Changes to release windows could bring larger audiences to European cinema says EP deputy Bogdan Wenta.

Flexibility to release windows and more focus on distribution and promotion could bring larger audiences to European films, according to the Polish European Parliament (EP) deputy Bogdan Wenta in a first “exchange of views” on the European Commission’s Communication on European film in the digital era.

Wenta, who has been appointed as rapporteur to draft a written response to the Communication, explained that his “main challenge” in this report would be “to offer solutions to allow viewers optimum access to European films”.

“Cinema will always be in the first place [of the media chronology], but some European Commission studies indicate that 70% of European viewers watch films on the Internet, either streaming or downloading, legally or illegally, and 40% of smartphone users and over 60% of tablet users atch films on both devices.”

“The European film sector could increase its revenues by using different online platforms to increase he availability of films,” Wenta argued, noting that the growing popularity of VoD and downloading meant that that EP “should look at increased flexibility in how, when and where films are made available.”

He added that “an important part” of his report would also be focused on media education from the earliest years at school “to allow people to consume media critically”.

“Public funding should concentrate more on increasing the number of viewers for European films and for supporting distribution and promotion,” Wenta suggested, drawing attention to the Communication’s statistics that European public film funding bodies spent on average 69% of their budgets on the creation of work, but only 8.4% was spent on distribution and 3.6% on promotion.

“MEDIA has a crucial role to play here as it will support 800 European films over the coming seven years. The majority of that funding will go in supporting the distribution of these films outside of the countries where they were made,” he said.

In the EP’s previous legislatory term, there had only been one report prepared on cinema - by fellow Ple Piotr Borys - on the transition to digital cinema.

Italian MEP Silvia Costa, chair of the EP’s Committee for Culture and Education, explained that the parliamentarians could make submissions to Wenta’s report by next January and he would unveil his finished report in March 2015.

An MEP since this present legislatory period, 52-year-old Wenta is one of the leading handball players to come from Poland and has served as the coach for the Polish national team since his retirement from the game.

LUX Film Days go USA

The EP’s LUX Film Days may be “exported” to the USA for its third edition with screenings of the three finalists - Ida, Class Enemy and Girlhood - planned for a cinema in New York.

Marisella Rossetti of the LUX Film Prize unit told Screen that they are still awaiting confirmation from the EP’s office in Washington for screenings to be held in New York’s Westend Cinema.

Meanwhile, screenings of 2014’s finalists are already planned and taking place through November and into December at such festivals as Thessaloniki, Santiago di Compostela, Cartagena, Seville, Vienna, Bratislava and Stockholm, as well as cinemas in places like Edinburgh, Munich, Skopje, Helsinki, Lisbon, Barcelona, Valletta, Nicosia and Luxembourg.

Speaking at the first session of the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education in the new legislatory period on Tuesday, the LUX Film Prize’s coordinator Doris Pack explained that subtitled versions of the three LUX Film Prize finalists are now provided in 23 languages for the LUX Film Days.

“The eventual winner also receives a version with audio description for visually impaired cinema-goers,” said former MEP Pack who had headed the EP committee until the change of Parliament this summer.

During the Tuesday sitting, the MEPs were handed an information package on the Film Prize with DVDs of the three finalists. They can also view the films on a dedicated VoD platform or see the films in a specially constructed cinema in Brussels between Dec 2-12.

The LUX Film Prize is financed by the European Parliament from its annual €600,000 communications budget and saw around 220 MEPs voting for the prize-winner - The Broken Circle Breakdown - last year.

“At some point, this prize of the European Parliament could develop into the prize of the European Union in the field of cinema,” Pack said. “There is the European Film Award, but that’s not done by the European Union - and then there is the MEDIA Prize, but hardly anybody knows anything about it. It’s presented very much out of the public gaze.”

Commenting on the award’s importance, German MEP Sabine Verheyen of the European People’s Party (EVP) suggested that the LUX Film Prize could “help overcome barriers and build bridges”.

“There is no excuse for anyone in the European Parliament not having seen the films as there are many possibilities to see them,” she added.

Moreover, fellow German MEP Petra Kammerevert of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats pointed out that the presentation of the three finalists in the MEPs’ constituencies could be more effective at promoting the European idea than many events focused on specific European political issues.

Albania and Montenegro join MEDIA

Albania and Montenegro are the latest two countries to become fully-fledged members of Creative Europe’s MEDIA sub-programme.

The two Balkan states had already joined the Culture sub-programme in the summer, while membership of MEDIA had been subject to Albania and Montenegro’s audiovisual legislation being brought into line with the European Union guidelines.

Other non-EU member states able to participate in the Creative Europe’s two sub-programmes are Iceland, Norway and Bosnia & Herzegovina, while the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Republic of Serbia are currently signed up to the Culture sub-programme.

According to the European Commission, Georgia, Moldova and Turkey are “likely” to participate in the Culture programme from 2015, while ¨partial participation¨ in the MEDIA sub-programme is expected for Georgian and Turkish organisations for such activities as participation in training, festivals, audience development and market access.

The final selection of projects from these three countries will be dependent on the signing of an Agreement with the European Commission before the award decisions for the projects.