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Claude-Eric Poiroux • General Director of Europa Cinemas

"Cinemas are the best place for films"

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- Digitisation, film circulation, experimentation with day-and-date film releases -- Claude-Eric Poiroux, general director of Europa Cinemas, tells us what he thinks about it all.

Claude-Eric Poiroux • General Director of Europa Cinemas

Cineuropa met with the general director of Europa Cinemas, a cinema network to celebrate its 20th year anniversary at its 17th conference in Paris, from September 22 to 25.

Cineuropa: How far has Europa Cinemas come 20 years after its creation?
Claude-Eric Poiroux: In 1992, the network included 45 cinemas in 12 countries. Today, we have reached a total of about 1,200 cinemas and 3,200 screens in 68 countries with Media Mundus. In Europe, we had started off with the idea of 50% - 25%, i.e. at least one screening out of two for European cinema, of which half for non-national films. We have reached 60% - 36%. This gives European cinema a real base.

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How would films circulate in Europe without Europa Cinemas ?
75 % of European films would not circulate. European films only really circulate in Europe's mainstream cinemas in the case of 20 to 30 auteur filmmakers. We don't have anything against multiplexes (there are 27 in Europa Cinemas), but our network is mostly made up of independents with medium-size cinemas and more of an inclination for auteur films. Our cinemas account for up to 70 to 80 % of admissions for certain films, like in Germany for example for those by Nanni Moretti.

At what stage is digitisation in Europa Cinemas ?
51 % of the network's cinemas are digitised. Some countries are a little behind, like Italy, but in Spain, it seems to to be starting. In 12 months' time, most of the network will be equipped. What is worrying us is the residual portion: 150 to 200 cinemas are threatened. These are often single-screen cinemas in small towns, venues whose activities are not limited to cinema and that work, for example, on a seasonal basis. These cinemas have trouble funding their digital equipment. It would be a waste to let them close down, because they have an audience and are social venues in towns where cultural offer is often limited. We are working with institutions and professional bodies for aid to be released for these cinemas. Some have started to react and we hope that there will be solutions beyond the existing aid from Media (€20,000 per screen). We also hope that prices will drop thanks to the devices with integrated servers, even if their manufacturers are taking their time…

What do you think of the experimentation with day-and-date film releases?
Cinemas are the best place for films. Because we offer directors and producers revenue recoupment (I would really like to know what the other economic models are), as well as the near certainty that a viewer watches a film in its entirety. However, there is such competition today that some films perhaps don't have the space that they would like to have in cinemas. So releases on VoD and not in cinemas, why not? But cinemas won't necessarily take the risk of doing this at the same time. In all the countries where it exists, media chronology guarantees production: it allows several stages in distribution that each generate a possibility for profit with investment in film production in exchange for a respected platform. If tomorrow, we upset all of that, it won't only penalise cinemas, but also films. If some want to experiment, why not, and we will follow them with interest to see if its viable or not. But one should not forget certain fundamentals. One should be careful not to say, "the market is so free and large that one should no longer respect anything and bring out everything at the same time." European cinema would lose hugely from this. We should not dismiss cinemas, as they are part of an economic model that works and have immense potential for becoming really interactive venues.

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