International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), CICAE and Europa Cinemas urge policy-makers to put cinema at centre of “new agenda for film”.

The leading organisations representing European exhibitors – International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), CICAE and Europa Cinemas – have joined forces to issue an open letter encouraging audiovisual policy-makers to place cinemas at the centre of a “new agenda for film”.

The letter, signed by the three organisations’ presidents, Ad J. Weststrate (UNIC), Detlef Rossmann (CICAE) and Ian Christie (Europa Cinemas), was sent to four European Commissioners, including Androulla Vassiliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Sport, Media and Youth) and Joaquin Almunia (Competition), members of the European Parliament, as well as to Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and the heads of the 27 EU member states.

The signatories pointed out that cinemas have a significant stake in the digital transition that is currently changing the industry, but noted that “some small and medium-sized operators still struggle to finance this important transition and are at present in danger of closure if no financing solutions are found.”

“This is the most pressing issue for Europe’s film industry to date, and if not solved could devastate access to local cinemas across some important regions of Europe,” they warned.

“Safeguarding the cinema-going experience should be a top priority for European audiovisual policymakers,” the three presidents noted in a statement summarising the intention of the initiative. “We are therefore concerned about continuous attempts by Brussels to decide how films should be released in Europe. We fully embrace the European institutions’ desire to unleash the potential of a pan-European market for films and believe that cinema theatres are best suited to create excitement and demand for foreign titles.

“Release strategies for films are different from country to country due to diverse cultural, linguistic and structural circumstances. Therefore, EU officials should have more trust in the sector as well as in their colleagues at national level to decide the best approach to release films in each territory.

“Moreover, we would like to point out that films are initially created to be shown on the big screen, as cinemas are considered the gold standard for enjoying a cinematographic work. It is simply not possible to compare the cinema experience with watching a film on a mobile device,” they argued.

The open letter concluded by urging the European institutions “to not put at risk the business practices on which creation, cultural diversity and innovation are built, but to support the industry in its endeavours to offer film lovers an unparalleled choice of films on the big screen. If we endanger cinema attendance with unbalanced new initiatives, many cinemas will be in danger of closing their doors forever.”

UNIC CEO Jan Runge [pictured] told Screen that the open letter was “an important step for UNIC, who represents both big cinema chains and small cinemas, to be linking up with CICAE and Europa Cinemas. We really want to show people in the Commission that these concerns are not only of interest for the big cinemas, but of interest for everyone.”

While UNIC’s membership includes such leading UK cinema chains as Odeon, Cineworld and VUE Entertainment, as well as the Kinepolis Group, UGC, Nordisk Bio, and Turkey’s Mars Entertainment Group, Paris-based CICAE oversees a network of around 3,000 arthouse cinema screens via seven national structures, independent cinemas in 24 other countries, 20 festivals and several arthouse film distributors.

Meanwhile, Europa Cinemas’ network of cinemas focusing on European films has now extended to almost 3,000 screens in 68 countries.