Mathias Holtz

Source: Edvard Koinberg

Mathias Holtz

Mathias Holtz has been elected as the new president of European exhibition network Europa Cinemas, with Metka Dariš confirmed as vice-president.

Holtz is programming manager for Swedish exhibitor Folkets Hus och Parker and was previously VP of the organisation, and he replaces outgoing president Nico Simon. Dariš is the director of the cinema Kinodvor in the Slovenian capital Lublijana.

Europa Cinemas comprises a network of 1,263 cinemas and 3,121 screens in 39 countries, providing financial, training and networking support to cinemas that devote significant part of their screenings to non-national European films. It is headed by CEO Fatima Djoumer who took over last year from founder Claude-Eric Poiroux.

Speaking to Screen, Holtz said there has been lots of talk about a decline of cinemagoing in Europe since the pandemic, but that the situation was much better for arthouse cinemas than multiplexes. “The figures call for a lot of hope when it comes to the arthouse sector.” He noted that Folkets Hus och Parker has about 120 cinemas in Sweden, mainly arthouse cinemas, village cinemas, community centre, cinemas in rural areas. “Those are really recouping much better than the average in our nation. It gives me hope that we’re on the right track.”

Metka_Daris_foto Domen Pal

Source: Domen Pal

Metka Daris

Dariš said that cinemas could be on the verge of another ‘golden age’, despite the rise of streaming platforms. “It turns out that streaming platforms are no competition to cinemas, because it’s totally different experience. The essence of the cinema throughout history is about a community of people being in the same room at the same time to experience a film together. No streaming platform can do that.” 

Holtz said that cinemas aren’t competing with streaming platforms for audiences, but with live events venues such as bowling alleys, theatres and museums. “That’s where our audience is. And we need to convince them that we have the right films for a great night out.”

Backed by Creative Europe’s Media Programme, Europa Cinemas has a budget of €15m.

Fatima Djoumer

Source: Gerhard Kassner

Fatima Djoumer

Djoumer stresses the continuity of mission for Europa Cinemas since she took over last year, particularly its core business of providing financial support for exhibition and its audience development and innovation labs.

New for this year are Training Boot Camps to develop exhibitor skills locally and regionally. This comes on top of existing schemes including Collaborate To Innovate, which has just selected six new projects for 2024, covering topics such as mental health and film therapy, integrating films into teenagers everyday lives and the inclusion of disadvantaged audiences. One of the six projects, Cineville Sweden, supports the introduction of an unlimited subscription pass for European arthouse films in the country.

Core to every initiative, says Djoumer, is supporting cinemas to develop skills, to programme more European films, and to grow audiences. 

It’s not just about financial support, stresses Holtz. Exhibitors, he says, initially “come for the money, but stay for the network.” He illustrates his point with an example when he first starting engaging with Europa Cinemas some 20 years ago. “I was tasked with programming a three screen art house in Malmo in Sweden, and I soon realised that there was absolutely no one in Sweden who wanted to help me, neither was there a community of programmers I could turn to for advice on how to run a cinema. The competition was hard.” Europa Cinemas, with its training and meetings, helped him create a network.

Europa Cinemas has also commissioned recently published research, with UNIC and CICAE,  on the state of the cinema sector in Europe. Titled ’Box Office and Beyond: the Cultural, Social and Economic Impact of Cinema’, it concluded that cinema remains one of the most popular activities across Europe and a central plank in the health of the entire audiovisual industry.

The report found there were nearly one billion visits to the cinema in 2023, down from the pre-pandemic peak of 1.36bn in 2019, and that there were just under 40,000 screens based in 12,300 cinemas in Europe, employing close to 100,000 people in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and UK alone.

It also noted that films with an exclusive theatrical window perform better on subsequent windows too, and that films released theatrically in more than one territory are more likely to be available on more VOD platforms. “Cinemas act as the main value creator for rights holders in a way that no other release window can, and if they didn’t exist, we would need to invent them,” said the report.