The ”Kinofication Project” initiative intended for turning existing publically owned cultural centres into a modern cinema infrastructure in municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia has been presented at the Sarajevo Film Festival on Aug 17.

The panel was attended by representatives of public cultural centres inherited from the former Yugoslav system in both countries, and mayors of Bosnian cities where these centres are located. The speakers included SFF’s director Mirsad Purivatra, Head of Sales and Aquisitions of Bosnian distribution company Obala Art Centar Ena Djozo, Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Eurimages Jovan Marjanovic, Head of Political and Economic Section of EU Delegation Jurgis Vilcinskas and CEO of Serbian distribution company MegaCom Film Igor Stankovic [pictured].

While multiplexes in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina has been slowly developing for the past three years, both territories remain seriously underscreened, particularly when it comes to digital: Serbia has a total of 123 screens out of which 40 are equipped with DCP, and Bosnia has 21 screens, 12 of them digital.

In the period when transition to digital is crucial, the Sarajevo Film Festival has come up with an initiative which would unite local authorities in smaller cities with cultural centres and distributors in turning of the centres into digitally equipped cinemas. If properly executed, this could lead to a substantial and sustainable advancement in exhibition and attendance, since most cities in both countries have preserved and been using these centres at least to a certain degree since the breakdown of the former Yugoslavia.

”It is hard to expect that multiplexing in Bosnia will soon develop further because it requires large investments that we don’t currently have,” said Marjanovic. ”It is also a tradition of entertainment that does not exist in Bosnia, and in the developed countries it’s already a passing trend. But we do have the infrastucture of cultural centres, which has been recognized by Eurimages and is funding some of these centres successfully turned into cinemas.”

One of the most feasible and functional options to manage this conversion is a public-private partnership, which means local authorities and distributors working together towards this goal. Serbia’s MegaCom Film, which has also partnered with Cineplexx on building multiplexes in Belgrade and Kragujevac, has experience with this mode of co-operation.

”Local authorites who recognize the importance of such a partnership are very eager to enter one,” said Stankovic. ”A classic example is the cinema in Nis, the second largest city in Serbia, which hadn’t had a single screen for ten years. The mayor realized that the city didn’t have any know-how about what building a cinema means and they invited us to partner on this. The city invested in refurbishing, and we participated with equipment. They said it was perfect because they realized the city would actually profit from the taxes in the long term.”

The European Commission finances such partnerships if they are international through its Cross Border Cooperation (CBC), a key priority of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which fits perfectly into Sarajevo Film Festival’s industry goals.

“It requires very little financing from the countries themselves, as the minimum of their investment is 15%,” explained Vilcinskas. “It’s relatively easy to administer and the bar for eligibility of the applicants is also quite low.”

The project could bring 100 digital screens to Bosnia and Serbia, through involving municipalities in equipping their existing cultural centres with modern technology. This would dramatically increase both the citizens’ access to film as well as lay the foundation for a domestic market. In addition the Kinofication, the network would support programming and advice the local cinemas.