Country Focus: Switzerland
Exhibitors say no to restrictive leasing (1)
by Françoise Deriaz
- Swiss exhibitors and distributors find themselves faced with the major changes wrought by the arrival of digital projection. But neither those concerned nor the Federal Office for Culture considered the consequences of this new technological situation sufficiently in advance. Signs from other countries – such as studies carried out in France – should, however, have prompted them to address the issue.
Switzerland has thus had a rude awakening. The cost of equipping all of the country’s theatres (550 screens in total) is estimated at between €33-63m and between €65,000-98,000 per screen – investments that only large networks can afford.
When international leasing companies began to prospect the Swiss market with a view to selling digital projection equipment, exhibitors were seized by panic. And with reason: these sales people were offering contracts with restrictive clauses.
The signatories had to commit themselves to programming films from distributors associated with the leasing company or pay a charge of around €60 for every screening of a "non-approved" film. It goes without saying that such a system represented a serious threat to the diversity of films shown on Swiss screens.
Exhibitors consequently found themselves confronted with some difficult choices: adhere to an interventionist programming of their theatres, opt for high-priced independence by buying equipment at their own expense, or take the risk of an increasingly narrow choice of films offered to audiences as soon as film stock becomes scarce.
It appears that only a handful of Swiss exhibitors have signed leasing agreements with these companies. This was not enough to reach the 50 contracts the companies were banking on in order to offer partnerships to distributors.