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Industry / Market - Europe

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

The European Audiovisual Observatory publishes a new study on theatrical exhibition


The report digs deep into the legal frameworks and support mechanisms that shape Europe’s theatrical exhibition landscape

The European Audiovisual Observatory publishes a new study on theatrical exhibition

This week, the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) published a new report titled “Curtains up on Regulation and Support Measures for the Cinema Exhibition Sector”, authored by Sophie Valais. The study digs deep into the intricacies of the regulatory frameworks and support mechanisms that shape Europe’s theatrical exhibition landscape.

The first chapter provides an overview of the theatrical exhibition sector, tracing its historical evolution from the late 19th century to the present day. In detail, it zooms in on the film commercialisation circuit, detailing the value chain from pre-production to commercial release. This section highlights the roles of distributors and exhibitors in the exploitation of films, and examines market trends, including cinema-going and the structure of Europe’s box office. The chapter also discusses new strategies being employed to attract audiences in an era increasingly dominated by streamers and severely hit by the pandemic and geopolitical instability.

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The second chapter examines Europe’s dual approach to public intervention. It presents a comprehensive overview of competition rules on the one hand, and sector-specific regulations designed to ensure cultural policy objectives are met on the other. Besides, this chapter provides examples of national regulatory tools (for example, special permits and vouchers) and cultural ones (for instance, quotas, commitments and bonuses to promote diversity), plus it delves into the EU legal framework, discussing concepts such as theatrical exclusivity, release windows and territoriality.

The third chapter outlines European public support mechanisms for cinemas, presenting the evolution of public film policies from the notion of the “cultural exception” to the broader concept of “cultural diversity”. The chapter also lists the conditions under which state aid is deemed compatible with the common market under EU competition law and examines the assessment criteria for national support schemes under the 2013 Cinema Communication. In addition, it examines various national and supranational support schemes, such as support for arthouse and rural cinemas, renovation of theatres and innovative strategies designed to attract new audiences.

Finally, Valais underscores the importance of the collective cinema experience as a “cornerstone of cultural and social life”. She also emphasises “the need for a balanced approach that integrates technological innovation with public policies aimed at supporting the exhibition sector”. The report concludes, “A multi-faceted regulatory framework, combined with industry-led initiatives and a renewed focus on inclusion, sustainability and representation, can help the cinema industry meet the challenges of the digital age, and ensure the continued vitality and cultural diversity of the European film landscape.”

The full document can be accessed here.

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