One of Hollywood's top international film chiefs yesterday calledon his industry colleagues to treat this year's box office admissions slide as anecessary wake-up call.
"We desperately have to change," declared Tomas Jegeus, executivevice president - international, 20th Century Fox International, whiledelivering the keynote speech at Screen International's European Box Office Forum.
Speaking before an industry audience at London's Waldorf HiltonHotel, Jegeus stressed the importance of fully understanding consumers,especially younger demographics, who "live online" and get their informationand make decisions using sources the industry does not understand.
In Jegeus' view, wholesale changes in thinking for marketing,exhibiting and distributing are needed in order to get to grips with the newcultural behaviour that has developed around the internet and other modes ofcommunication.
"We have been bound too long by the troika of the trailer, onesheet and TV spot. To control new media you have to give up some control. Wehave to offer a total theatrical experience. It's about getting to them and bychanging everything we do and everything we know."
Jegeus, and other speakers throughout the conference, pointed tothe importance of local films to the health of the European box office.
Europe may now make up between 52%-58% of any one film'sinternational take, but that does not mean the continent as a whole can betreated as a single bloc, said Jegeus. "Each market has to be judged on it ownmerits. We never create marketing with a European flavour."
"The only films that can perform across Europe are Englishlanguage films. Locally, local films do exactly what they say, they only workin local territories. This is not the case in Latin America and Asia."
The day's consensus was that territories such as Germany sufferedin 2005 from not seeing the equivalent of a (T)Raumschiff Surprise, the local blockbuster that became asummer triumph for Constantin the year before.
As such, this year's international admissions downturn should beseen as a temporary blip, rather than as evidence of terminal decline.
But it is a blip from which we should learn, suggested Jegeus.Booksellers, he added, provided a useful model of how to survive bytransforming one's business.
Jegeus believes similar opportunities abound in cinema, citingdigital technology and club programmes as possible draws and benefits.
"We are very effective at showing upcoming product but we don'tclose the deal that day," he said, putting forth the concept of selling ticketperformances of trailered films on the same day as one solution.
Jegeus' optimism about cinema's prospects hinges on his convictionthat theatrical exhibition is the premium window for watching films - and mustremain so. "You can't take away the 'out of home' experience. We have toprotect windows."
"Eitheryou believe there's a future for theatrical business or you don't and how youact shows what side you're on," he said. "If you believe, invest in digitaltechnology."