Foreword by José Manuel Barroso





Film is our dominant medium for disseminating European cultural, social and democratic values; its vocation for storytelling is a powerful way of communicating ideas across barriers.

This role has been strengthened over the years with the emergence of new distribution channels. From the DVD player to the laptop, film is accessible as never before. Cinema theatres nevertheless remain a major outlet, and admissions to cinemas in Europe are holding up very well. Cinemas will remain the prestigious and powerful showcases for films in the future, and cinema-going a special experience for Europeans of all ages.

European Audiovisual Policy seeks to provide a framework to help the development of a competitive European audiovisual sector able to compete on the international market. The recently launched "MEDIA International" Preparatory Action is reinforcing the international dimension by allowing European professionals of the audiovisual industry to cooperate more easily with their counterparts throughout the world. At the same time, the MEDIA Programme aims to support the trans-national dimension of this key European creative industry.

A number of European Union policies contribute to these aims, including the development of the digital economy. Digital cinema distribution is clearly the biggest challenge for the future of European cinema. It is an opportunity and a threat at the same time: an opportunity as it makes distribution cheaper and programming more flexible, but also a threat as the equipment costs involved for exhibitors create a huge obstacle for many independent theatres showing European and world cinema. That is why the European Commission is developing a strategy to help those cinemas go digital as of 2010.

In this rapidly evolving environment, knowledge is an invaluable tool, both for the work of the Commission and the development of the different players in this sector. I therefore welcome the recent addition of data on digital screens and congratulate all those who contribute to the compilation of the MEDIA Salles' European Cinema Yearbook. I wish every success for the 2009 edition.

José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission