Jan Runge elected head of cinemas union; Odeon, Cineworld among exhibitors to join

The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) has voted Jan Runge as its new CEO. The full-time appointment, decided at the union’s annual general meeting in Cannes last month, is effective from July 1.

The appointment is one of a number of changes within the organisation as it strives to streamline operations and increase its visibility.

Runge, 34, will oversee the establishment of a new Brussels office, marking the relocation of the organisation from its previous Paris base in a bid to increase its influence at the heart of EU policy making.

Runge has worked in Brussels for five years as a strategy consultant and lobbyist within the audiovisual and creative industries, working most recently for KEA European Affairs, before setting up his own Brussels-based consultancy SPECTRUM in 2010. He replaces Delegate General Hortense de Labriffe who held that position for ten years.

Speaking to Screen on the first day of CineEurope, Europe’s premier exhibition get-together and UNIC’s official convention, Runge said: “The move to Brussels is a great one for UNIC and an opportunity to develop the profile of cinema exhibition. In recent years all the technology sectors have stepped up their game in Brussels in terms of lobbying. There is a lot to be done for the audiovisual sector there”.

UNIC also announced six new members, among them some of Europe’s biggest cinema chains: Odeon/UCI/Cinesa, Yelmo Cines, Cineworld Cinemas, Nordisk Film Biografer, SF Bio and Svenska Bio.

Runge said the new members recognized the importance of joining UNIC now as it moves closer to the heart of EU policy decision making, highlighting the European Commission’s recent announcement to revamp Europe’s IPR policy, the coming revision of its copyright enforcement directive, an upcoming greenpaper exploring multi-territory online licensing and the ongoing concern surrounding theatrical windows as some of the key reasons why the move will be beneficial.

“The Commission is about to launch a range of new initiatives under the umbrella of the European strategy EU2020. UNIC stands ready to collaborate with the EU and relevant stakeholders on issues such as copyright enforcement, rights licensing, release windows and digitisation”, he said.

“In one or two years we will ideally not only be perceived as an industry association that tries to influence but is a centre of expertise drawn into discussions to offer our views. We want to be perceived as a partner rather than solely as a lobbyist.”

UNIC’s next meeting will take place in Brussels for the first time. “We hope to have members come to Brussels more frequently, we will try to meet people from the European Commission and the European Parliament”, continued Runge, who was unable to comment on the controversial issue of vpf costs but did discuss the need for policy makers and the industry itself to address the “skewed perception of how much VOD revenue contributes to the industry.”

In another effort to streamline operations, UNIC has voted in new board members who will have greater remit to carry out decisions on behalf of the organisation. President Ad Weststrate (Netherlands), re-elected for a further term, and Senior Vice President Phil Clapp (UK) return while Vice Presidents Jean Labé (France), Lene Løken (Norway), Kim Pedersen (Denmark) are newly joined by Mario Mazzetti (Italy) and Treasurer Andreas Kramer (Germany).

Welcoming the changes within the organisation, Ad Weststrate commented: “The challenges faced by European cinema exhibitors have never been so great or varied. These changes, agreed with UNIC colleagues, are our response, and will result in a stronger collective voice on the issues which matter most.

“The appointment of Jan Runge as our new CEO will bring a vital injection of dynamism and energy to the way we engage with our partners at the studios and distributors and the influence we have with key policy-makers at the European level. The relocation of our operations to Brussels – the heart of European government – can only help in that.

The decision of a number of key European cinema companies to join UNIC, allied to those who are already operator members, is a huge vote of confidence in the ambitions we have for the organisation”, he continued.

Created in 1964, UNIC represents exhibitors from 19 countries with more than 33,000 screens.