"European Cinema in the Digital Era" sends a political signal to the film industry
13/07/2011 - The report European Cinema in the Digital Era, which will be discussed today at the European Parliament (see news), serves first and foremost as an invitation to consider the very function of cinema – what role does it play in the new digital era? Cinema needs to be looked at from two perspectives; on the one hand, as a cultural in which investments produce long-term intangible results, on the other as an important branch of European industry. Creation is the heart of culture, while industry is its lungs.
We currently find ourselves at a crucial juncture; the arrival of the digital era presents us with new challenges and chances. It presents fantastic opportunities for filmmakers, who can meet these challenges head on by combining their artistic skills with the technological possibilities on offer. The success of 3D films means that viewers' expectations are constantly growing and the digitisation of cinemas in Europe comes in response to these needs, introducing cinema-goers to a whole new viewing experience, with standards such as 2K and 4K and the very-best quality projection.
Digital technology also affects the distribution of films via linear and non-linear platforms such as the internet or VOD, which facilitate citizens' access to European cinema. For many art-house and low-budget films that are not widely distributed or don't make it to the film festivals, digitisation offers the possibility of reaching wider audiences. Another breakthrough for the popularisation of films is how easy it is to add multiple foreign language subtitles to a digital copy – this greatly facilitates the cross-border dissemination of films in the European Union. Member states' introduction of film education at all levels of schooling is also of vital importance – this long-term investment in young viewers is essential to developing their ability to critically respond to the images and language of film, and to foster an appreciation for film as an art form.
Effective co-operation with technical and financial support is also essential, to allow the film industry to breathe freely.
The member states and European institutions need to take responsibility for cinema if it is to receive the support it needs. The digital transition presents opportunities in the area of production, distribution and accessibility of European cinema. The transition process should be finalised without delay and be co-ordinated at national and European levels. Financial models are of course required to do this, as equipping cinemas with digital projectors, especially small and independent cinemas in rural or under-developed regions, remains prohibitively expensive. The cinema is frequently the most important meeting place for residents of towns or villages, and should therefore be protected from closure and offered financial assistance.
Differentiated and flexible financial models for the digitisation of cinemas, such as European structural funds, preferential loans provided by the European Investment Bank, funds from the MEDIA programme or mechanisms integrating distributors and exhibitors could provide effective solutions.
Digitisation is a priority, and should be looked at in a longer-term perspective that takes into account continual technological innovation and the future necessity to adapt to newer screening formats. National responsibility for the collecting and cataloguing of audiovisual works for the benefit of future generations is also very important.
As with every living organism, the health of European cinema depends on the functioning of each of its organs in unison. The effective co-operation of the film industry and the support of member states and the European institutions is essential – the report European Cinema in the Digital Era therefore sends a clear political signal to the film industry and compels us to take concrete action to support European cinema.
About Piotr Borys: Polish MEP elected by the Civic Platform Party, which belongs to the European People’s Party. A member of the Committee on Culture and Education, he will present the report entitled "European Cinema in the Digital Era" in Brussels today.