EU decision makers could make a real difference, says UNIC
by Birgit Heidsiek
- The International Union of Cinemas has criticised VoD-driven policy and the new bonus scheme by Europa Cinemas
While the European Commission discussed with cinema professionals at the San Sebastián Film Festival how EU policy could help to promote audience engagement across the film sector, the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) stated that cinema operators are seriously concerned about proposals from some EU officials to mandate cross-border access to VoD services across Europe. “If implemented, such plans would severely limit the commercial freedom of cinema operators to acquire an exclusive licence for a film in a specific European territory,” underlined the exhibitors in their common statement. “Many films – and particularly European titles – require time and investment before they can be viably released in cinemas outside their country of origin.”
UNIC strongly believes that the various stakeholders that make up the European film and cinema sector must remain in the driving seat when it comes to deciding whether, where and when films should be released in specific markets. They are in the best position to understand what audiences want and how to meet diverse tastes and levels of demand across Europe. Therefore, UNIC is calling on European policy makers as well as on governments in EU member states to safeguard the diversity and competitiveness of European cinema by ensuring that commercial freedoms and exclusive copyright remain intact.
Furthermore, the exhibitors criticised the current direction of the Creative Europe-MEDIA Programme. “We find it unacceptable for the Commission to seek to intervene in the market through a new bonus scheme, which forms part of the new Europa Cinemas funding guidelines. The purpose of this new bonus is to incentivise the day-and-date release of films in cinemas and on VoD as well as to support the significant shortening of the theatrical window,” commented the UNIC board members. “The intended result is to create spill-over effects between cinema releases and VoD releases in terms of consumer awareness. Such an approach is, in our view, highly counter-productive and not in the interests of the members of Europa Cinemas.”
The exhibitors drew the conclusion that the current focus on release practices and territoriality overshadows a range of areas where EU decision makers could make a real difference and foster the development of a competitive cinema sector. According to their suggestions, EU law should promote investment in cinema but also fair media consumption online and raise awareness of the positive contributions of copyright amongst younger consumers.