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Distribution / Releases / Exhibitors - Germany

Industry Report: Green Industry Initiatives and Sustainability

Green Deal for European Cinemas conference explores measures that theatres can take to save the climate


The conference brought together experienced experts and exhibitors in order to discuss energy efficiency, renewables and waste management

Green Deal for European Cinemas conference explores measures that theatres can take to save the climate
The Depot cinema in Lewes, UK, is a pioneering theatre when it comes to green practices (© Depot cinema)

Saving the climate is not something that takes place solely on the big screen: managing resources, protecting the environment and responding to climate change are increasingly vital issues for motion-picture theatres themselves. On 28 September, the Green Deal for European Cinemas conference, initiated by Birgit Heidsiek, green cinema consultant at the German Federal Film Board (FFA), in collaboration with the network of Creative Europe Desks/MEDIA, brought together seasoned experts and exhibitors to discuss resource-saving requirements and measures that can be taken by cinemas.

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Ambitious climate targets and the implementation of the European Green Deal have set a new agenda for climate and environmental policy in Europe. “Greening is a very important component of the audiovisual action plan that was adopted by the European Commission in December 2020,” stressed Lucía Recalde, head of the Creative Europe – MEDIA programme. “The Green Deal is a necessity, and there is an urgent need to take action as soon as possible. We are convinced that greening is an opportunity for the audiovisual industry and, in particular, for cinemas.” Lauriane Bertrand, coordinator for greening in the MEDIA programme, added: “We are extremely happy with the enthusiasm that the subject is generating among professionals. Our role can bring value if we are able to organise cooperation.”

“Green cinema” means operating cinemas in a more environmentally friendly manner. As outlined in the FFA’s Green Cinema Handbook, it is all about energy efficiency, renewables, sustainable concession products and waste management. Using power, heat and air conditioning more efficiently, together with the use of renewables, can radically reduce energy costs. Cinemas have large screening spaces that must be heated and cooled. Therefore, it is crucial to undertake an evaluation of the facility and to identify where potential savings exist.

The Depot cinema in Lewes, UK, generates electric power with solar panels, which are combined with a green roof. Natasha Padbury, sustainability manager at the Depot, pointed out the multiple benefits of this. The green roof provides excellent heat and sound insulation, supports biodiversity and prevents excessive water run-off.

“There are many measures you can take to reduce energy consumption,” said Benjamin Dauhrer, chief technology officer at Cinecitta, the largest multiplex in Germany, with 23 screens. “Secondly, we can use alternative energy sources and generate energy locally. The other big issue is waste.” Cinemas can reduce waste by avoiding the use of disposable cups at the concession stand. The simplest way to minimise waste is to serve drinks in glasses and glass bottles, as well as serving snacks on reusable plates.

The Cinecitta in Tilburg, Netherlands, is even developing its own garden and serves organic food to cinemagoers. “We started to think about food in a new way and create different recipes,” said Jasper Naaijkens, film programmer at the Dutch arthouse cinema. On the menu is a weed burger that is made of sea weed, which is grown locally and has a high nutritional value. Furthermore, one approach it is adopting is to put the circular economy into practice.

Waste management is already being addressed by the European Commission through a ban on various single-use plastic products, such as straws, plates and cutlery, which came into effect in July 2021. This requirement also affects cinemas. However, in any case, alternative products that are labelled as biodegradable are not actually eco-friendly. “There are also some products that have a very negative impact on the environment,” stressed Paola Migliorini, deputy head of unit, Sustainable Production, Products and Consumption, DG Environment, at the European Commission.

Another topic that the European Commission is tackling is hardware obsolescence. “For a series of products, we request that spare parts be made available for a certain duration of time in order to allow a machine to remain up to date,” Migliorini pointed out. So far, the “right to repair” doesn’t apply to industrial products. “It would save us the investment because we could use projectors for longer if spare parts were available,” concluded Dauhrer.

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