3 European Film Policy
 3.1 Introduction
This paper reports on research on the scope and opportunities for promoting European film through policies targeted at theatrical exhibition. Having commented extensively on the commercial prospects of the sector, this paper therefore looks more closely at the positive role that the European Commission, or any member state government, can play to support one of the objectives of MEDIA Salles, namely to enhance the prospects of European film in European cinemas.
In most countries, commercial exhibitors are seen as being resistant to measures aimed at enhancing the circulation of films with insufficient audience appeal. It is, however, in the long term interest of exhibitors to have adequate supply of European films that have wide audience appeal. They see their task as running viable businesses on the one hand, and showing films audiences want to see on the other. If these two considerations favour films produced and/or distributed by the US majors, they regard this as an inescapable fact of life. They tend to attribute the poor audiences for European films - especially for films produced in European countries other than their own - as a function of the poor quality of those films, at least in terms of popular entertainment. While this appear not to be true for all European films, there are too many for which this may well be the case.
A different view is that there is something about the structure of the industry that militates against the success of these films. Producers complain that they cannot get access to screens and that major distributors discriminate against European films in favour of US products. These complaints then naturally lead to calls for regulatory measures, such as exhibition quotas, or subsidies for European film production. Other measures that are advocated are subsidies for cinemas that are dedicated to showing European films.
This paper specifically addresses three issues: (I) To what extent do industry structures, particularly at the distribution and exhibition level, militate against non-national and non-US product and restrict access by European films to exhibition?   (II) Can we see why, apart from cultural reasons, non-national European films should consistently fare better in some countries than others?   (III) How does the release management through publicly supported cinemas contribute to the success of European films?   The survey and analysis of the above issues is partly based on previous work by London Economics(16) and other studies on the role of US majors in this White Book(17).
(16) See "Retailing European Films: the case of the European exhibition industry", MBS/LE, January 1993
(17) See Paper 2.2
In addition, this paper has two main planks in terms of new quantitative research: We use the data we have assembled to draw out the tendencies in the handling of European films by distributors, in terms of marketing budgets, the number of prints, release patterns and playdates. We look at the programming practices of the UK's Regional Film Theatre (RFT) network, and the audiences for European films the RFT's attract. For these two analyses, we gratefully acknowledge the receipt of comprehensive data by EFDO and the British Film Institute, respectively.
Main findings