An all-industry solution for a nationwide digital roll-out in German cinemas has stalled after the UCI Kinowelt cinema chain refused to withdraw its legal action against the German Federal Film Board (FFA).
The FFA’s administrative council announced in June it would provide up to $59.8m (Euros 40m) in the next five years towards a $445m “nationwide digitalisation of the German cinema landscape” on the condition all legal actions against the fund be withdrawn and ticket levy payments be resumed without reservation.
However, UCI Kinowelt, which is part of the Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group, owned by UK-based private equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners, which operates 200 cinemas throughout Europe, has refused to back down from its claims the FFA’s cinema levy – which funds production, distribution and exhibition activities throughout Germany - is unconstitutional.
At a meeting of the FFA’s presidium this week about the rollout, FFA president Eberhard Junkersdorf concluded the ongoing action of UCI Kinowelt and a decision by German exhibitors’ association HDF to pay 25% of the ticket levy only with reservations now made it impossible for the FFA to make its contribution to the financing of the rollout.
“The basis for the intended agreement between the cinemas, distribution and production as well as the public purse for a joint nationwide digitalisation is thereby lapsed,” Junkersdorf said. “[This is] all the more regrettable as both the film industry and the politicians had placed so much hope and energy in a common digitalisation model.”
According to some industry observers, UCI Kinowelt’s tactics are designed to prevent smaller cinemas in Germany from being digitised.
The hope is now that the roll-out can be revived if the German government follows through on its plans to revise the country’s film subsidy law of which the FFA’s cinema levy is part.