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Peter Dinges • Chairman, German Federal Film Board

“Modern cinemas are the places where films are meant to be seen”


- As the German Federal Film Board turns 50, chairman Peter Dinges talks about the role of the FFA and its future responsibilities

Peter Dinges  • Chairman, German Federal Film Board
(© FFA)

Peter Dinges, chairman of the German Federal Film Board (FFA), talked to us about the role of the body as a dialogue partner for the industry during this period of profound change. One of its main tasks is to strengthen the cinema as a premium location for the film experience and to gain new target groups. Furthermore, the FFA needs to ensure that German films will be successful on both the national and international levels.

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Cineuropa: Film production, distribution and exhibition are facing tremendous challenges owing to digitisation, new distribution channels and ever-changing consumer behaviour. How can the FFA support producers, distributors and cinemas during this period of change?
Peter Dinges: During the 50 years of its existence, the FFA has successfully accompanied profound changes in technology and consumer behaviour. This will continue in the future. Particularly in times of media transition, film funding is an important factor that helps with change management so that opportunities may be seized and structural damage can be avoided. The FFA has a key role to play in this. The structure of our organisation allows a permanent dialogue with the industry and the world of politics, which is necessary for the adaptation and modernisation of funding tools. The renewal of the film-funding law every five years – or sometimes even more often – makes it possible to adjust the funding system effectively and adapt it to the needs of the market. 

The current changes entail not only risk, but also new possibilities for the exhibition and consumption of movies – not only on the national level, but also on the international one, in an increasingly global market. Our task is to strengthen the cinema alongside the new digital players as a premium location for the film experience, to gain new target groups for the cinema, and also to win back lost target groups, especially the younger ones. This requires investments in attractive and surprising high-quality feature films, as well as the strengthening of infrastructure and the modernisation of the customer relationship with the cinema. There is a lot to be done, and together with the industry, we will cope.

How will the market rules change with regard to licences, windows and the chain of rights? Will the distribution model based on theatrical exclusivity remain in the long term?
It is difficult to predict the market rules, especially when there are rapid and profound changes going on that have not come to an end yet. The flexibilisation of windows is certainly necessary in order to react to new, creative business models. But I am also certain that if we query the concept of “cinema first” and don’t secure the exclusivity of the cinema any more, then, sooner or later, we won’t need to talk about the future of the cinema any more. 

At this point, it is also becoming obvious that the nature of the windows has changed. While windows have guaranteed an optimal economic exploitation in the past, now the idea of protection has priority. How much protection does the cinema as a premium location need in order to secure its exclusivity, and for how long? How will this affect films with lower economic potential? Do producers need regulatory protection when they are dealing with global platforms, powerful distributors and broadcasters? Or does the free interplay of forces even present an opportunity for them? We are confronted with many additional questions that can’t be answered instantly, but the solutions need to be found through dialogue with the industry. 

The FFA plans to strengthen the funding system by focusing its support on fewer films. What are the main advantages of this approach?
We want to support the kind of films that people want to see on the big screen. Therefore, we developed some guidelines last year that have been greenlit by our administrative board. The purpose of these guidelines is to sensitise the commissions and to set a focus. The challenge was to strike the right balance between commerce and culture, between mainstream and arthouse film.

The European Commission decided that global VoD platforms must pay fees, for instance, to organisations such as the FFA. The VoD platforms subsequently went to court. When do you expect the first payments to come through?
The willingness of some of the bigger corporations to contribute is indeed not particularly forthcoming. Some of them don’t agree with their obligation according to European law and have already filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice. This has not been decided on – even four years after the last German film law came into force. But the signals from Brussels and the new AVMS Directive give us hope that there will be a decision in our favour. 

What are the future goals of the FFA?
It is difficult to see into the future if technical developments are influencing the audience’s consumer behaviour, which is very much the case in audiovisual media right now. We need to ensure that German cinema will remain an important part of our culture and be successful on both the national and international levels. And, of course, we have to keep working so that tomorrow and the day after, people will see films on the big screen in modern cinemas – because these are the places where they are meant to be seen.

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