the Book's observations and conclusions will meet with the same degree of agreement and approval; this in itself reflects the marked diversity of cinema exhibition from country to country, underscored precisely by the White Book.
More specifically, the Research Committee notes that the econometric calculations in Volume 2 made by London Economics are based on data derived from a number of selected cinemas in the U.K. and have, therefore, no general significance. They also lead to conclusions that may seem obvious to insiders. The statements about different support measures in the Synthesis are apparently meant to be objective "pros and cons", which in itself deserves approval. However, in the case of the "pros and cons" regarding regulation of the release windows, which is a very important issue for the whole film industry, to the "pros" should have been added that these regulations are beneficial for film production because of their maximizing effect on total earnings from exploitation. On the other hand, the Research Committee judges the "cons", although objective, as being rather weak.
The MEDIA Salles Research Committee hopes that the White Book will be used over the coming years both by the industry and by public authorities as a useful tool for defining policy and strategies and as a basis for further research. Finally, it is hoped that the White Book will give a more accurate and in-depth view of a set of subjects which until now have received only occasional and disjointed consideration.
Romano Fattorossi  
President of MEDIA Salles 
Joachim Ph. Wolff  
Vice-President of MEDIA Salles 
Chairman of the Research Committee